So you didn't win the pre-season permit lottery for Half Dome in March or you didn't even know you had to enter a lottery to hike up Half Dome. Now what? You can't visit Yosemite National Park and not bag Half Dome right?! Relax. Depending on when you are planning your visit to Yosemite or how long you plan to spend there you have a few options to help achieve your travel/hiking goals.
1. apply for the daily lottery.
Every day around 50 permits are issued to hikers during hiking season. The system has changed a little since we were first here and is no longer first come first served the day of, but is now a daily lottery which you must apply two days prior to the day you would like to hike. For example, if you wanted to hike Saturday you would need to enter the lottery on Thursday between midnight and midday and if you were successful you would be notified later that night. Obviously you have more chance of winning during weekdays. This is a great option to try if you are flexible with dates to visit Yosemite or if you're already there and you have a few days you can spare to wait around.
2. hike to sub-dome & see if the ranger can get you on someone else's permit.
Okay so you either didn't win the 2 day lottery or you don't have time to be waiting around to keep entering the lottery... what should you do now? Well you could hike to sub-dome where the rangers check climbing permits and ask them to let you know if there are any hikers who have a free spot on their permit. This does happen all the time, a hiker's friend might pull out of the visit to Yosemite at the last minute or maybe even their friend/partner makes it to sub-dome and all of a sudden realizes they have a fear of heights. The ranger can let you know and boom! Next thing you know you're hiking up Half Dome. The best chance of making this happen for you is to get up there very early so you have all day to increase your chances of finding someone.
3. wait along the trail and offer hikers cash for giving you their permit.
Hiking Half Dome is usually a lot of people's very first ever hike. Or first ever long distance hike. Or first ever mountain hike. I know it was all of those for us back in 2013. What I am getting at is that hiking longer trails or up mountains isn't really a lot of people's thing, and possibly by the time they reach the top of Nevada or Vernal Falls they might be looking for an excuse to quit. Well you could give them a really good one by offering them say $20 and informing them there is a really good pizza restaurant back in the valley that they could spend that cash on. I haven't tried this but I know I might have been able to be swayed by this offer.
4. climb a different peak.
This might come as a shock to you but there are other hike's you can do in Yosemite National Park besides Half Dome. And in my opinion a lot better. Some even more challenging. The two hikes we recommend instead of hiking Half Dome are Cloud's Rest and North Dome. Cloud's Rest is a longer hike and when you reach the top you will be looking down on Half Dome. Also afterwards you will be able to brag to your friends how you did way more miles than they did. North Dome is another awesome hike because it leads you face to face with Half Dome itself. The bonus of hiking North Dome from the valley floor is that you will also get to visit Upper Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Point which have stunning (and freak-ishy steep) views.
5. get a wilderness permit & add half dome to your trip.
A really great option to get a Half Dome permit is to get a wilderness permit and hike Half Dome as an overnight trip. You can make reservations online in advance or if you are already in Yosemite you can get a first come first served wilderness permit one day prior to your trip. Make sure you tell them you want to include Half Dome in your itinerary. Learn more about obtaining wilderness permits.
If you have any advice of your own or experience regarding obtaining Half Dome permits or have any questions feel free to leave a comment below.
Two Aussies road-tripping across the USA. Our goal is to discover America's wild places and vibrant cities... and make the most of every moment. Read more