Hike Half Dome without a permit?

Permits are required to ascend the cables (and Sub Dome) at Yosemite. They were all lotteried off in March for the summer season. In the meantime, a daily 2-day advance lottery is held with 50 plus all cancellations being available. Odds are about 1 in 3 of getting one.

So, should you do the hike up anyway?  It is a great hike up a nice trail even if you do not go up the cables. Two great waterfalls, neat trees and superb scenery. If you are in shape and have a place to stay, you might still be able to reach the top. How?

Although permit holders can get a refund of their $5 per permit fee, many just don’t bother. I encourage people to cancel so their slot can be put on the mini-lottery. If you take the hike you might run into people who did not cancel. Just ask. If someone backs out at the last minute their permit cannot be refunded (2 days required), so you might get one. The catch is that everyone has to meet the Sub Dome ranger with the person who bought the permit – and that person must have a photo ID.

I found this excerpt on the web from someone who did just that. Fun to read.

I figured there was still a chance we could get onto the cables, somehow – so, we set out to leave the trail head by 6:30am. We took the Mist Trail, starting from the valley, at a quick pace and without making any significant stops along the way. Toward the tail end of the hike, nearing the start of the permit checking area, my friend made conversation with a guy and his son. It turns out, basically their entire group had bailed out on the hike, and were still at camp (side note: it’s frustrating to know that, for a lottery which has low odds of winning, there are some who win the lotto and then don’t even use their permit). They offered to allow us to head up with them, using their extra permit slots.

We still have a month and a half of the cables season to get up Half Dome. Do it. “Someday” may never come.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Going to the mountains is going home.” – John Muir

About Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch

Mr Half Dome. Has written the only half dome hiking guide, One Best Hike: Yosemite's Half Dome. Has hiked it 31 times to day. Lives in San Jose, CA Available for presentations. Carpe Diem Experience, LLC
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6 Responses to Hike Half Dome without a permit?

  1. Gene says:

    very interesting
    what time do the rangers start checking permits before the cables? i plan to start the cables at 5am.
    what will happen if they check for permits on the way down and i dont have one?

    • Gene,

      Thia read a VERY old post…2012. The permits are now $8 a head and 225 day-hikers can go up daily. Your permit is good only for the date approved. 24 hrs. So as long as you are on the trail and below Sub Dome, you are good. Any time. While the rangers usually show up 10-2 — the peak crowds — they vary and CAN nail you if they find you above Sub Dome — or along the 2-mile trail below it if you obviously went up the cables. The fine? Oh, how’s $5,000 sound. The rangers there are sworn Federal cops. Don’t push it.

      Reply to learn how to get my video “How to improve your odds for getting a permit”…too late now for the March Lottery….award notification any day now. But you can try the 2-day mini lottery done all summer.


  2. Maureen L says:

    Another reason to do the hike this September or early October (cables up until that federal holiday in honor of the dude who got lost on the way to the Indies) is that the final plans for Half Dome are supposed to be released sometime and go into effect for next season.

    The final plan, when issued, will be final; there’s no more comment opportunity, at least as I understand the process.

    Getting permits might get even tougher next year.

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