Recreation Passes & Permits

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. If you will travel into the neighboring national parks, you may be limited to a smaller group.

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. 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) to twelve (12) depending on the area you will visit. 
  • 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 in Inyo National Forest 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 (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)
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. Only the leader or alternate listed when the reservation is made can use the permit, reservations cannot be transferred or sold. 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. 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 any remaining space is made available for walk in permit requests. No online or phone orders for walk in permits.

logo for link to National Recreation Reservation System is online at:

 On the website, Search for:
"Inyo National Forest- Wilderness Permits"
to find our list of trails.

Reservation Tips



Walk in permit is free.

Reservations include a transaction fee of $10/group, plus the per person fee.

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

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 parties or to future years.

Fee Revenue Makes a Diffrence,  Thanks you for supporting the forest programs. 95% of the per person recreation fees collected stay on Inyo National Forest and go right back into operating, maintaining, and improving the trails and visitor services. The transaction fee supports the web based reservation system.

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. Overnight 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 1 by 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 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. 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 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 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 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 permits 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, the permit issued by your entry location is valid.

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, 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

 John Muir Trail & Pacific Crest Trail

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

Permits for the JMT are issued by the agency where your trip will begin. If your trip is a continuous backpacking trip, the permit will be accepted by all the parks and forests along the way. Be sure to identify your final destination when requesting your permit.

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

Or planning a section hike of less than 500 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail?

  • 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 within 24 hours and re-enter at the same location.
  • Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks require you to camp in the wilderness every night (no resupply zero days) for continuous backpacking.

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

If you’re starting on a trail in Inyo National Forest, you can reserve a permit online at

  • 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 will apply.

Is your trip more than 500 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail?

Interagency permits issued by the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) are accepted by Inyo National Forest for hikers to pass through the forest on the PCT corridor. 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. The PCTA permit does not allow camping off the PCT corridor or using routes other than the most direct trail between the PCT and the trailhead. Recomended resupply trails include Cottonwood Pass (4 mi), Kearsarge Pass (6.5mi), and Bishop Pass (10mi).

PCTA permits:

  • Are not accepted for starting trips on Inyo National Forest trails under quota
  • Are limited to 30 days in the Southern Sierra section
  • Must start at the location and date on your permit
  • Do allow side hikeing from Crabtree Meadows to the summit of Mt Whitney

No additional permit is required to summit Mt. Whitney, however hikers that wish to resupply at Whitney Portal should indicate they are visiting the Mt Whitney Zone when applying for their PCTA 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.


  • 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!!ut/p/z1/04_Sj9CPykssy0xPLMnMz0vMAfIjo8zijQwgwNHCwN_DI8zPwBcqYKAfDlZggAM4GuhHEaMfj4Io_MaH60dhtSLMB2ECITMKckMjDDIdFQEHHRNG/dz/d5/L2dBISEvZ0FBIS9nQSEh/?position=BROWSEBYSUBJECT&pname=Inyo%2520National%2520Forest-%2520Recreation%2520Passes%2520&navtype=BROWSEBYSUBJECT&ss=110504&pnavid=160000000000000&navid=160100000000000&ttype=main&cid=FSE_003756