Wilderness Permits & Reservations

 National Interagency Pass

Honored nationwide for entrance fees, the National Interagency Pass is not a substitute for specific activity permits. Wilderness Permits and some types of fees are not covered  ….(more)  

Wilderness Permits

Little Lakes by Cindy Gervasoni Activities like backpacking, hiking, skiing, mountaineering, and horse camping are allowed. Motorized or mechanical activities are not allowed in wilderness. There are maintained trails through the area to hike on, but no developed campground facilities. Groups are limited to 15 people or less, in order to preserve the solitude and tranquility of the backcountry.

Wilderness permits are required year-round for the following:

  • All overnight /multi-night trips in the Ansel Adams, John Muir, Hoover or Golden Trout wilderness.
  • All overnight /multi-night trips that start in Inyo National Forest and will be overnight in Yosemite, Sequoia or Kings Canyon Wilderness.
  • Day use into the Mt Whitney Zone.

Skip to How to reserve a permit.

Crossing Park Boundaries

The wilderness permit will be issued by Inyo National Forest if the trip starts from an Inyo National Forest trailhead, even if the first night of your trip will be spent in the adjacent national park. If your trip will start in Yosemite, Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Parks, contact the park to issue your permit. Skip to John Muir Trail, Mt. Whitney-Trail Crest Exit information.

  • If you will cross into an adjacent National Park boundary you must follow park rules while you are there. Please check with the parks for specific regulations.
  • For trips that will travel through multiple areas, check for regulations for each area you will visit.
  • One permit is valid for the duration of a trip, including traveling through adjacent parks and forests.
  • If you exit the wilderness for more than 24 hours or re-enter at a different location, a new permit is required.

Group Size and Trail Quotas

Group size limits and trail quotas help protect wilderness solitude by insuring that groups do not crowd together. Group size limits apply year round (including day use and overnight trips).

  • Groups on separate permits cannot combine if the total number of people will exceed the group size limit.
  • Wilderness regulations limit the number of people in a group to fifteen (15) people.
  • Some areas of Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks limit the group size to eight (8) for off trail or cross country travel. 

Trail quotas limit the total number of people that can start on a trail in the same day during the high use season. Daily entry quotas limit the combined number of people from all the groups. Because quotas are based on the number of people starting on a trail each day, everyone in your group must start on the entry date and trail listed on your permit.

  • Your group cannot have more people than indicated by your permit.
  • Your group must start on the date and trail listed by your permit.
  • All ages are counted for quotas and group size limits.
  • In the Mt. Whitney Zone quotas apply to all visitors. Even day hikers and visitors exiting at Mt. Whitney that started on other trails are limited by quotas. 
 List of Trail Names & Quotas

Some parts of the Mt. Whitney trail may get your feet wet.

Quotas apply from May 1 to November 1 for most areas. The quota period may vary for different wilderness areas.

Non quota trails can have an unlimited number of groups; however each group cannot exceed the group size limit.

Permit Pick up

The group leader or alternate leader must pick up the wilderness permit and carry the permit while on the trip. Permits for trips starting in Inyo National Forest are issued at four locations. Trips that begin in the Mt Whitney Zone must be issued at the Eastern Sierra InterAgency Visitor Center.
Permit Pick Up Instructions


Most trails can be reserved 6 months in advance. Reservations can be made until two days before the trip if space is still available. One day before the entry date any remaining space is made available for walk in permit requests, no online or phone orders.

National Recreation Reservation System is online at:  www.recreation.gov

Entering Mt. Whitney Zone: $15/ Person.
Not entering Mt. Whitney Zone: $5/ Person.
Transaction fee of $6/ Group. 

Changes or Cancelations:
While some changes can be made, there are no refunds for Mt Whitney reservations. Other trails have a limited refund  policy.

Reservations can not be sold or transferred to other parties or to future years. 

logo for link to recreation.gov

Look for:
"Inyo National Forest- Wilderness Permits"
Interested in:
"Permits & Wilderness"

Please complete the pre-trip planning before you arrive. Permits are issued at Inyo National Forest Visitor Centers. Reserved Permit Pick up Instructions

Mt. Whitney Reservations

An annual lottery is held February 1 to March 15, followed by open reservations for the remainder of the season.  Two specific types of permits are reserved in the lottery, “Day Use of the Mt. Whitney Zone” and “Overnight on the Mt. Whitney Trail”. More…

Not All Trips to Mt Whitney are in the Lottery

If you want to climb the Mountaineers Route or other East Face climbing routes, use the trail name “North Fork of Lone Pine Creek” trail when reserving.  
- Day use for these routes is in the lottery
- Overnight use is not in the lottery.

Other trips starting from more distant trailheads, like Kearsarge Pass (Onion Valley Road) or Cottonwood Pass (Horseshoe Meadow Road) are not in the lottery.  Permits for these and other Inyo National Forest trails, can be reserved online up to 6 months in advance at www.recreation.gov

  • Look for “Inyo National Forest- Wilderness Permits” to find our list of trails. This list includes trails that do not go to Mt. Whitney. Check the trail description and maps when choosing a trail.
  • Look for “North Fork of Lone Pine Creek trail” to access the Mountaineer’s Route, East Face, East Buttress, Mt. Russell and all other climbs in this isolated canyon.
  • Look for a permit type with “Exit Mt Whitney” for trips that will finish at Whitney Portal, and started on one of the listed Inyo N.F. trails. Exit via the Mt Whitney trail (Trail Crest to Whitney Portal) has an exit quota that will apply to the date you finish at the Portal. Reserve the entry trail and exit quota all in one reservation. You cannot use a day pass for an exit permit.
  • Look for a permit type with “Visiting Mt. Whitney” If you will summit, or visit the Mt. Whitney Zone, but are not exiting via the Mt Whitney trail to Whitney Portal /Trail Crest.

