California Wilderness Permit Information (updated 2/19/10)
All overnight backpacking trips in the California wilderness areas require a backcountry permit. Currently day trips do not require a wilderness permit, except for the Mount Whitney Trail, Desolation Wilderness, and a select few other areas. In addition, a quota system is in place on many of the popular trails in California including, of course, the Mount Whitney Trail. Check with the respective National Forest or National Park for wilderness permit information and the specific wilderness permit processes as these change from time to time.
While the National Park Service and the Forest Service believe that the details of their respective permit systems will be in place for many years to come, they are also open to suggestions for improving the system and often make adjustments. Check with the Forest Service and National Park Service for current procedures.
Contents: [National Parks] [U.S Forest Service] [Inyo National Forest and Mount Whitney Trail Permits]
National Parks in California
Campground Reservations--Most Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park Campgrounds are first come first served but some can be reserved. Phone: 800-365-2267, 888-530-9796 TDD, or 301-722-1257 (International calls). Web site: http://reservations.nps.gov
Lassen Volcanic National Park
P.O. Box 100
Mineral, CA 96063. Phone: (530) 595-4444
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
47050 Generals Highway, HCR 89 Box 60, Three Rivers, CA 93271
Phone: (559) 565-3708 (backcountry office) or (559) 565-3134 (general), 559-565-3341 (wilderness office), Fax: 559-565-4239Pear Lake Hut--the finest wilderness hut in the Sierra. Located in Sequoia National Park in prime backcountry ski terrain. Sleeps 10 and is available for winter reservations only.
Sequoia National History Association--HCR 89 Box 10, Three Rivers, CA 93271, Phone: 559-565-3759, Web site: http://www.sequoiahistory.org
Yosemite National Park
P.O. Box 577
Yosemite, CA 95389
Phone: (209) 372-0740 or (209) 372-0200 or (209) 372-0265.
U.S. Forest Service
U.S. Forest Service--link to any Virtual Vistor Center in the nation.
U.S. Forest Service, California--access to any Ranger District virtual vistor center in California--trails, campgrounds, wilderness permits, etc. Some selected California Ranger District Offices (from north to south) are noted below:
National Recreation Reservation Service--many USFS campground sites require reservations. To make a reservation for USFS campgrounds in the U.S. call 877-444-6777, or 800-280-2267, or 877-833-677 TDD, or 518-885-3639 International calls or go to their web page to reserve a campground site. Web site: http://www.reserveusa.com
Mount Shasta Ranger District
204 West Alma Street
Mount Shasta City, CA 96067
Phone: (530) 926-4511
El Dorado National Forest
100 Forni Road
Placerville, CA 95667
Phone: (530) 622-5061 or (530) 573-2600 (Lake Tahoe Basin)
Tahoe National Forest
Lake Tahoe-Tahoe Basin Management Unit
Sequoia National Forest
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
Bridgeport Ranger District
P.O. Box 595 (Highway 395)
Bridgeport, CA 93517
Phone (760) 932-7070
Inyo National Forest and the Respective Ranger Distrcts
Wilderness Permit Reservations (reservations can be made beginning March 1 of each year and up to 6-months in advance of your entry date for all non-Mount Whitney trail permits)
873 North Main Street
Bishop, CA 93514
Permit Reservations (Mount Whitney permits will be issued through a lottery and permit applications must be postmarked in February)(see discussion on Mount Whitney wilderness permit process below)
Inyo National Forest Wilderness Reservation Office
873 North Main Street
Bishop, CA 93514
Mount Whitney Ranger District
Eastern Sierra Inter-Agency Visitor Center (1-mile south of Lone Pine at the junction of Highway 395 and 136)
Lone Pine, CA 93545
Phone: (760) 876-6200
White Mountain Ranger District
798 N. Main Street (Highway 395)
Bishop, CA 93514
Phone: (760) 873-2500
Mammoth Ranger District
P.O. Box 148 (Highway 203)
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
Phone: (760) 924-5500
Mono Lake Ranger District
P.O. Box 10 (Highway 120)
Lee Vinning, CA 93541
Inyo National Forest and Mount Whitney Trail Wilderness Permits
Wilderness Permits, for trips exceeding a single day, are required year-round on all Inyo National Forest trails. During the busy season these trailheads are also subject to wilderness quotas that limit the number of new hikers on the trail each day. It is recommended that a wilderness permit reservation be made well in advance of your departure date for trips commencing during the quota season--May 1 to November 1 of each year. For trips occurring outside the quota period, a permit can be secured the day of the trip at the issuing ranger station.
Mount Whitney Trail
For the Mount Whitney Trail, wilderness permit quotas are in place from May 1 to November 1. A permit is required whether a single-day or a multi-day trip is planned.
Mount Whitney Trail permits are issued each year through a lottery process during February. All requests for a permit, whether for day use or multi-day use, postmarked in February, will be placed in the Whitney Trail Lottery. Permit requests will be randomly selected and processed one by one until permit space is no longer available for the entire quota season. If successful in securing a permit, a letter will be mailed to you informing you of this and the process for picking up your permit before your entry date. If unsuccessful, your application and fee will be returned. To help defray the cost of the permit system and enhance services to the public a small fee is charged for each hiker, and must accompany the reservation application.
It is expected that all dates will be completely booked through the Whitney Lottery process. However, any dates with space available will be released in April and can be reserved by phone-- 760-873-2483.
Mount Whitney's Mountaineers Route
The Mountaineers cross-country route initially starts up the Mount Whitney Trail but quickly leaves the trail to ascend the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek via an unmaintained climber's route. A day use permit for this cross-country route is secured through the Mount Whitney Lottery as described above. However, a permit for a multi-day excursion is secured through the telephone reservation system also noted above. To secure advanced reservation, make your request up to 6-months in advance of your entry date.
All Other Trails Originating in the Inyo National Forest
Wilderness Permits can be made up to 6-months in advance of your entry date by calling the number noted above. A small fee will be charged for each reservation.
Trails Originating in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Yosemite National Park, and Lassen Volcanic National Park
For those trails originating in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Yosemite National Park, and Lassen Volcanic National Park, a wilderness permit is required from the respective park. Each park's wilderness permit requirements are a little differently but advanced reservations are recommended for all trips May 21 through September 21. Check with the respective National Park for their quota season and to learn about their advanced reservation system.
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