New Half Dome Lottery Opens

March 3, 2013—So you're planning on hiking Half Dome this summer. Awesome! But you'd better kiss up to Lady Luck, because a new lottery system for climbing the Yosemite landmark is coming to town.

March 1 through March 31, the National Park Service will be accepting lottery applications for the entire Half Dome season. On April 15, the lucky winners will be announced, just in time to start requesting time off. Throughout the summer, NPS will hold daily lotteries for about 50 additional permits. (So if you're lame at planning, do not despair. Someone has finally thought of you.)

But you will need luck, even if you're the superorganized cruise-directing type, and here's why: NPS is trying to keep the grand total of people on Half Dome on any given day to about 300. With about 50 of those reserved for the daily lotteries, and 75 more reserved for backpackers, that leaves an average of 175 permits a day available to day hikers through the March lottery process.

All of this is because peak summer days in 2008 saw 1,200 pairs of boots toiling up the most famous piece of granite in the world. We don't even want to think about where those people were peeing. Justifiably concerned about the negative impacts of such an assault on a national icon, NPS reacted by instituting a new rule in 2010 requiring permits to hike the Dome on weekends and holidays. You'd have to wake up early and dial at exactly 7am PDT three months before your trip and pray you got in. In 2011, the permit requirement was extended to every single day. In 2012, NPS realized that some scumbags were buying up permits and scalping them. And then the NPS unveiled its Half Dome Plan in December 2012 with the goal of keeping the hordes at bay.

Which brings us to 2013 and 300 nontransferable permits a day issued by lottery. Oh, and what used to be kind of a loophole—that if you were a backpacker with a wilderness permit you could always take a side trip and go climb Half Dome because it was considered included—that's over with too. Only 75 wilderness permits a day will include access to Half Dome. Learn more about wilderness permits and hiking Half Dome.

And by the way, Half Dome is well worth doing, whatever you have to do to get there. A 17-mile, ass-kicking roundtrip hike that climbs 4,800 feet and offers jaw-dropping views around every corner, it's a classic excursion that culminates in a 400-foot ascent up a sheer granite face aided by steel cables. Someone gets hurt every single year, but it's basically safe. And it's unforgettable. Just don't try to do it when you're out of shape.

Can't wait? Apply March 1-March 31 at The application costs $4.50; if you get approved, the permit will cost $8 per person. The Half Dome season is expected to run May 24–Oct. 14 this year, weather permitting.

Read more about the Half Dome permit lottery at NPS.

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