The Sierra Nevada mountains are world-class, encompassing two National Parks (Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings), the John Muir Trail, and a half-dozen Wilderness Areas like Desolation, Golden Trout, and Emigrant. The heart of the range extends from the Kern River in the south, to Lake Tahoe in the north.
Backcountry use is accordingly significant, by residents of California (the most populated US state) and by out-of-town backpackers. To prevent the Sierra Nevada from being “loved to death,” wilderness permits are often required to camp in the backcountry, especially in more popular destinations.
As a whole, the wilderness permit system is complex. Regulations depend on both the land manager and the area. For instance, Yosemite National Park and Inyo National Forest have different permit systems; and Inyo has a distinct set of rules for “the Whitney Zone” that do not apply elsewhere on the forest.
Some inter-agency cooperation does exist, thankfully. For backpacking trips in the High Sierra, a permit is needed only from the land manager where the trip starts. A permit from Yosemite or Sequoia-Kings National Parks, and Inyo, Sequoia, and Sierra National Forests will be recognized by the other land agencies if a route crosses management boundaries.
To ease the process of planning trips in and obtaining permits for the Sierra Nevada, @unnamedpeaks created the directory below. Please use it for your convenience. If you find information that is in error or that could be better nuanced, please leave a comment. If you would like to collaborate on this directory, please request editing permissions from the document owner.
This is a great!!!!
A better contact number for Inyo National Forest is 760-873-2483. That is the direct number to the wilderness permit office, and is open on weekends in summer. the 2400 number goes to a mail box and is not answered on weekends.
If my trip starts in Inyo Taboose Trailhead, then goes to PCT thrugh King Canyons and Sequoia, and then back to Inyo and up Mt. Whitney, do I only need Inyo permit?
Plus a Mt. Whitney zone permit.
I recently moved to Fresno and haven’t had an opportunity to get out the Sierra Nevada yet. I started to worry about access to permits as a local. Is the 48-hr first come first served system reliable for us if we don’t need logistical guarantees (like resuppies)?
in my case, I’m looking at Lake Thomas Edison as an entry point into backcountry, using the JMT for a bit before cutting off. Is that something I need to keeping hitting refresh a year in advance about? I just want to hike backpack for ~8days. Thanks for any help