JMT Permits

JMT Permit Overview

There are permits required for the JMT and unfortunately they are in extremely high demand. This unfortunately means there are more people that want to hike the JMT every season than there are permits available.

Anyone backpacking along the JMT is required to have a wilderness permit.  The JMT crosses over multiple jurisdictions but if you’re hiking the entire trail you will only need one permit. Yosemite has recently implemented a new permitting policy because of the increased traffic seen on the JMT in recent years. The permitting system has gotten more complicated and can be fairly confusing. We’ll try to simplify it for you.

Here’s all the info you need to know on how to get a John Muir Trail (JMT) Permit.

Permits for starting in Yosemite

If you are starting your JMT hike in Yosemite, as most hikers are, you MUST apply and obtain a permit directly from the Yosemite National Park permit issuing station. If you obtain a wilderness permit from Yosemite for the entire trip you only need one permit. You do NOT need any additional permit for Whitney, what used to be referred to as a “Whitney Stamp”.

The permitting system has changed very recently. The most current policy was implemented in February of 2015. Be very careful when researching JMT permits online. Many of the resources online still have information regarding previous permitting policies that is out of date.

Understand this: 97% of all JMT thru-hiking permits are denied.

Here's the New Policy

45 total hikers can start the JMT per day across all trailheads.

You can start the JMT from one of 4 trailheads: Lyell Canyon, Sunrise Lakes, Glacier Point or Happy Isles.

Yosemite accepts permit applications exactly 24 weeks in advance of the day you want to start hiking.

Reservations are not required for trips during November through April. A trip during this time period is not recommended.

Permits per Trailhead

Lyell Canyon Trailhead
25 Available per day
(60% reservable, 40% first-come first-served)

Happy Isles, Glacier Point, Sunrise Lakes
20 total permits available per day
(100% reservable, none available for first-come first-served)

Step-by-Step Guide: How to get a JMT Permit

Below we provide you with a detailed guide that hopefully answers all of your questions about applying for a JMT Permit reservation. Make sure to read everything very carefully as permits are very hard to get and any mistakes made on your application could invalidate it.

When you’re ready to fill out the permit, go to this page of the National Parks Service website to fill it out electronically.

We’re here to answer any questions you have but the best possible resource is the National Parks Service in Yosemite. You can get your questions answered by a wilderness ranger at (209) 372-0826 Monday-Friday 9am-12pm and 1pm to 4:30pm Pacific Standard Time during backpacking season. Out of season, call the general park operator at (209) 372-0100.

Step 1: Pick Your Trailhead & 1st Night's Camp Location

As stated above, there’s four trailheads for the JMT. On the JMT permit application you’ll notice that Happy Isles is repeated twice and there are 5 trailhead options to choose from. These are not the only trailheads used by JMT hikers, but if you are getting your permit through the National Parks Service and are starting your trip in Yosemite then these are your options. 

Here’s a map of where the different trailheads are. Additionally, below the map we list each of the options on the permit application and tell you a little bit about each one. 

Happy Isles –> Little Yosemite Valley: The Happy Isles trailhead is the official northern terminus of the JMT and is located in Yosemite Valley. This is definitely the most popular option as most hikers desire to start at Happy Isles and want to camp their first night in Little Yosemite Valley (which is what you will put down as your 1st night’s camp location). I recommend this location for hikers that are going to be taking a side trip up the half dome cables. 

Happy Isles –> Sunrise/Merced Lake Pass Through: This is a good option for hikers looking to get out of Little Yosemite Valley which can be pretty busy with weekend backpackers. If you want to make it all the way to sunrise camp from happy Isles it’s close to 14 miles and at least 5000 miles of elevation gain. So a pretty strenuous first day. If you choose this permit your first night’s camp must be beyond the Clouds Rest Trail junction.

Sunrise Lakes: This trailhead is located on the southern end of Tenaya Lake which is just southwest of Tuolumne Meadows. This trailhead joins the JMT at around mile 13 of the JMT. 

Glacier Point: Used to be more popular of a JMT trailhead before the new permitting system because it was easier to get a permit for this trailhead. Now, this is a less popular trailhead since you’re just as likely to get a permit originating from Happy Isles as you are from Glacier Point. Your first night’s camping location from here will likely be Little Yosemite Valley. 

Lyell Canyon: Located at the Tuolumne Meadows Ranger Station. This is the only permit location where first-come first-served permits are available. It is generally perceived as less desirable of a trailhead so it’s generally easier to get a permit here. Also, there are more permits (25 total) available per day in comparison to the 20 total permits available across all other JMT trailheads. 

Our favorite? Gotta go with the classic. Start at Happy Isles 🙂 

Step 2: Pick Your Start Date

First you need to figure out when your start date is. You will need to apply for your permit EXACTLY 168 days (24 weeks) before you set out on your hike. Otherwise you will not get a permit reservation. Even if you apply exactly 168 days beforehand there’s still a fair chance you will not receive a permit.

Once you choose a start date check out this page of the National Park’s Service Website to see the exact date you should submit your permit application. 

Step 3: Choose an Exit

On your JMT permit application you’ll have to fill in an “Exit trailhead” and “Exit Date”

Are you planning on hiking the entire JMT? If so, your exit location will likely be Whitney Portal. The application has a drop down menu of the most popular exit trailheads which are: Whiney Portal, Silver Lake, Agnew Meadows, Devil’s Postpile, Red’s Meadow, Mammoth Lakes, Lake Thomas Edison/Mono Creek/Bear Ridge, Florence Lake, Bishop pass/South Lake, Onion Valley/Kearsarge Pass, Cottonwood Lakes or Walker Pass. 

