Hike Permits: Half Dome, Yosemite

ALERT: The last day to enter the lottery for 2014 Half-Dome hiking permits is March 31.

Jon and I have a dream of being carefree, taking unplanned road trips and have amazing experiences. Unfortunately if you want to experience the famous hikes of the world a lot of pre-planning and permits are required.

One hike which we’d love to attempt is Half Dome in Yosemite. Half dome is a day long hike, approximately 16 miles. The hike culminates with a steep ascent over the rocky feature known as Half Dome. The ascent is so steep, in fact, that semi-permanent cables installed by the Park Service into the mountain side are required to reach the apex. The cables are up May-October and require a permit to climb.

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Cables on half dome

Only 300 permits a day are given out. Permits are split between backpackers, a daily lottery, and a pre-season lottery system. The pre-season lottery system distributes 225 of the 300 daily permits. The lottery can be entered between March 1 and March 31.

Last week we applied for our 2014 permit! Wish us luck!

HOW TO APPLY: Here’s how to get a permit through the pre-season lottery.

  1. Create an account with www.recreation.gov . Press the “sign in or sign up” button in the top right corner.
  2. To go this webpage. If that link doesn’t work for you, go to www.recreation.gov and search for “cables on half dome”.
  3. On the left hand side of the page, set the following search criteria.
    • Looking for – Day Use Permit.
    • Trail – Yosemite Half Dome Cables
    • Dates – this can be whatever date(s) you prefer
    • Group Size
  4. After searching, the bottom of the page will display the Date Range Availability.
  5. Select the date you want and follow the buttons to apply for the permit. (As you go through the application process you will be able to add up to 6 back-up dates). Please note it costs $4.50 to enter the lottery.

WHO: Anyone can sign up for the permit lottery. Each person in your group may sign up one time. When you complete your lottery application, you can specify a permit date plus 6 alternative dates. In April when they conduct the lottery they will pick names. If a date you applied for has enough open spots for your group size they will sign you up. If all seven of the dates you choose are already booked you won’t get a permit.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU WIN: To know if you won, you must log into www.recreation.gov between April 15 and May 20, 2014. If you won, congratulations!  Before you officially have your permit, you must confirm the reservation details and pay an $8 permit fee. You have until May 21st to do this.

WHY: Over the last few years I’ve heard that conservationists are pushing to restrict the access to half dome. One reason is that the human traffic climbing half dome is causing erosion of the rock. I’m guessing another reason is to deter tourists who aren’t particularly eco-friendly and overcrowd the trail leaving behind litter.


  • To increase your odds, apply for permits to hike on Wednesday and Thursday as these are the least popular days to apply for.
  • The most popular day to apply for is Saturday.
  • Apply for September and October permits as these are not as popular as summer months.
  • View other permit statistics collected by the National Park Service.

Resources:   Yosemite National Park


Half Dome – National Park Archive


One thought on “Hike Permits: Half Dome, Yosemite

  1. Pingback: Yosemite National Park | Herr We Go

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