Mount Whitney Lottery - Permit Reservations

Planning to Climb Mt. Whitney in 2023?

Mt. Whitney Trail starts in Inyo National Forest at Whitney Portal, 8,300 feet above sea level. The trail gains over 6,200 feet of elevation before reaching the summit in Sequoia National Park. The summit of Mt. Whitney is the southern end of the John Muir Trail.

Choose your dates wisely. The Mt. Whitney Trail is a non-technical, but strenuous, route to the summit when it is free of snow. However when snow or ice is on the mountain winter mountaineering skills and equipment are necessary for safe travel. The trail is usually snow-free from July to late September

Are You Prepared ?

Important Dates

Dates Information
February 1 - March 1 Apply for Mt. Whitney lottery on line. 
March 15 Lottery results posted, log onto your recreation.gov account and look for your Lottery Application.
April 15 Deadline Lottery Winners: Pay $15 per person fee to claim date won in lottery. You must complete checking out the cart before midnight Eastern Time April 15 or your win will be revoked.
April 22 Web reservations open for remaining dates starting at 7:00 a.m. Pacific Time (no phone sales). Reservations are first come first serve and will stay open for the rest of the season.
May 1 - November 1 Quota season when number of people per day is limited to 100 per day for day use and 60 per day for overnight.
November 2 - April 30 Non-quota season when the number of permits issued is unlimited. Book online up to 2 weeks before trip

 

Lottery Terms

Submit only one application to the lottery. Groups or households that submit multiple applications will be rejected. Additional reservations can be made after the lottery on April 22 if you want more than one trip per year.

You may request up to 10 alternate choices on your application

  • If you win one of the dates you list on your application, the permit is only valid for the stated entry date and permit type.
  • Groups larger than 15 people are prohibited.
  • You must pay the $15 per person reservation fee and complete the acceptance before midnight April 15 or you will lose the date.
  • Permits cannot be resold or transferred. No rain checks, no rescheduling, no changing leader names.
  • Only the leader or alternate named at the time you apply to the lottery can use the permit.

Trips sponsored by organizations or commercial groups must contact the Inyo National Forest wilderness permit office before applying for a Mt. Whitney permit.

In the event of a lapse in federal government funding the Recreation.gov website may freeze. If the website is down during the Mt. Whitney Lottery the application period will not be extended.

3 Common Mistakes

  1. Pick a date suitable for your experience. Winter mountaineering skills are necessary for safe travel when snow or ice is on the mountain. The trail is usually snow free from July to late September.
  2. Double check your dates and group size before you check out the cart. Group size is the number of people you are requesting, including the leader. There is no age limit for group size, children count.
  3. Don't miss the deadline to pay the $15 per person fee or your date will be canceled.

Making a Changes to Lottery Application

Withdraw and Reapply to Change: Can Change after Lottery:
Entry Date Exit Location
Permit Type (day use or overnight) Camp Location
Alternate Leader Overnight can extend exit date
Increase Group Size Reduce Group Size

For assistance with withdrawing an application, contact the Inyo National Forest wilderness permit office.

 

Select from the following topics to learn more.

Two Types of Permit are in the Lottery: Day Use & Overnight

Day use and overnight permits are not interchangeable, you must have a permit for the type of trip you are doing.

Overnight — Mt. Whitney Trail

This permit includes multi-night trips starting on the classic Mt. Whitney Trail and allows camping along the Mt. Whitney Trail and summiting Mt. Whitney.

For the backpacker attempting to go up and back on the Mt. Whitney Trail, a popular travel plan is to stay one or two nights camping at Lone Pine Lake (10,000ft level), Outpost Camp (10,500ft level), Consultation Lake (11,000ft level) or Trail Camp (12,000ft level). The Mt. Whitney Trail overnight permit can also be extended to continue onto the John Muir Trail or Pacific Crest Trail giving the opportunity to trek the longest roadless section of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

To extend your permit indicate your exit location and exit date when completing permit details after the lottery. The permit is valid for one continuous wilderness trip. An interruption in wilderness travel (skipping a section or taking time off from the trip) may require a new permit to re-start.

