Yosemite is changing Half Dome hiking permits this year

The route up Half Dome that John Muir climbed in 1875 is the same one you’ll ascend today — if you’re lucky enough to score the special permit required to hike Yosemite’s most recognizable feature.

After years of traffic jams on the cable-lined path up Half Dome — and several related deaths — the park put in place a permitting system in 2010. That eased the crowding somewhat, but in the intervening years, computer programmers essentially have rigged the online-permit system, making it exceedingly difficult for average tourists to land a climbing pass. In 2011, permits for the entire summer were sold out within five minutes of the first moment they became available online, according to the park superintendent at the time, Don Neubacher.

The park has since reviewed applications for Half Dome permits each year and found the success rate in the preseason lottery has been as low as 2 percent for weekend dates in 2017, according to Yosemite’s Wilderness Center, which supervises the permit process. The success rate can grow to 32 percent for people taking part in the daily lottery on weekdays, according to their review.

Once the cables are up, rangers said they will make available an additional 50 permits each day, the exact number based on cancellations and rates of no-shows, in a second lottery. For these, you put in for the permit two days prior to your date, and then find out the same day you applied (usually that evening) if you won. That’s where the odds of winning a Half Dome permit go up to 32 percent for weekdays, 14 percent for weekends.

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