What is the fine for hiking Half Dome without a permit?

So, you’ve arrived at Yosemite National Park and want to climb the Half Dome. I suppose it’s a good concept. But hold on! You didn’t make a permit reservation months in advance. What are your plans? How much will hiking Half Dome without a permit cost?

The fine for hiking half dome without a permit could cost you anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 or 1 to 6 months in jail. You also run the risk of being permanently banned from BLM land and other National Parks around the country.

Allow me to let you in on a little secret: you don’t need to book a Half Dome permit in advance to climb the famed Yosemite landmark. But how do you do it? Do you want to take the risk of getting a fine and go hiking without even a permit? Do you ascend the sub dome’s side in the hopes of dodging ranger security? 

In that case, let’s find out why and also know alternate ways to hike the Half Dome without a permit. Make sure to read up to the end to answer all of your questions.

Can I Hike Half Dome Without a Permit?

Since 2010, the National Park Service has required hikers to have a permit to climb Half Dome. Now, only 300 people per day are allowed to climb Half Dome, and to do so; you must have a permit.

What if you decide to trek without a permit and take the chance? Permits are checked by trail rangers immediately before the sub dome and at various points along the path.

Hiking Half Dome without a permit not only can result in a $5,000 to $10,000 fine or 1-6 months in jail but also a possible permanent ban from the BLM and other National Parks.

Why Do You Need a Permit for Half Dome?

The permit system conserves wilderness character, decreases congestion, safeguards natural and cultural resources, and increases safety. Permits to climb to the summit of Half Dome are needed seven days a week when the cables are up, as mandated by the Half Dome Stewardship Plan.

In fact, day hiker permits are awarded by a lottery system, with one preseason lottery in March and daily raffles during the hiking season. Backpackers should apply for Half Dome permits together with their wilderness permits if they want to stay overnight in Little Yosemite Valley.

How Much are Half Dome Permits?

So now, how much will it cost you if you plan on hiking half dome without a permit? For half dome permits, a total of two fees are collected. The initial price is $10, collected when you apply. Recreation.gov charges this non-refundable fee per registration (not per head) to cover the expenses of filing your permitting process.

The second price is $10 per person, and it is only collected once you have received your permission. This cost goes toward park rangers verifying for Half Dome authorizations and offering hiking and safety advice to Half Dome visitors. If you cancel your permit by 9 p.m. Pacific time the day before your hike, or if the wires are not up on the date, your permit is valid, and the $10 price is 100% refundable.

How to Sign Up for the Permit Lottery?

To avoid hiking Half Dome without a permit, these may be obtained in two ways. Namely, in advance through Preseason Lottery or in person through the Daily Lottery. You may also accomplish this walk in one day as a day hiker or as a backpacker in 2 or 3 days. Depending on your decision, different permits are required.

A total of 300 certificates are given each day. 225 are distributed in the Preseason Lottery, while 75 are reserved for the Daily Raffle. These licenses are only for climbing the Half Dome cables. The cables are normally installed between late May and early October, depending on the weather. The usual tentative dates are May 28 to October 12.

Lottery Types for Half Dome


Online registration is required. You can choose up to seven dates for your hike. The registration period for Half Dome is from March 1 through March 31 (Eastern Time), and you may do it online. In mid-April, applicants will get an email with the findings. You can also find the results on the recreation.gov website.


Every day, about 50 licenses are made available for the Daily lottery. Two days before the trek, register online between midnight and 1 p.m. Pacific Time (PT). This implies that if you intended to go hiking on Thursday, you’d have to register on Tuesday and wait until Tuesday night to hear back. 

Types of Permits

Permit for Day Hiking:

Multiple dates can be specified and rated in preference inside a Preseason application. Everyone who wants to climb the Half Dome cables has to have a permit.

A single permit can cover up to six individuals. Applicants must name a Permit Holder (themselves) and an Alternate Permit Owner throughout the application procedure (Name and Email Address).

It’s worth noting that the Permit Holder and Alternate Permit Holder only can appear on one preseason application per year. If numerous applications have identical names, such applications will be disqualified and terminated. Holders of Alternate Permits must also register an account on Recreation.gov.

The following are the day hike permit cost:

  • When you register, you must pay a $10 application fee. This is for each application. You cannot refund it.
  • When Half Dome Lottery permits are issued, there is a $10 cost per person per permit. If the wires are down for the date, your permit is given, or you will get a refund if you cancel before 9 p.m. PT the day before your permit date.

Permit for Overnight Backpacking in the Wilderness:

If you want to tackle this trek as a backpacking adventure, you’ll need to get a wilderness permit ahead of time. This itinerary should include a night or two camping at Little Yosemite Valley Campground. 

Wilderness Permits have their registration procedure. When applying for a Wilderness Permit, you must first identify where you want to camp, and then you have the option of requesting Half Dome permits along with your Wilderness Permit application. 

Dates to consider:

You will have the ability to pick up to seven days and rank them in order of personal choice during your registration. When deciding on your perfect dates, there are various aspects to consider. These are some of them:

1. Your Daily Schedule 

Is there a certain period of the year when you should take time off owing to work obligations or avoid due to some personal obligations? To assess your general availability, look at your calendar first.

2. Weather

Depending on the weather, the cables are normally put up in late May or early June and taken down early to mid-October. If your permission expires around these periods, there’s a chance the cables won’t be up yet. In another case, they might not be up at all due to winter weather. 

Wildfires can also happen at any time, but they are most common in the summer and fall. In some cases, the site may close due to fires, or the air quality may be so severe that a trek like this would be extremely unsafe.

3. Crowds 

During the summer and on weekends, there are more permission requests. Saturdays are by far the most in-demand days in the summer. The path will be busier on certain dates. Permit requests are lowest on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. The whole experience and time spent on the cables to reach the peak are affected by crowding.

Ways to Hike Half Dome Without Booking a Permit in Advance

As promised, here are other options for you when you hike half dome without a permit. A hiking permit is required for several methods described in this article. In fact, these are just a few ways to have a Half Dome Permit without using a lottery system. On the other hand, other methods do not need a permit.

Ask about the available spots.

This is the most common technique for gaining access to Half Dome without permission. Even though permit bookings are sometimes requested months in advance, many would-be hikers fail to show up for their scheduled trip. As a result, many opportunities emerge, ready to be used.

The National Park Service might prefer to see the quota fulfilled than see excess places go to waste. You might be able to find an open place if you’re lucky.

Approach the ranger and inquire about hiking to the summit. They will often let you climb up the ropes if locations are available. This approach to hiking Half Dome has a history of success. The only drawback is that you have to climb up to the sub dome’s base to see if you can get a position on the wires.

To Wrap It Up

It is possible to bypass Half Dome’s permission system if you truly want to hike Half Dome. If you plan on hiking Half Dome without a permit, two alternatives have been given out for you to pick from.

However, the permit system is implemented for a reason. Also, not to mention the impact of hikers on the Half Dome trail is enormous, but the permitting process has made the problem more controllable. As a result, it is only recommended to explore these possibilities if you cannot win a lottery ticket. Above all, overcrowding on the Half Dome hike is the last thing we need.

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