The overnight permit cannot be used for a one day hike. An overnight permit to use the Mt. Whitney Trail does not include other routes. If you wish to approach climbing routes like Mountaineers Route, East Face, East Buttress, or Mt. Russell request an overnight permit for North Fork of Lone Pine Creek (not in the lottery). 

Day Use – Mt. Whitney Zone Permit

This permit is for one day only, from midnight to midnight and is valid for all routes in the Mt. Whitney Zone. Choose the route appropriate for your group, Mt. Whitney Trail or climbing routes like the Mountaineers Route.

  • Map of Mt. Whitney Zone shows where a permit is required for day hikes
  • Day Use permit cannot be used to pass through the area as part of an overnight trip.
  • Consecutive day use permits are not allowed.
  • If a trip is more than one calendar date an overnight permit is required instead of day use permit.

Most day hikers choose the classic Mt. Whitney Trail. The 22-mile round-trip hike will challenge even very fit hikers. Expect to hike 12 to 14 hours to the summit and back. Consider starting before sunrise. Be prepared to hike in the dark.

. Any day hikers attempting more technical rock climbing routes should carefully research the difficulty.

Mount Whitney Zone Map

Whitney Zone Map shows permit requirement areas(click on map to view full size)

  • Day hikers are required to have a wilderness permit (area outlined in the RED)
  • Overnight permits are required for all multi day trips in the wilderness. This includes outside the RED zone, camping at Lone Pine Lake, and trips that will pass through the Whitney Zone to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.

Fees

You must pay all fees before the Acceptance Deadline or your date will be Canceled.

Pay the $15 per person reservation fee before midnight on April 15.

  • No refunds for Mt. Whitney permits.
  • $6 per permit paid at the time you apply.
  • $15 per person paid in April

Reservations made after the lottery, you pay all fees ($6 per permit + $15 per person) at the time reservation is made. Once fee has been paid (cart checked out) there are no refunds. No rain checks. No credits.

What are My Chances?  Lottery statistics

For comparison in 2021 there were more than 25,000 applications submitted requesting space for 108,500 people.

28% of group leaders were awarded a date of their choice. 72% were unsuccessful.

 2021 Mt. Whitney Lottery Results

In 2022 there was an increase in the number of applications with more than 26,750 submitted.

2022 Mt Whitney Lottery Results 

Lottery Process

All the applications submitted from February 1 through March 1 are held for one random lottery to run after March 1. Applications are assigned a random order to be processed and software checks if there is space for dates you requested.

  • Submit only one application per group or household or you may be disqualified.
  • Lottery application must be completed on line (applications are not accepted by mail or fax).
  • List your choices in order of preference, first choice at the top of form.

On the application you indicate:

  • Date(s) you want to hike.
  • If you want a day hike or overnight permit.
  • Group size.
  • Alternate choices (up to 10) on the application
  • List up to 3 alternate leaders at the time you apply, names cannot be changed or added later.

Make sure all your information is correct before you check out the cart.

Submit your application by checking out the cart and paying $6.00 application fee. Once the cart is checked out you cannot change or modify the application.

Lottery results are posted to your personal profile on recreation.gov on March 15. If you won your date, decide how many people you want to keep before you accept. In April you must pay the $15 per person reservation fee to claim your date. If you fail to complete the acceptance and pay the per person fee before April 15 the awarded date will be canceled.

After the Lottery - How to Claim the Date you Won

On March 15 you can log on to see if your application was successful. Before you Accept a date decide how many people you want. If you accept a smaller group size the space given up cannot be restored. Once you accept and pay there are no refunds.

April 15 is the Deadline to claim the date awarded. Log into your account on recreation.gov and open the link to your lottery application.

Decline: If you’re not interested in using the awarded permit you should decline. Dates cannot be transferred, rescheduled, traded, or sold. You cannot change the date, leader, or permit type. Only the awarded choice can be claimed.

Accept: Only accept a permit you want to use.
Click on Accept to open the reservation details and complete trip information. Use the shopping cart to pay the $15 per person reservation fee to lock in your reservation. Fees are final after checking out the cart. No Refunds.

