Yosemite Wilderness

When Abraham Lincoln set aside Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove in 1864 he marked one of the first times in history that a federal government preserved an area for all to enjoy. Over a hundred years later, in 1984 Congress designated 95% of what is today Yosemite National Park as the Yosemite Wilderness.

Each year millions of people travel from around the world to visit Yosemite’s breathtaking granite formations and sublime high alpine landscape. Covering an area approximately the size of Rhode Island, the Yosemite wilderness includes both the Tuolumne and Merced watersheds. During the summer months the Tioga Road (Hwy 120) traverses the park and provides quick access to the high country.


The Yosemite Wilderness, unlike many other areas in the Sierra, is accessible from a variety of roads and directions: Hwy 140, 120, and 49 from the west, and 120 (Tioga Road) from the east. Over 700 miles of trail crisscross this wilderness, starting at various points throughout the park.


Permits are required for all overnight trips in the Yosemite backcountry. (Why)? They are not required for day use, except for the Half Dome Cables.

Permits may be reserved ahead of time or obtained free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis from any park issuing station during peak season (usually May – October). During winter months self registration permits are available at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center and at the other park issuing stations.

Reservations may be made from 24 weeks to 2 days in advance by phone, fax (often best), or mail:

Yosemite Permits
PO Box 545
Yosemite National Park, CA 95389
(fill out a reservation form)

Be sure to plan your itinerary before calling or writing to make a reservation. It is possible that your desired trip’s trailhead quota is filled, so provide alternative itineraries in the event your first choice is not available. A $5 per person non-refundable processing fee is charged for all reservation requests.

Half Dome

Permits to hike Half Dome are required seven days a week when the cables are up. Permits are not available in the park on the first-come first-served basis.


No more than 15 people and 25 head of stock are allowed on overnight trips. Groups going off-trail more than 1/4 mile are limited to 8 people. Stock are allowed to travel up to 1/4 mile off designated trails only for watering, rest stops, overnight camping, and grazing. (Why?)


All visitors must store all “food” properly throughout Yosemite National Park. “Food” (including all food and drinks, regardless of packaging, along with trash, toiletries, and other scented items) must be stored in either an allowed bear-resistant food canister or food locker. Hanging food is illegal throughout Yosemite.


Campfires are not allowed above 9,600 feet (roughly “tree line” in most areas). Below 9,600 feet they may be built in existing fire rings. Burn only dead and down wood. (Why)?


Pets are not allowed in Yosemite Wilderness. As a rule of thumb, pets are usually not allowed away from developed areas in National Parks. If you plan to hike or backpack during your visit to Yosemite, best to leave your dog elsewhere during your trip. A boarding kennel is available through the concessionaire.


More than 20% of Yosemite’s wilderness travelers pass through Little Yosemite Valley (many on their way to Half Dome). The impacts from such heavy use have resulted in special management of this area. If you camp in Little Yosemite Valley, please abide by the following regulations:

  • Camp only within the campground boundaries (in order to limit damage to the fragile riverbank and an important archeological site, the campground was moved back from the river).
  • Store anything with a smell (food, bug spray, deoderant, trash etc.) in the provided bear boxes.
  • Use the composting toilet to help reduce the substantial human waste problem.
  • Build camp fires only in the two public fire rings (to be used between 5 and 10 pm) to reduce air pollution, proliferation of charcoal and scorched rocks, and damage to vegetation).
  • Carry a water storage container with you to reduce trips to the river and use the designated paths to acquire water.

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