Every year in March, there is an open lottery to apply for Half Dome permits. Yosemite only allows 300 hikers (225 hikers, 75 backpackers) total to hike the cables on Half Dome each day to reduce trail crowding, preserve the park, and ensure the safety of the hikers.
300 hikers a day may seem like a lot, but keep in mind this is the most popular hike in Yosemite among hikers and tourists. When I applied during the last open lottery in March, I was unfortunately denied. To help prevent this from happening to you, I have talked to a Yosemite National Park Ranger, and have scoured the National Park Service website for the best and most useful information I can find.
Here are the 5 best tips and tricks to helping you get approved to hike Half Dome during the open lottery!
1) Choose a hike date that falls during the middle of the week
The most popular day of the week for Half Dome is Saturday. Refrain from trying to choose a date that falls on a weekend, holiday, or holiday week, such as the Fourth of July, when everyone has work off.
The pie chart on the right shows the percent of permit requests for each day of the week in 2014. Note that Friday, Saturday, and Sunday had the highest number of permit requests.
The average success rate of getting approved on weekdays is around 51%, and only around 31% on weekends, as provided by the National Park Service.
2) The first week the cables open for the season is the busiest
The cables are closed between mid-October through mid-May. That means hikers spend 7 months anticipating the opening of the cables! So it’s no shock that the first week the cables open (typically mid-May) are the busiest.
3) Keep your group relatively small
There are only 225 spots available each day to hikers, so keep in mind that a group of 2 or 3 is much easier to fit in than a group of 6 or 7.
4) Have each member in your group apply for permits
It only costs $4.50 to apply online or $6 by phone per application, not per person. The second fee of $8 per person is only charged once/if your application has been approved.
Therefore, if you have a group of 3, each of you can go online or call to apply for permits to be three times as likely to be approved than if just one group member applied!
5) Be flexible!
Choose a varying set of dates. If you have your heart set to hike a very particular date or day of the week, it is likely you will not be chosen for that date.
If you had your permit request denied, or are reading this during the open-cable season (May through October), make sure to check out this article on how to get a Half Dome permit when the open lottery is closed!
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