The Inyo National Forest is located in the south center part of California.
Where is this Forest?

 

Recreation Passes & Permits

 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, skip to Interagency Pass information.  


Wilderness Permits

Hikers enjoy the spectacular scenery of Little Lakes Valley.

Activities like backpacking, hiking, skiing, mountaineering, and horse camping are allowed. Motorized or mechanical activities, like drones or bicycles, 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 travel in Yosemite, Sequoia or Kings Canyon Wilderness.
  • Day use into the Mt Whitney Zone.

Skip to information about:
Reservations and Permit Pick up
Mt. Whitney Permits
Trips that finish at Mt. Whitney (Trail Crest Exit)
John Muir and Pacific Crest Trails

Group Size and Trail Quotas

Group size limits and trail quotas work together to help protect wilderness solitude by insuring groups do not crowd together. There is no age limit, children are included in group size and quota limits.

Group size limits apply year round.

  • Groups are limited to fifteen (15) people in most wilderness areas.
  • Some areas of Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks limit the group size to eight (8) for off trail or cross country travel. 
  • Groups on separate permits cannot combine if the total number of people will exceed the group size limit.
  • Day use events like a picnic or day hike cannot exceed group size limits, even when a wilderness permit is not required.

Specific trail quotas apply from May 1 to November 1 for most areas. Quotas are used to manage the number of people that can start on a trail the same day. For example, a trail with a quota of 20 would allow several groups to start throughout the day with a cap of 20 people total.

  • Everyone in your group must start on entry date and trail listed on your permit.
  • Your group cannot have more people than indicated by your permit.
  • If you are hiking off trail, the wilderness permit office can assist with determining what quota will apply.
  • In the Mt. Whitney Zone quotas apply to all visitors including day hikers.
  • Trail Crest Exit quota applies to visitors who descend the Mt. Whitney trail after beginning a trip elsewhere in Inyo National Forest. Quota is based on exit date. skip to Mt. Whitney/Trail Crest Exit

For trails identified as non-quota, and during the time of year when quotas do not apply, there is no limit to the number of permits that can be issued. However, each group cannot exceed the group size limit.

Specific quotas for each trail are listed in Trail Names & Quotas

Crossing Park Boundaries

Your wilderness permit must be issued via Inyo National Forest if your trip starts from Inyo National Forest, even if the first night of your trip will be spent in an adjacent national park or forest.

  • 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 for the new entry location.

Please check with the parks and forests that you will pass through regarding group size limits, food storage, pets, camping and campfire regulations. You must follow rules for each area while you are there.
Yosemite National Park (Inyo NF permit does not include Half Dome)
Sierra National Forest (west side access near Florence Lake and Lake Edison)
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
Sequoia National Forest (Kennedy Meadows, Golden Trout Wilderness)
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. Contact the park or forest to reserve or issue your permit.

Find a Forest Map

Reservations and Permit Pick up

The group leader or alternate leader must check in at our visitor center to 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.

60% of the quota space can be reserved for most trails; the remaining space is made available for walk in requests. Reserved and walk-in Permit Pick Up Instructions

Most trails can be reserved 6 months in advance. However, a lottery is held for the most popular Mt. Whitney permits. Reservations can be made until two days before the trip if space is still available. Space from canceled reservations is returned to the reservation calendar within 24 hours (at a random time). One day before the entry date all remaining space is made available for walk in permit requests. No online or phone orders for walk in permits.

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

logo for link to recreation.gov

 On the Recreation.gov website, Search for:
"Inyo National Forest- Wilderness Permits"
and
Interested in:
"Permits & Wilderness"

Reservation Tip Sheet (add link)
Frequently Asked Questions (add link)

Fees

Walk in Permit is Free

Reservation Fees include a transaction fee of $6/group, plus per person fee.

  • Entering Mt. Whitney Zone: $15/ Person.
  • Not entering Mt. Whitney Zone: $5/ Person.

Reservation 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 cannot be sold or transferred to other parties or to future years.

Mt. Whitney Permits 

Going to Mt. Whitney? What permit do you need?

Different quotas apply, depending on the type of trip and where you will start. Day use and overnight permits are not interchangeable. Trips that will end at Mt Whitney, but started on other trails are not part of the Mt. Whitney lottery.

The Mt. Whitney lottery reserves the two most popular types of Whitney permits.