Your final exit date is negotiable and you can change this all the way up until the day you pick up your permit. We recommend putting a date on your permit that is slightly beyond your expected exit date because it’s not an issue if you finish the trail before your expected date. You don’t want to be on the trail beyond your specified exit date.

Step 4: How will you submit your reservation?

You will often hear permits being referred to as reservations. Technically you’re applying for a permit reservation. If you your application gets accepted you are given a reservation for a permit which you can redeem for an actual permit at one of the issuing stations in Yosemite. 

There are two ways to make a JMT permit reservation. 

1. Fax (We recommend this!)

This is the method that is recommended by the National Parks Service and it’s generally accepted by JMT hikers that this is the best method. Again, check out this page of the National Parks Service website to see the exact date you should submit your permit relative to your start date.

IMPORTANT: You may fax your application the day before your application is processed. As stated on this page, applications are processed in random order 168 days in advance of your desired trip start date. If faxing your form, you can fax it the day before the date your permit gets processed. 

You will revive an email within 24 hours of faxing your application that will inform you if you got a permit or not. Make sure you provide a legible email address on the application form.

Fax your application to (209) 372-0739.

2. Mail

Again, you really should just fax your reservation…..

You can complete this reservation form and mail it to the following address:

Wilderness Permits
PO Box 545
Yosemite, CA 95389

Go to this website for more information

Step 5: Wait!

This is the hardest part… You now have to wait and see if you got a permit! They will notify you via email if you got a permit or not.

It’s important to know even if you get an email saying you won the lottery and get a permit that you still need to pick up your actual permit. You can pick up your actual permit from any permit station within the park up to 1 day before your start date.

Important: Make sure you either pick up your permit the day before your start date or by 10am on your start date. If you are arriving after 1am then you must call the cancellation/late arrival phone number (209-372-0308) to let them know of your late arrival. If you do not show up my 10am and don’t call then your reservation will be canceled and offered to someone on a first-come first-served basis.

Flexible Date Permits

If you’re hiking the John Muir Trail (JMT) and can be flexible about your start date there is now a way to put a date range on your permit which will increase the likelihood of you receiving a permit.

On the JMT Lottery Request Application you will see a field for “Date Range”. You can put a time span of up to 3 weeks for a desired start date. Every day the Parks Service randomly selects via a lottery which permits to process for start dates 168 days in advance. If you submit a date range then if you aren’t selected on the first day your application will continued to be carried over to the next day until you are selected or until your date range ends.

I highly recommend you submitting a range of dates, even if it’s just for a few days the likelihood of you winning a permit goes up quite a bit.

You will receive an email every day of your date range announcing the results of the lottery. If you get a permit you are notified and if you do not then you will be notified that your application is rolling forward to the next day.

If your date range expires you can submit a new application with a new date range. But make sure that you only submit one application at a time per party for any given date range.

Can I hike half dome with a JMT permit?

As you may know, getting a permit in recent years to go up the half dome cables has been difficult. The number of permits issued to go up the ables are limited and are not guaranteed for JMT hikers. 

Not all JMT permits give you access to the half dome cables. However, on the permit application there is a half dome section where you can indicate if you are interested in getting a permit for the cables. It is an additional $8/hiker in your group to add this. Since it’s not guaranteed that a half dome permit will be available for the date of your JMT permit make sure to indicate on the permit that you would like the request processes even if half dome permits are not available.

California Campfire Permits

If you’re hiking along any portion of the JMT, you’ll need a California Campfire Permit. The purpose of the permits is not to limit the number of campfires but rather to educated hikers on how to safely have a fire and put it out when they’re done. There’s some important things for you to know about this permit.

Who needs it: Anyone on public lands in California that is going to have a campfire, stove or lantern.

Having a California Campfire Permit DOES NOT MEAN that you can have a campfire anywhere in California. There’s many areas along the JMT where campfires or stoves are banned, especially in dry or hot years. A California Campfire Permit does not give you the ability to have a stove or campfire in those areas. A California Campfire Permit only gives you the ability to have a campfire, stove or lantern in the areas of California where that is permitted.

Click Here to apply for a California Campfire Permit. It’s free and easy to obtain and is a way to educate hikers and prevent devastating wildfires.

How much does a JMT permit cost?

There are a few fees for JMT permits: Each permit has a $5 flat processing fee. There’s an additional $5 per person reservation fee. 

Here’s the formula: $5 x [number of people in your party] +$5  = Total

If you’re faxing your permit (which you should!) then you must enter a credit card number directly on the application. If you’re mailing your permit then you have the option of including a check.

As stated above, there is an additional charge of $8 per hiker for a half dome permit. You do not pay this fee when you submit your application. When you pick up your permit, if you are granted a half dome permit, then you pay the additional fees at the issuing station.

How do I get a permit to Hike from South to North?

As mentioned above, the typical hiking direction is from North to South but because of the popularity of the trail it is very common for hikers to start in the south and hike northbound (NOBO). There’s many different trailheads along the trail where you can start hiking and merge with the JMT.

If your goal is to hike the entire JMT, we’ve identified three different southern trailheads that you can acquire permits through. We have an entire page on our website that tells you how to get a NOBO JMT permit from each of these southern trailheads.

Links to Other JMT Pages

We’ve put together a lot of information about the JMT. On this page you’ll find a general overview out the trail. Here’s some links to our other pages that have other specific Information about the trail. 

Are you planning a JMT hike?

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