  • Verify date, permit type, and group size are what you want.
  • Itinerary: Overnight trips you must select your Exit Date and Exit Trail. John Muir Trail hikers, select your exit location to indicate the section you are hiking. You can reopen the reservation later (after April 15) to revise and fill in your full itinerary.
  • Group size: You may reduce your group size and only pay for the number of people you choose to accept, however space cannot be restored later.
  • To complete the acceptance, check out the shopping cart.

Pay by checking out the cart before midnight on April 15, or the reservation will be canceled.

Did You Miss the Lottery?

April 22nd. at 7:00 a.m. Pacific time, unclaimed dates open for web reservations.

go to: https://www.recreation.gov/permits/233260

  • First come, first serve
  • Web only, no phone orders.
  • Reservation is not final until you have successfully completed checking out the shopping cart and paid reservation fees in full.
  • Reservation payment receipt is not accepted as proof of a valid reservation.
  • Canceled space is released within 24 hours at random times.

Web reservations will remain open for the rest of the season. Reservations can be made up to the entry date. When searching the calendar the letter A indicates some space is available on that date, mouse over the A to see how many people there is space for. Click on the A to reserve.

What is the frequency of cancellations during the summer?

Life happens, some of the groups that win a spot from the lottery may have to cancel their plans. When a group leader reduces their group size or cancels a reservation, the space is put back on the web for reservations. As the trip date approaches we ask the leader to finalize their group size and make any extra space available to others through the web reservations. Many people report they were able to make a reservation in the weeks before the trip, thanks to the consideration of other Mt Whitney hikers.

No Walk up Permits 

Permits for Mt Whitney Day Use and Mt Whitney Trail Overnight are by reservation only.

Space from cancelations return to the website and can be booked as late as the day of the trip. Note: You must start on the entry date specified on the permit.

No Show Deadline : Print Your Permit

One week before the trip you can print at home or request the permit.

No Show Deadline

Permit will be canceled as a No Show if it is not issued or printed before the deadline.

  • Day use deadline is noon one day before the trip.
  • Overnight permit deadline is 10:30 am on the entry date.

Print Permit at Home

When you print at home you do not need to check-in in person. After printing, changes cannot be made unless you contact the wilderness permit office or go into the visitor center during open hours to have the permit re issued.

Group leader signature validates the permit.

Leader is responsible to ensure everyone in their group understands the rules and will obey the conditions of the permit.

  • Permit must be printed, signed, and in the group leader’s possession during the trip. 
  • Permit is only valid for group leader, trail, dates, and number of people specified on the permit.
  • Present permit to rangers upon request. Only the leader named on the permit can use it.
  • A reservation letter or email is not accepted as proof of having a permit.

Print out a paper copy of the permit with the Minimum Impact Restrictions for the area you are visiting; phones get lost, broken, or run out of power and the permit includes rules and information for your reference during the trip.

Additional Documents

Request Permit by Email or Phone

Contact the wilderness permit office if you have questions or need assistance with reissuing a permit. For email requests, allow time for response during business hours. Leader must print out paper copy of permit.

In Person Service

Go to the Eastern Sierra Visitor Center (check for open hours) for the opportunity to ask questions in person, rent a bear can, purchase maps and guide books and pick up free waste disposal kits for Mt Whitney permit holders.

Planning for Future Years?

A Lottery is held each spring for reservations to hike Mt. Whitney in the current season.  For the 2023 season, apply to the Mt. Whitney lottery between February 1 and March 1 on the website, www.recreation.gov. Any dates that remain after the lottery will open on April 22 at 7am Pacific Time for first come first serve online reservations.

Still have questions? Call the Wilderness Permit Office at (760) 873-2483 or send your questions by email to: SM.FS.WildPmt_Inyo@usda.gov  



Highlights

  • Fee revenues make a difference
    Thank you. Your fees make a difference!

    National Forests in California are using recreation fee revenues to improve and enhance recreation opportunities. See how your fees have made a difference!