Recreation Passes & Permits

Wilderness Permits & Reservations

Wilderness Permits - Planning Your Trip

Hikers enjoy the spectacular scenery of Little Lakes Valley.While planning your wilderness trip, please note that 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. Campsites are not assigned. Follow Leave No Trace principles when selecting a wilderness campsite. Groups are limited to 15 people or less, in order to preserve the solitude and tranquility of the backcountry. If you will travel into the neighboring national parks, you may be limited to a smaller group.

When you sign a permit as group leader you are agreeing to abide by all laws, rules and regulations that apply to the area and accept responsibility for your group to do likewise.

The first principle of Leave No Trace is to plan ahead and prepare. Learn the regulations for the area you'll visit.

Wilderness Rules & Regulations for Inyo National Forest

Click on the topics below for additional information.

Reserve a Permit

3 Things You Need to Know Before you Reserve a Permit: 

  1. Only the leader or alternate leader designated when the reservation is made can pick up or use the permit. Alternate leader must respond to reservation email with acceptance of the reservation terms and leader responsibility. Alternates cannot be added or changed after the reservation is made. 
  2. Pick up your permit or arrange for late arival before the no show deadline or your reservation will be canceled.
  3. Will call or night box service is allowed for trips crossing park boundary. Permit Pick Up Instructions

The 2 most popular permits for Mt Whitney are reserved by lottery.
Mt Whitney Lottery Information

Other trails in Inyo National Forest can be reserved 6 months in advance:

  • 60% of the quota space can be reserved; remaining space is made available for walk in requests.
  • If quota space is availble, reservations can be made until two days before the trip.
  • Canceled space is returned to the reservation calendar at a random time within 24 hours.
  • One day before the entry date any remaining space is made available for walk in permit requests. No online or phone orders for walk in permit requests.

Our permits are reserved on the website, Search for "Inyo National Forest - Wilderness Permits" to find our list of trails, or search for "Mt Whitney" to find Day Use and Mt Whitney Trail Overnight permits. Wizard "Which Permit Do I Need"may help you identify the correct permit.

Reservation Fees and Refund Policy

Reservation fee of $6 per permit, plus the per person fee:

  • $15 / person if entering Mt. Whitney Zone.
  • $5 / person for all other areas.

Refunds, 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 people.
  • To change entry date, entry point, or type of permit you cancel and rebook the desired trip.

Fee Revenue Makes a Difference,  Thank you for supporting our forest programs. 95% of the per person recreation fees collected stay on Inyo National Forest and go right back into trailhead facilities, maintaining and improving the trails, and visitor services. The $6 transaction fee supports the web based reservation system amd permit database.

What Permit do I Need?

Wilderness permits are written to describe each groups specific travel plan and are valid for one continuous wilderness trip. Permits are issued by the agency where your trip begins. Find a Forest Map   You will need to do some basic planning before requesting or reserving a permit.

Your wilderness permit must be issued via Inyo National Forest if your trip starts from Inyo National Forest, even if the first night will be in an adjacent park or forest. If your starting from Yosemite, or Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (or the forests listed below) we will accept the permit they issue if your trip meets the requirements for continuous wilderness travel.

Review group size limits, food storage, pets, camping and campfire regulations for each area you will pass through. 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 (Roads End, Mineral King) Wilderness Trip Planner  
Sequoia National Forest (Kennedy Meadows, Golden Trout Wilderness)
Humboldt/Toiyabe National Forest (Twin Lakes, north of Mono Lake)

Permit Quotas

Various quota or limitations may apply depending on your trip scenario. Quota that limit the number of visitors are intended to allow for recreation use at levels that are ecologically sustainable by limiting 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. Specific quota are listed in Trail Names & Quotas.

  • Entry quota is based on your entry date, your group must start on the specific date and trail listed on your permit.
  • An additional quota applies to visitors who descend the Mt. Whitney trail after beginning a trip elsewhere in Inyo National Forest. Exit quota is based on exit date. For details go to Mt. Whitney (Trail Crest Exit)

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. Details for the two most popular types of Whitney permits, Day Use of the Mt. Whitney Zone (Day hike permit) and Overnight on the Mt. Whitney Trail (starting from Whitney Portal) are on the page for Whitney Lottery.

