Lyell Canyon below Donohue Peak
Yosemite National Park is one of the most well known national parks, and can often be VERY crowded. But at the same time, Yosemite is a huge expanse of remote wilderness that very few people ever see. There remains an incredible “high sierra” experience just up the road from the crowds yet within easy striking distance.
As of Aug, 2022, you are required to have a reservation to simply drive into the park thru Sept 30, but only during operating hours! (6am-4pm).
- If you don’t have a reservation, you can still visit Yosemite. You must arrive at an entrance station (other than Hetch Hetchy) before 6 am or after 4 pm. If you are planning to visit after peak hours, please do not arrive before 4 pm; vehicles blocking roads will be cited.
- If you enter during non-peak hours on your first day, you must still enter before 6 am or after 4 pm on subsequent days, even if you have an entrance station receipt.
- You can visit the Hetch Hetchy area of the park when it is open (8 am to 5 pm) without a reservation.
Check out our Central Sierra Trail Map that will allow you plan remote adventures across this entire region.
There are a huge array of trails traversing the glacial highlands, and connecting to many points beyond. In addition there is a solid network of lower elevation trails that would be best enjoyed in the late spring or early fall. Water is plentiful in this area, but can become scarce in the lower elevations by the end of summer. The area that borders the Ansel Adams Wilderness contains the very best of the trails in Yosemite. Otherwise you can enter from the Northeast at Lee Vining and (Hwy 120 over Tioga Pass), or from the southwest near El Portal (Hwy 140) or Fish Camp (Hwy 41). If you’re really up for adventure, you can enter via Hetch Hetchy and access the remote trails of northern Yosemite National Park.
Permits are required for all backpacking or overnight stays and are available from the National Park Service. Peak season is summer and early fall, when most of the area is snow-free. Permits can be hard to get during these times, and usually require 6 months of advance notice for the most iconic spots. 60% of permits become available by lottery starting at exactly 24 weeks before your trip start date via Recreation.gov.
** For 2022** The remaining 40% of permits become available on recreation.gov 7 days before trip start date at exactly 7 am (PDT). It is also possible to snag a permit on the day before or the day of your trip by going to a Wilderness Permit Office, but you will need to be flexible. A good strategy is to look at the Recreation.gov page and study which trailheads have permits available.
Given the popularity of Yosemite trailheads there are other options just outside the park (to the east near Tioga Pass) that are always available. While they do require permits from Inyo National Forest, there are no quotas, meaning they are always available. Some examples are Saddle Bag Lake, Lundy Canyon and Warren Fork.
Central Sierra Trail MapProduct on sale
Current as of 07/26/2022
How does the Yosemite reservation lottery work?
The lottery application period is seven days (Sunday through Saturday each week). You can specify up to eight options on each application, which can include any combination of dates (or valid date ranges), trailheads, and group sizes.
During the application period, you can apply any time from midnight Sunday to 11:59 pm Saturday Pacific time. When you apply during the application period has no effect on your chances of success.
Recreation.gov will randomly select applications and then run through each option in the order they were added until the application is successful or until it has determined space is not available for any options.Although the application process has changed, Yosemite Conservancy wilderness staff still reviews all permits to ensure the applicant is complying with wilderness regulations. Please pay close attention to your application status, as Yosemite Conservancy staff may contact you to fix errors on your application.
What happened to the John Muir Trail (JMT) lottery?
There is no longer a separate process for JMT through hikers. This new system replaces both reservation systems and is the only system for reserving wilderness permits for trailheads in Yosemite.
How have first-come, first-served walk-up permits changed for Yosemite?
During 2022, 40% of trailhead quotas will be released on a first-come, first-served basis on Recreation.gov seven days in advance at 7 am PDT. The fee is $10 per group (permit) and $5 per person during the reservation season..
From approximately November through April each year, wilderness permits will be available as usual, without reservations or fees, at designated self-registration or issuing stations.
How will the Donohue Pass exit quota work?
An additional quota applies to backpackers exiting the park on the John Muir Trail over Donohue Pass. This quota is not changing under this system, but how it works is changing. Permits with a Donohue Pass exit will only be available for those with a permit for Happy Isles past LYV (Donohue Pass eligible) or Lyell Canyon (Donohue Pass eligible). If you want to include Donohue Pass (or beyond) in your trip, your entry trailhead must be one of these two trailheads.
The quota for Donohue Pass exits remains at 45 people:
- Lyell Canyon trailhead (Donohue Pass eligible): Permits for 30 people (18 by reservation, 12 first-come, first-served one day in advance).
- Happy Isles past LYV (Donohue Pass eligible): Permits for 15 people (9 by reservation, 6 first-come, first served one day in advance).
These are the only two trailheads that provide access to the full John Muir Trail beyond Yosemite.