Go Outdoors: Getting a John Muir Trail permit

Troy Wilkinson

How the hell do I get a permit for the world-renown John Muir Trail?

That’s one of the questions I asked over and over again while I feverishly Googled what the process is like. For someone like myself, who is not all that savvy with permit reservations, it was confusing. But, just like this post is about to do, I found a clearly laid-out process showing just how to reserve a permit for the renowned trail that paints through Yosemite.

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(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.)
(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.)

Just being upfront, the small cost of $5 per person as well as a $5 transaction cost comes along with the reservation. So, for two people the cost would be $15.

This isn’t an in-depth info guide on what’s best to apply for on the JMT. This is a basic guide on how to secure a permit.

Step One:

Figure out when you want to go. June? July? August? September? Whatever month you choose to go, you need to reserve your permit as soon as possible, the handful of permits are highly sought-after and vanish quickly.

The earliest youe can reserve a permit is 168 days prior to the date of the permit. Quickly Google “168 days from now” (http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermitdates.htm) and figure out the day you need to be at the computer, reservation form ready to send in.

Step Two:

Go online to the national park website and search for the wilderness permit. It’s a link to a PDF that you need to fill out in order to apply for any type of permit. The way it becomes a John Muir Trail permit is the specific start, end and exit locations that one chooses.

Step Three:

Fill that permit out. The national park system states: “you MUST start at Lyell Canyon, Happy Isles to Little Yosemite Valley, Happy Isles pass-through, Glacier Point to Little Yosemite Valley, or Sunrise Lakes.” So, pick any of those as a starting point, the ending point is easy, just pick the Whitney Portal for all three of the options.

It asks for the specific campground that you will be staying at that first night. I wasn’t familiar enough with Yosemite to know what campground is where, so the tutorial I read just listed them out.

  Starting Trail-head      Campsite
Happy Isles Little Yosemite Valley
Happy Isles Sunrise/Merced Lake (pass-through)
Sunrise Lakes Sunrise Lakes
Glacier Point Little Yosemite Valley
Lyell Canyon Upper Lyell Canyon

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After inputing all of that, put in the number of people and if you want a half-dome permit as well (it’ll cost a bit more). The real important part is the trip exit. If you want a JMT permit, you must say that you’re exiting via Donohue Pass. If you don’t mark that then the JMT is a no-go.

Step Four:

After filling out the preferred dates and making sure you selected Whitney Portal and exiting via Donohue Pass all that’s left is putting the correct contact and billing information, then sending it in via fax.

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That’s right, I said fax: The completely outdated, but necessary in various circumstances, telephone printer we all love. If you don’t have a fax machine, don’t worry, it’s much easier and works just as well to use a free online fax service. The one I used is hellofax. While an account is needed, it’s straight forward.

Once you upload the filled-out wilderness permit form, you can fax it to the specified national park service number.

After, you should look to the sky and hope that your permit is the lucky one that gets picked.

If this tutorial wasn’t all that helpful you can check out the guide that helped me here.

Collegian Outdoors Blogger Troy Wilkinson can be reached online at blogs@collegian.com or on Twitter @BluMitts.