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 rules & regulations for the area you'll visit.

Wilderness Rules & Regulations for Inyo National Forest

Click on the topics below for trip planning information.

How to Reserve a Permit

Our permits are reserved on the website, www.recreation.gov. On their home page 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.

When selecting quota you are reserving a specific date and location to start your trip. Your reservation will only be valid to start on that date and trail. Click on the trail name for a description of where that trail goes or click on the date to select the quota. Our quota is based on the entry date alone, you do not need to select quota for every day of the trip.

The Wizard "Which Permit Do I Need" may help you identify the correct permit for trips that include Mt Whitney.

3 Things You Need to Know Before you Reserve a Permit

  1. Only the person designated when the reservation is made can pick up or use the permit. Reservations cannot be sold or transferred. Leader or alternate leader names cannot be changed or added.
  2. Reservation will be canceled unless you pick up your permit or arrange for late arrival before the no show deadline. Permit Pick Up Instructions
  3. If you have a break in continuous wilderness travel, a new permit would be required from the agency where the next section of your trip begins. The Inyo National Forest will make an exception for long distance hikers to exit for a reasonable period of time necessary for resupply.

Mt Whitney: The 2 most Popular Permits are Reserved by Lottery:

  • Overnight - Mt Whitney Trail
  • Day Use - Mt Whitney Zone

2020 Mt Whitney Lottery Details

All Other Permits can be Reserved 6 Months in Advance

For the 2020 season while our visitor centers are not open to foot traffic all wilderness permits are by web reservation with check in by phone and permit delivered by email.

  • 60% of the quota space can be reserved starting 6 months in advance.
  • 40% of quota traditionally set aside for walk up permits is being added to the reservation website every Monday afternoon for the following Monday through Sunday. 
  • If quota space is available, reservations can be made until one day before the trip.
  • Canceled space is returned to the reservation calendar at a random time within 24 hours.

What Permit do I Need?

Wilderness permits are written to describe your specific travel plan and are valid for one continuous wilderness trip. Permits are issued by the agency where your trip begins. You will need to do some basic planning before 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. If you're starting from Yosemite, or Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (or the forests listed below) we will accept the permit they issue as long as you meet their 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)

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. Refer to the rules page for more quota details.

Fees

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 and permit database.

Reserving a wilderness permit costs $6 per permit, plus the following per person fee:

  • $15 / person if entering Mt. Whitney Zone (includes Mt. Whitney, North Fork of Lone Pine Creek, and Trail Crest Exit).
  • $5 / person for all other areas.

No charge for additional nights, Example: 4 people hiking 5 days on a trip that does not go to Mt Whitney, 4 x $5 = $20; +$6 = $26.00 total fee.

Review the rules page regarding Refunds, Reservation Changes, or Cancellations

  • 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.

All people count for wilderness quotas and fees. Prices are not different for military, seniors or children. There are no discounts, National Interagency Passes are not accepted for wilderness permits.

Mt. Whitney Permits

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

There are several different approaches to Mt. Whitney. The type of permit you will need depends on the type of trip and where you will start.

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 explained 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.

When selecting your entry trail, you can click on the trail name for a description and maps. Not all trails go to the John Muir Trail or Mt. Whitney. Some other permits that include Mt Whitney are:

  • For rock climbing, the approach to 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”.
  • For trip that will finish at Whitney Portal via Mt. Whitney (Trail Crest Exit) select permit type "Overnight Exiting Mt. Whitney". Quota to exit at Whitney Portal is reserved together with your entry point.
  • 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 as long as you meet the requirements for 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 limits the number of visitors allowed to 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.

  • Trail Crest Exit Quota is 25 people per day. 15 spaces can be reserved, 10 spaces are saved to issue with walk in permits.
  • 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.
  • A permit with 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.

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

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. To determine what permits you may need, first identify your entry location and date, exit location and date, resupply points, and general travel plan. Reservations can be made on the recreation.gov website for trips beginning on Inyo National Forest. If your trip will begin in Yosemite, contact the park.

  • 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.
  • You will need your basic travel plan to complete your reservation.
  • If you have a break in continuous wilderness travel, a new permit would be required from the agency where the next section of your trip begins. The Inyo National Forest will make an exception for JMT hikers to exit for a reasonable period of time necessary for resupply.
  • If your trip begins on Inyo National Forest and you will finish the trip at Mt. Whitney, the Trail Crest Exit quota will apply.

For information on food storage, camping, campfire and sanitation refer to the John Muir Trail Minimum Impact Wilderness Regulations.

Other trip planning aids include the Inyo National Forest list of JMT Entry Points, and Itinerary Locations on the JMT. For early and late season trips, check if roads and resorts along the way are open. When planning resupply, please note that caching food or supplies is not allowed in wilderness or in food storage lockers. Additional trip planning resources can be found on the PCT website page for the John Muir Trail.‚Äč

Pacific Crest Trail

Long distance permits are issued by the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) for hikers who will 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 and 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 35 days in the Southern Sierra section.
  • Cannot start on Inyo National Forest trails under quota, a local permit is required 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 permit does not allow use of the Mt Whitney trail.
  • If you wish to do alternate routes in the Sierra Section you will need a local permit.

Contact the Pacific Crest Trail Association for more details about the 500+ permit.

Still have questions about wilderness permits?

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

 





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