Start Planning Your Summer Vacation Now

Even if it’s February and ski season is in full swing, it’s never too early to start focusing on planning your next summer vacation.

Most popular destinations and activities require advanced booking, so unless you want to be left out this summer, ditch the aprs celebrations this weekend and pull out your maps instead.

Recreation.gov serves as your one-stop resource for trip planning, information, and advance reservations across federal lands and sites. Here you can book campsites, picnic shelters, historic tours, cave tours, guided hikes, whitewater rafting permits, wilderness canoe trips, climbing adventures, and more.

Permits for overly popular activities or trailheads are issued on a lottery instead of reservation basis to try and control demand each summer.

Up to six months in advance, Recreation.gov opens up reservations for campsites, look-outs, cabins, National Park Service group sites, National Park Service day use sites, and Alaska cabins. You can book up to five months in advance for Yosemite camping reservations. Inventory is released in full month blocks and goes on sale on the 15th of each month.

Yosemite National Park Half Dome is perfect for a summer vacation.

However, permits for some overly popular activities or trailheads are issued on a lottery instead of reservation basis to try and control demand each summer.

The following lotteries are taking place as we speak:

Mount Whitney Hiking Permits

Enter the lottery to reserve backpacking trips on the Mt. Whitney Trail, or day hikes in the Mt Whitney Zone for hikes occurring between May 1 and November 1. Applications are accepted from February 1 through March 15. Look for results after March 23.

Yosemite—Cables on Half Dome Pre-Season Lottery

Lottery applications for permits to climb the Cables on Half Dome are required during the peak season, which is from the Friday before Memorial Day through Columbus Day. The lottery application period is open between March 1 and March 31 each year. Recreation.gov announces results in mid-April.

John Muir Trail

If you plan to hike the John Muir Trail (JMT) as a continuous hike, you only need one wilderness permit from Yosemite for the entire trip (you do not need a “Whitney stamp” or permits from other national forests or national parks). Most people begin the hike at Happy Isles (its traditional start in Yosemite Valley), however many people begin at Lyell Canyon (Tuolumne Meadows) because permits for this trailhead are slightly easier to obtain.

A summer vacation isn't complete without a trip to Yosemite National Park

Over the last several years, Yosemite National Park has noted a significant increase in demand for permits to hike the JMT—an over 100% increase from 2011 to 2015 alone. The increased number of JMT hikers has made it difficult for non-JMT hikers to get wilderness permits for other trails within Yosemite National Park, not to mention resource related impacts.

Beginning last February 2, 2015, Yosemite National Park decided it will only issue wilderness permits valid for exiting Yosemite via Donahue Pass (the pass over which the JMT exits Yosemite) for up to 45 people per day.

Of these, 25 will be available for permits using the Lyell Canyon trailhead (60% reservable, 40% first-come, first-served). The remaining 20 will be available for Happy Isles to Little Yosemite Valley, Happy Isles pass-through, Glacier Point to Little Yosemite Valley, and Sunrise Lakes trailheads (100% reservable).

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