Mt Whitney 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, search for: “Inyo National Forest- Wilderness Permits” to find our list of trails.

The list includes trails that do not go to Mt. Whitney or the John Muir Trail. Check 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 the trail name “North Fork of Lone Pine Creek”.
  • Look for permit type “Overnight Exiting Mt. Whitney” for trips that will finish at Whitney Portal via Mt. Whitney (Trail Crest Exit). An additional quota will apply for your exit date.
  • If your trip begins in another forest, Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, then Inyo National Forest will accept the permit issued by the agency where your trip begins if the trip is continuous wilderness travel.

Mt. Whitney (Trail Crest Exit)

Hikers near Trail Crest on the Mt. Whitney Trail

Trail Crest is approximately 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 or overnight permits that started on the Mt. Whitney Trail. Hikers that begin their trip in another park or forest are exempt from this exit quota. If the permit issued by your entry location includes Mt Whitney Trail for the exit location, it's valid to summit and exit to Whitney Portal.

When requesting a permit or reservation, indicate you will end your trip by "Exiting via 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 Whitney 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 is 25 people per day. 15 spaces can be reserved, 10 spaces are saved to issue with walk in permits.
  • 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, indicate you will be “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 

 John Muir Trail 

Are you planning on doing all or a segment of the John Muir Trail?

Permits for the John Muir Trail (JMT) are issued by the agency where your trip will begin. If your trip is a continuous wilderness trip one permit will be accepted by all the parks and forests along the way. Identify your final destination and exit date when requesting your permit. For information on food storage, camping, campfire and sanitation refer to the John Muir Trail Minimum Impact Wilderness Regulations.

Trip planning aids include trail names for JMT Resupply and Entry Points, and Itinerary Locations on the JMT

For early and late season trips, verify that resupply points are open. Caching food or supplies is not allowed in wilderness or in food storage lockers.

  • You are allowed to exit the wilderness briefly for resupply in Inyo National Forest, as long as you re-enter at the same location within 24 hours to resume your section hike.
  • Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks require you to camp in the wilderness every night (no resupply zero days) for continuous wilderness travel.

Skipping a section, a break in continuous travel, reversing direction or re-entering at a different location requires a new permit.

To reserve a permit starting on a trail in Inyo National Forest, start with the JMT entry point list and Camp Locations

  • You will need your basic travel plan to complete your permit details.
  • You must start on the entry date and trail stated for the permit to be valid.
  • Provide the 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 will apply.

Pacific Crest Trail

Long distance permits are issued by the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) for hikers intending to travel more than 500 miles in a single, continuous trip. This permit allows you to travel and camp along the PCT. Leaving the trail to resupply is limited to trailheads within 15 trail miles of the PCT. This travel must be done on the most direct trail between the PCT and the trailhead. Camping off the PCT corridor is not allowed. Suitable resupply trails include Cottonwood Pass (4 mi), Kearsarge Pass (6.5mi), and Bishop Pass (10mi). Resupply is not allowed on the Mt. Whitney trail.

PCTA permit holders:

  • Must start at the entry point location and date on your permit.
  • Are limited to 30 days in the Southern Sierra section.
  • Cannot start on Inyo National Forest trails under quota, a local permit is requred to start on quota trails.
  • Not allowed to camp off of the PCT trail corridor.
  • The summit of Mt Whitney can be side hiked as a day hike, however you must camp on the west side of the PCT at Crabtree. No camping east of the PCT, at Guitar Lake or on the mountain. PCT hikers are no longer allowed to resupply at Whitney Portal.

If you wish to do alternate routes in the Sierra Section you will need a local permit.

For more details about the 500 plus miles interagency permit contact the Pacific Crest Trail Association.

Still have questions about wilderness permits?
Call Inyo National Forest for wilderness and permit information(760) 873-2483 Open 8am to 4:30.
Winter season: closed on weekends and holidays.
May 15 through Oct 15: open every day.