Do I Need a Permit to Hike Half Dome

The Yosemite Half Dome is a popular attraction hiking spot in California. And while it could be challenging, hiking Half Dome could be your most memorable hike. Because of the majestic view, thousands of outdoor lovers flock to the Yosemite National Park every year. However, before getting a great look at this fantastic hiking spot, you’d have to obtain a Yosemite Half Dome Permit.

Even though the trail and climb to Half Dome are challenging, getting a Yosemite Half Dome permit is highly competitive. The Half Dome’s regarded as one of the best hiking spots in the park, meaning everyone wants to hike it.

If you’re one of those people, this article is for you. Today, we’ll help you dive deeper into the nitty-gritty of getting a coveted Half Dome Permit. We’ll also talk about how to get a Yosemite hiking permit for Half Dome. If you’re ready, continue reading.

Can You Hike Half Dome Without a Permit?

The short and simple answer is no, you can’t hike Half Dome without a permit.

At the beginning of 2010, hikers were required by the National Park Service to obtain a permit to climb the Half Dome. As mentioned earlier, the Half Dome is one of the best hiking spots in the National Park. Because of this, the Half Dome faced overcrowding problems on the cables, resulting in dangerous situations.

Additionally, permits are required to serve other purposes, including:

  • Protection of the wilderness character;
  • Reduce crowding;
  • Protection of natural and cultural resources; and
  • Improve the safety in the park.

With this, the National Park Service came up with Half Dome permits for people who want to go for a hike. Today, the park allows only 300 people to climb the Half Dome per day. Also, even if you have hiking permits, they don’t include camping, lodging, or overnight accommodations.

How to Get a Yosemite Hiking Permit for Half Dome

If you’re asking how to get a Yosemite hiking permit for Half Dome, it’s pretty simple. There are two main ways to get a hold of a Half Dome permit. Also, these two lottery systems are the only way to get Half Dome permits. 

If you want a permit, you can get one through the Half Dome lottery system, where day-hiking papers are available. Additionally, the Half Dome lottery system is the park’s preseason lottery, which runs from March 1 to March 31.

On the other hand, there’s a minor lottery system called the Half Dome Daily Lottery. That is where you can get canceled permits. Furthermore, the Daily Lottery is available during the hiking season.

As mentioned above, the National Park accommodates 300 people max per day while on the cable season. Generally, these 300 people include 225 day-hikers and about 75 backpackers.

Moreover, the people lucky enough to get a permit can go past the Subdome’s base at the Half Dome trail. Typically, the park raises cables starting Friday, right before entering Memorial Day to Columbus Day. However, these dates change, depending on the park’s conditions.

What Is the Half Dome Lottery?

As we’ve said, one way to get Half Dome tickets is through the Half Dome Lottery. The Half Dome Lottery is a preseason lottery with an online application. Through this, you can secure a Half Dome Day-Hiking Permit. Also, it’s done during the preseason.

However, like mentioned earlier, getting a permit is highly competitive. Every day, only 225 copies are available for hikers, while there are only 50 permits for backpackers.

Moreover, the Half Dome is a long way and is dependent on the weather. Thus, most people choose not to make it a day-long hike and make it a week-long adventure. With this, you should make sure that you apply for a permit that best suits your schedule and your needs.

How to Apply for the Half Dome Lottery

Now, if you’re wondering how to apply for the Half Dome Lottery, it’s pretty straightforward. If you want to get permits for Half Dome day-hiking, you can do it through the Recreation.gov website. You can also call 877-444-6777.

Keep in mind that you can make online applications any time within the lottery period. On the other hand, you can make phone applications between 7 AM and 9 PM  during the lottery.

For a step-by-step guide on how to apply for the half dome lottery online, continue reading.

Step 1

Visit Recreation.gov.

Step 2

As the preseason starts (March 1 to March 31), a button for “Register for Lottery” will be available. Click it and wait for it to open another webpage.

Step 3

Once the page loads, you’ll see a registration form. Fill in all the details the lottery requires. Begin with the permit holder information.

During the preseason lottery, you can choose another person to be an alternate or substitute permit holder for the hike.

Step 4

After filling out the permit holder details, proceed to choose the date for your lottery. You can select a few different ones, but remember that the order will matter. With this, ensure that you’re going to buy the permits in the order of your preferences.

Also, feel free to apply for around seven lottery dates. Of course, the more dates you’ll pick, the higher the chance of getting a permit. However, don’t forget that if your group is smaller, you’ll more likely be accommodated.

Step 5

Once you reach the end of your application, you’ll have to scan through and say “agree” to the “Need to Know’ infobox. After that, you can now checkout.

Step 6

Scan through what the contents of your cart are, and then “Proceed to Payment.”

Step 7

Enter the needed payment details and then proceed to pass your application.

Step 8

When you’re done with the lottery application, you’ll find out the lottery results around mid-April. If you win the permit, you’re required to confirm and buy one before the date for lottery acceptance. You can view permit deadlines from the Recreation.gov website.

Other Important Things You Should Know

  • You can only apply as an alternate or trip leader once during the preseason lottery. If you’re on various applications, the park will cancel every one of them. However, your group members are permitted to register as trip leaders on other dates. It can help you increase the chances of winning a permit from the lottery.
  • Remember that the trip leader or the alternate stated on the permit must come with the hiking group. Also, it will only be tagged valid if trip leaders or substitutes are present when the rangers skim through the papers.
  • Once you submit the permit application, you can no longer change the appointed trip leader and alternate you’ve registered.

What Is the Half Dome Daily Lottery

If you’re unable to get a permit from the Half Dome Lottery, you can get one through the Daily Lottery. However, the critical detail here is that the Daily Lottery is the first-come-first-serve lottery. 

Typically, the park usually awards about 50 permits to hikers, while only 25 copies are available to backpackers each day. Also, hikers are required to apply two days before their hiking date. On the other hand, backpackers must apply a day before their hike.

How to Apply for the Half Dome Daily Lottery

Now, it’s time to talk about how to apply for the Half Dome Daily Lottery. If you’re not lucky enough to get a permit during the preseason, you may get one from the Daily Lottery.

However, keep in mind that permits from the Daily Lottery are limited. Depending on how many people cancel their hike, about 50 copies a day become available. To apply for the Half Dome Lottery, you’ll need to register two days before your hike date.

You can do this through Recreation.gov or by calling 877/444-6777. After applying, the park will send you a notification telling you if you won a permit or not. Usually, you receive the message the evening of your application. Just keep in mind that these are on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

In addition to the daily lottery, another option is to do the backpacking alternative instead of getting a Day-Hiking permit. For this, you’ll be needing a Yosemite Wilderness Permit. Applying for a wilderness permit while Half Dome permits are still available can award you a Half Dome hike. It is part of your backpacking route, but keep in mind that you can’t use wilderness permits for day hikes.

Final Thoughts

While obtaining a Half Dome permit is highly competitive, getting your hands on one is worth the struggle. With this, get your papers as soon as possible if you want to go on a Half Dome Hike. Though the hike isn’t for everyone, the experience of climbing the Yosemite Half Dome is a hike of a lifetime.

Just follow the steps above to get your hands on the coveted Half Dome permit. Also, keep in mind that you can still try other options if you don’t win a Half Dome permit. Last but not least, don’t forget to have fun if you get one!