High Sierra Backpacking Permit Planning

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 07 November 2014

All Permits Information
High Sierra Backpacking Permits

The link above brings us to contact information for the Ranger Districts within each National Forest and Park that issue our permits. We also explain and link to the centralized systems that regulate permits in Desolation Wilderness, Hoover Wilderness, and Yosemite National Park.
Below we have some basic High Sierra permit information, rules and practices along with updates about changing permit policies and rules, and your input, comments and updates about the permitting situation in the High Sierra.

2015 Permit and Permit Restriction Information

Yosemite institutes EXIT QUOTAS for JMT hikers through Donohue Pass.

Yosemite-John Muir Trail Permit Information and Links

This new quota is going to both put pressure on, and seriously increase the daily number of folks who will compete for JMT permits out of Happy Isles.
 The intent of this EXIT QUOTA appears to be putting a stop to JMT hikers starting out of Tuolumne Meadows and especially folks hoping to hike the JMT out of Hoover Wilderness trailheads. This will force more JMT hikers through Happy Isles, which will put more pressure on JMT reservations out of Happy Isles.

Therefore these exit quotas will open up more permits for local backpackers out of the Yosemite and Hoover Wilderness Trailheads that were being used as alternative starting trailheads by JMT hikers unable to get JMT permits through Happy Isles.

That is good, but they should reserve a few permits for hikers South out of Hoover Wilderness and other Yosemite Trailheads for folks to hike down to Mammoth, Lake Thomas Edison, and even through the Whitney Portal. There are a lot of ways to skin a cat, and we all can't do it the same way.

Assuring the "feeder" trailheads do not overwhelm the trails does not mean cutting off all traffic out of these alternative long distance trailheads. Let's spread the "long distance" backpacking love around a little...

Behind the Green Curtain
The disturbing fact behind all of these restrictions and quotas is the vast size of the over-bloated population of California that is driving our overuse and abuse of every natural and human resource we have.

That's the underlaying problem we need to address: 50 years of completely iresponsible growth that has destroyed our climate and is now overcrowding the trails as it has our cities, schools, and roads.

Can wages get any lower? Can the weather get any weirder? Just keep growing, just keep grubbing for more and more money, and we will soon see how much worse our irresponsibility and dishonorable acts can make things.

Permit Planning Introduction
Hiking from Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney involves between 40 to 55 nightly campsites, many of which will be in high traffic restricted backpacking zones.

This means it is vital that our planning and our permit accurately reflect the sites we plan on camping, especially in highly restricted areas such as the Carson Pass Management Area, Yosemite National Park, and The Whitney Zone. 

If our permit does not specify camping there we could be run off and/or ticketed by the local rangers.

All long distance backpacking trips starting out in one administration unit and ending in another only need a permit from the agency administering the trailhead. Those of us starting in the Lake Tahoe Basin will obtain a single permit from the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. 

The rule is that all campsites named on the permit issued by the administering authority of our beginning trailhead must be respected by all subsequent administration zones.

Thus it is vital that we specify all campsites in restricted and quota zones. The only exception to this rule I know is currently in force is climbing the cables at Half Dome. The Whitney Zone instituted a similar policy for a couple of years, but abandoned it.

Even backpackers with a wilderness permit specifying "Half Dome" are required to have the special Yosemite Half Dome permit for their climb.

NPS Half Dome Permits 

Other than Half Dome we can name our campsites in the CPMA, Yosemite, and The Whitney Zone on our through permit from our starting trailhead and this must be respected by all the subsequent local forest, wilderness, or special zones we pass through.

Post up any exceptions to this rule that you encounter through the comments link below.

I posted the iteneary I used for the permit and hiking plan of a forty day Tahoe to Whitney hike:

Forty Days Backpacking Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney

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