Permit Strategy

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

     I wanted to get this advice out before yall head out for the weekend. If you have any plans whatsoever for doing the Half Dome hike in May or Jun – on a weekend – pay attention. The park says they hope to get the cables up for the 3rd weekend in May – I read that as May 15/16. (Weather permitting.) Permits go on the block this MONDAY March 1 (yes, it’s almost March) at 7:00 am Pacific time. But there is an interesting twist. Yosemite is not managing the process through the familiar park websites and phone force in Fresno. No, we now have to go to the National Recreation Reservation Service aka This is a US-wide site for all 300 million citizens (and foreigners) to plan trips and deal with transactions for recreation sites and activities managed by Federal agencies. I highly suggest you go to the site and get familiar with it.  For example, if you have not reserved from before, you will need a membership. So get your login and password all set up BEFORE Monday. You also need to create a profile. If not, the time it takes to do that will guarantee you get zipped out. The site has several links to safety information about Half Dome. I highly recommend you read them and view the Nature Notes Video that is linked.     

     Now a surprise. There is a NOTE at the bottom that reads: “Tours may be available only from the Tour Park on a first-come-first-served basis. Arrival dates earlier than the online-reservation-window may also be available at the Tour Park. What the heck is a Tour Park???” I tried to book a reservation now. But it came back as not available. Another tip. You will have to use a credit card to pay for the $1.50 fee. Have your number and data in another window so you can copy-paste it rather than waste time typing it in. You can also try phoning in to get a permit at 877/444-6777. I dialed it today to see what’s what. NOT recommended. You get to listen to a long recording and an offer to attend the White House Easter Egg hunt. Tick tick tick. Then push 1, push 2, yada yada. Fergit it! Best of luck. Get back to us and leave a comment on Monday night on how it went.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –


10 Responses to “Permit Strategy”

  1. Tom Rennie Says:

    Hey Rick – Heard your talk at REI Santa Rosa 2007. Bought your book. Lots of great info. Have done the hike 5 times now. Anyway, you may want to (re?) mention the REI guided Half Dome hikes, there are five this year, and people are already signing up. You probably know that these hikes start in Tuolumne Meadows. All trips are Thurs – Sun. The big plus here is the permit is included in the trip, as well as food, stoves etc and the pro guides. People getting their information, (like myself), from your site may consider this option if they are struggling to plan their HD experience.
    You’re doing a great job, Rick. -Tom

  2. andy Says:

    Sounds like the fun is just beginning. What a mess this is going to be. Thanks for heads up Rick.

  3. andy Says:

    Just signed up.
    Looks like you can only reserve the “tour” for 4 people. I thought it was going to be 8? He who types fastest wins.

  4. mrhalfdome Says:

    Tom – good point – The REI adventures are superb. I just can’t see how they are able to get permits set aside. Hmmm What happened to the 300 available for the public? What other special interest groups get permits hidden behind the counter? Wilderness Guides? The Ahwahnee guests? Friends of the park? High donaters? Hmmm again.

    Andy – Yup just 4 permits per try…so I guess you could just keep logging in and getting 4 each time. Have your mom, dad, and Aunt Suzie all try. You could be real popular!!

    Set your alarm for early Monday! Ain’t this fun?? I hope I’m not ruining it for all you readers…I mean the reason we are in this mess is some spud wrote a book about hiking Half Dome – now everyone wants to do it!!! The wider this circle of readers gets, the more pick up my “insider tips.”

  5. Dean Says:

    I wonder if there is a breakdown showing how many non-US residents hike Half Dome at weekends. I’d take a guess that most do it, like myself, through the week.

    I reckon non-US residents are far more likely to research the hike and see that a weekend hike might not be the best use of their time.

    Anyway good luck getting your permits!

  6. andy Says:

    How does REI guarantee the permits?

  7. mrhalfdome Says:

    Wilderness Permits can be gotten 24 weeks or 168 days in advance. I assume YA, REI and other outfitters all grab a bundle then sit on them hoping for sign ups. The wilderness permits will include Half Dome if they designate that trail.

    I read the REI itinerary. You’ve to get to the park, camp, then take the shuttle bus up to Toulumne Meadows, then you hike to Sunrise, Cloud’s Rest then come into HD, back to the Valley. They provide tents, pots and food – but don’t say who carries it. They mention your pack will be 30-45 lbs.

  8. Laurie Says:

    I’ve created the account but am wondering — do we go to the Permits tab on Monday. Because right now Half Dome isn’t listed as an option to check for availability. Or is that just because it’s not open for permit application yet?

  9. mrhalfdome Says:


    Nobody is going to do that kind of study…. even with a funded 1 month study, RSG lightly touched on the user origins. In an embarassingly small sample size, they came up with

    Country Count Percent
    UK 9 26%
    Netherlands 6 18%
    Germany 5 15%
    Sweden 4 12%
    France 3 9%
    Canada 2 6%
    Japan 1 3%
    Spain 1 3%

    My thought is how are you going to get real cheap airfares, booked 4 months in advance if you don’t know if you will get a weekend permit??
    so you plan a weekday…leading to jammed cables then!!

  10. mrhalfdome Says:

    Go to

    And review the EXCELLENT primer the NPS has prepared. Since HD is not available you cannot proceed to book a permit. And get 4.

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