  • Day Use of the Mt. Whitney Zone (Day hike permit)
  • Overnight on the Mt. Whitney Trail (Mt. Whitney Trail from Whitney Portal)

This annual lottery is held February 1 to March 15, followed on April 1by open reservations for the remainder of the season.

If you want to climb the Mountaineers Route or other East Face climbing routes, use the trail name “North Fork of Lone Pine Creek” when reserving.
- Day use for these routes is in the lottery (day use permit is valid for all routes in the Whitney Zone).
- Overnight use is not in the lottery, reserve up to 6 months advance.

Mt Whitney Lottery Information

Reservation Tips for Trips Not in the Lottery
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.

On the website, www.recreation.govsearch for:

  • Inyo National Forest- Wilderness Permits” to find our list of trails. The list includes trails that do not go to Mt. Whitney. Check the trail description and maps when choosing a trail.
  • To approach the Mountaineer’s Route, East Face, East Buttress, Mt. Russell and all other climbs in this isolated canyon, select permit type of “overnight visiting Mt. Whitney” with the trail name “North Fork of Lone Pine Creek”.
  • 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.
  • Look for a permit type with“Exit Mt. Whitney” for trips that will finish at Whitney Portal via the Mt. Whitney (Trail Crest Exit).* An additional quota will apply for your exit date.
  • If your trip begins in another forest, Yosemite, Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Parks, then Inyo National Forest will accept the permit issued by the agency where your trip begins.

*Mt. Whitney (Trail Crest Exit)

Hikers near Trail Crest on the Mt. Whitney Trail

Trail Crest is approximatly 13,600 ft. in elevation and 2 miles from the summit of Mt. Whitney, where the Mt. Whitney Trail crosses the crest of the Sierra Nevada to join the John Muir Trail in Sequoia National Park.

Trail Crest exit quota applies to visitors who descend the Mt. Whitney trail to Whitney Portal Road. This quota does not apply to Mt. Whitney Day Use permits or overnight permits that started on the Mt. Whitney Trail.

When requesting a permit or reservation, indicate you will end your trip by exiting “Mt. Whitney (Trail Crest Exit)”.

  • 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.
  • An exit quota will apply to the date you finish at the Portal.
  • Reserve the entry trail and exit quota all in one reservation.
  • The exit quota applies for passing through the area whether or not you summit.
  • You cannot use a day pass for an exit permit.
  • Trail Crest Exit Quota: 25 people per day
  • 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 you will visit the Mt. Whitney Zone as part of your trip, but are not exiting via the Mt Whitney trail to Whitney Portal, look for a permit type with “Visiting Mt. Whitney”.

Links for other pages related to Mt. Whitney
Mt. Whitney Trail
North Fork of Lone Pine Creek
Mt. Whitney Zone Map
Mt. Whitney Permit Pick up Instructions

 John Muir Trail & Pacific Crest Trail

One permit can be valid for the entire John Muir Trail, including passing through other parks or forest, even climbing Mt Whitney!

John Muir Trail & Pacific Crest Trail

 - 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 on doing a segment of the John Muir Trail? Or planning a Pacific Crest Trail section hike less than 500 miles?If you’re starting on a trail in Inyo National Forest, you can reserve a permit online at www.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.
  • If you will finish the trip at Mt. Whitney, the Trail Crest Exit quota (link anchor) will apply.

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. Contact the Pacific Crest Trail Association.

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


National Interagency Passes and Recreation Fees

Honored nationwide, the National Interagency Pass allows you to pay one annual fee valid for entrance or standard amenity fees.

The pass does not include all recreation fees. Some recreation sites, like camping, parking, boat launch ramps, swimming, day use sites, etc. may not accept the annual pass.Specific activity permits, like wilderness permits, campfire permits, Christmas tree, or fuel wood permits are not included, and must be issued separately.

Interagency Annual Pass can be purchased at Inyo National Forest Visitor Centers and is also available online.

Interagency Recreation Pass Comparison

Interagency Annual Pass

Interagency Annual Military Pass

Interagency Senior Pass

Interagency Access Pass

Interagency Volunteer Pass

Inyo National Forest Visitor Centers can also issue Interagency Military Passes, Senior Passes for persons over 62, and Access Passes for persons with permanent disabilities.

 About Recreation Fees

Recreation Fees at work in Inyo National Forest