Trips starting in Sequoia, Kings Canyon or Yosemite National Parks, contact the park where you will begin. These permits are not reserved by recreation.gov. The permit issued by the park is valid for the entire trip, including Mt Whitney

Mt. Whitney Quick Reference

Quotas Reserved in the Lottery: 
100 people /day for day use permits
60 people/day for overnight/multinight permits on the Mt. Whitney Trail.

All of the space can be reserved. Extra space is not saved for walk in permits.

Trips that end at Mt.Whitney but started somewhere else are not in the lottery.

Permit issued at:
Eastern Sierra InterAgency Visitor Center.
Permit Pick up Instructions for Mt.Whitney
Confirm your group size online to hold the permit for late arrival.

Lottery - February 1 to March 15. 
Acceptance period April 1 - April 30
All remaining space for the 2014 season goes on-sale April 1.

Canceled space returns to the reservation calendar at random times (within 24 hours)

courtesy of WhitneZone webcam located at Lone Pine Film History Museum

Trail Conditions & Description:
Mt. Whitney Trail
North Fork of Lone Pine Creek

Lottery Information 

Mt. Whitney Zone Map


John Muir Trail & Pacific Crest Trail Quick Refrence

One permit is valid for the entire trip, including passing through other parks or forest, even climbing Mt Whitney!

You are allowed to exit the wilderness briefly for resupply as long as you reenter within 24 hours and reenter at the same location.

Caching food or supplies is not allowed in wilderness or in food storage lockers.

Are you planning a section hike less than 500 miles? If you’re starting on a trail in Inyo National Forest, you can reserve a permit online at Recreation.gov  You will need your basic travel plan to complete your permit details. Provide the correct exit date and trail so the permit includes the entire trip. Itinerary corrections can be made before the permit is issued. 

Is your trip more than 500 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail? If you qualify for a PCTA trail pass, you can hike through Inyo National Forest on the PCT. No additional permit is required. If you will resupply via the Mt. Whitney trail, the PCTA will collect the $15 per person Whitney Zone Fee for Inyo National Forest.

Pacific Crest Trail Association

photo by Shawn Williams

Crossing Park Boundaries

Please check with the parks and forests that you will pass through. Regulations vary regarding group size limits, food storage, camping and campfire restrictions. You must follow rules for each area while you are there.

Yosemite National Park

Sierra National Forest (west side access near Florence Lake and Lake Edison)

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Sequoia National Forest (Kennedy Meadows, south)

Humboldt/Toiyabe National Forest (Twin Lakes, north of Mono Lake)

If your trip begins in one of the parks or forest listed above, Inyo National Forest will accept the permit issued by the agency where your trip begins.

Find a Forest Map

Mt. Whitney - Trail Crest Exit Quick Refrence
Hikers near Trail Crest on the Mt. Whitney Trail

Trail Crest Exit Quota:
25 people per day

The exit quota applies for passing through the area whether or not you summit.

A permit that includes Exiting Mt Whitney allows you the option to hike to the summit and camp along the Mt Whitney trail as you finish your trip.

All Mt. Whitney visitors are expected to pack-out their solid human waste. Pack-out kits are distributed with wilderness permits.

Special approval is required for commercial use.

Stock is not allowed Trail Crest to Whitney Portal.

If your trip will start on an Inyo National Forest trail and will end by exiting to Whitney Portal Road via Trail Crest or the Mt Whitney Trail, the exit location is called Mt. Whitney (Trail Crest Exit).

Reserve by selecting a permit type that includes “Exit Mt Whitney”.

An exit quota will apply to the date you finish at the Portal.

Reserve the entry trail and exit quota all in one reservation.

You cannot use a day pass for an exit permit.

If you will summit or visit the Mt. Whitney Zone, but are not exiting via the Mt Whitney trail to Whitney Portal, look for a permit type with “Visiting Mt. Whitney”

Still have questions about wilderness permits?
Call the Inyo National Forest wilderness permit information line. Open 8am to 4:30.  Winter season, closed on weekends and holidays. Summer season, open every day. (760)873-2483.


National Interagency Passes and Recreation Fees

Interagency Passes can be purchased at Inyo National Forest Visitor Centers. Honored nationwide, the pass allows you to pay one annual fee for entrance fees or standard amenity fees. Some Inyo National Forest recreation fees, like wilderness reservations, camping, parking, boat launch ramps, swimming, day use sites, etc. may not accept the annual pass. The Interagency Pass does not replace specific activity permits, like wilderness permits, campfire permits, or Christmas tree / fuel wood permits.

Inyo National Forest Visitor Centers can also issue Interagency Senior Passes for persons over 62 and Access Passes for disabled persons. Purchase of the Annual Interagency Pass is also available online.