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Yosemite Reservations & Permits in 2024: Everything You Need to Know

Are you planning a trip to Yosemite National Park in 2024? Hold on, because Yosemite has made some BIG changes to its entry reservations and permit systems that will totally change how many people visit Yosemite. Yosemite recently announced that day-use permits will be required for all private vehicles entering the Park on select dates in Summer 2024 and February 2024.

Want to hike Half Dome or explore Yosemite’s iconic backcountry on a backpacking trip? You’ll also need a hard-to-score permit for that, too!

Navigating the increasingly confusing world or reservations, permits, and timed-entry might almost make you want to throw in the quick-drying towel and stay home.

Thankfully, I’ve been navigating National Parks permits and reservations for years, including dozens of trips to Yosemite, and I’m breaking it all down in this post!

This guide includes all the information you need to know about every type of Reservation and Permit you might need in Yosemite National Park this year.

Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links where I earn a small commission from any purchase – at no extra cost to you. This commission helps keep Brooke In Boots up and running. As always, all opinions are 100% honest and my own!

Yosemite National Park Reservations 2024: The Quick and Dirty

Let’s jump right into it! If you want to visit Yosemite National Park in 2024, you might need one of the following Reservations/Permits:

  • A Day Use Reservation (weekends in February 2024)
  • A Peak Hours Reservation (weekends in Spring and Fall, every day in Summer)
  • A Wilderness Permit (year-round for backpackers)
  • A Half Dome Permit (day-hikers only, when chains are up)

When Are Reservations Required?

In 2024, Yosemite will have two different types of reservations systems in place.

One is a “day-use” reservation for select dates in February during the “Horsetail Fall” event. These reservations are required 24 hours a day. Reservations are required on February 10-11, February 17-19 (including President’s day), and February 24-25.

The other is a “peak-hours” reservation on weekends in spring and fall, and daily during summer. These reservations are required when entering Yosemite between 5am and 4pm. Peak-Hours reservations will be required on weekends (Saturday & Sunday) and federal holidays April 13 – June 30, 2024, daily from July 1 – August 16, 2024, and back to weekends & holidays only August 17 – October 27.

I’ll dive into tons of details on each of these reservations, how to make them, and why you actually might not need them, below.

Here’s a handy graphic from NPS with this information.

NPS / Yosemite Reservations in 2024

Day Use vs Peak Hours Reservations – What’s the Difference?

Wondering what’s the difference between the new Day-Use and Peak-Hours systems?

Day-Use reservations are only required in February 2024 for the Horsetail Falls natural phenomena. Day use reservations are required 24 hours a day – meaning you need a reservation to enter the park at any time during the reservation period.

Peak-Hours reservations are required for Spring, Summer, and Fall 2024. Peak-Hours reservations are only required if you are visiting Yosemite for the day, between 5am to 4pm.

When are Permits Required?

Wilderness permits are required year-round for all overnight backcountry camping and backpacking.

Half Dome permits are required for all day-hikers who want to ascend Yosemite’s most famous hike, Half Dome, any day that the cables are up, usually the Friday before the last Monday in May (ie the Friday before Memorial Day) through the second Monday in October.

Most wilderness and Half Dome permits are issued via an advance lottery, and both are among the most difficult outdoor permits to score in the United States (yup, I’m speaking from personal experience here!). I’ll dive into tons of detail on both of these permits, and how I personally up the odds of successfully scoring one myself, below.

Vernal Falls in Yosemite / Yosemite 2024 Reservations

February 2024 Day Use Reservations

Day-use reservations will be required to drive into the park in a private vehicle during weekends in February, 2024 that coincide with the Horsetail Fall “firefall” phenomenon.

Reservations will be required to enter the Park 24 hours a day on the following dates:

  • February 10 – 11, 2024
  • February 17 – 19, 2024 (including Monday, Washington’s Birthday)
  • February 24 – 25, 2024

One day-use permit is valid for 7 days, with unlimited entries to the Park.

What is the Horsetail Fall Firefall?

The Horsetail Fall Firefall phenomenon in Yosemite National Park is a breathtaking natural spectacle that occurs during the month of February.

As the sun sets, the light hits the waterfall in exactly the right way, making it appears as if the water is flowing like vibrant orange and red lava, or fire over the granite cliff. The “firefall” effect is mesmerizing.

Horsetail Falls in Yosemite – Don’t Forget Your Reservation this Year!

This unique phenomenon has become a must-see event for visitors and especially landscape photographers. Unfortunately, massive unruly crowds fighting to get “the shot” have wrecked havoc on Yosemite Valley.

Crowds block traffic, leave massive volumes of trash (come on guys!) and so many people and tripods on unstable river banks have led to massive erosion in just a few short years. Oy!

To combat this, Yosemite National Park started limiting the number of people who can enter the Valley during peak Firefall viewing.

Who Needs a 2024 Yosemite Day-Use Reservation?

Every vehicle first entering the Park in their own vehicle (not a YARTS bus or on foot) on a day-use day in February 2024 is required to have a valid day-use reservation/ permit.

One day-use reservation is required per vehicle. The reservation holder must be present in the vehicle. And only one reservation is required per vehicle to enter the Park.

If you have an existing lodging or campground reservation at one of the following locations, you do not need a day-use reservation:

  • Hotel reservations at the Ahwahnee, Yosemite Lodge, or Curry Village
  • Campground reservations
  • Vacation Rental reservations (inside Park boundaries only) at Wawona, Yosemite West, or Foresta

Yosemite Entrance Fees and day-use reservations are valid for 7 days.

Remember, you only need a day-use reservation for the first day of your visit. If you arrive and pay the Yosemite Entrance Fee on the Monday-Friday before a day-use weekend (except Monday, February 19) you do not need an additional day-use reservation.

For example, if you are staying outside Yosemite National Park and first enter the Park on Thursday, February 15, you may reenter Yosemite National Park any time Thursday, February 15 – Tuesday, February 20 without an additional day-use Reservation.

Anyone arriving via YARTS public transit busses or on an authorized tour do not need a day-use reservation.

How to Get a February 2024 Day-Use Reservation

2024 Yosemite day-use reservations for February Horsetail Fall Firefall are issued on recreation.gov in two phases.

50% of all February day-use reservations are available starting December 1, 2023 at 8AM PT on recreation.gov.

The remaining 50% of reservations will be released 2 days prior to the reservation date at 8AM on recreation.gov. For example, on February 23, 2024, at 8AM, reservations for February 25 will become available.

Tips for scoring a day-use reservation: February reservations will sell out almost instantly. Be sure to create your recreation.gov profile well in advance and become familiar with how to use the site. When reservations are released, be sure to be logged in in advance and request tickets the moment the clock strikes 8AM.

The day-use reservation fee is $2, paid when you reserve your ticket on recreation.gov. In addition to the day-use reservation fee, you will also have to pay the normal Entrance Fee to Yosemite National Park, when you enter the Park. The Entrance Fee is $35 per vehicle.

You can also use your National Parks annual pass or military and lifetime pass, although a day-use reservation is still required.

Traveling to more than 2 National Parks or National Forests this year? Purchase an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass for $80, which covers entrance fees at all National Parks and NPS managed sites.

Yosemite’s New Peak-Hours Reservation System in 2024

Reservations will be required to enter Yosemite National Park during “peak hours” of 5am to 4pm on the following dates:

  • April 13 – June 30: Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays only
  • daily, July 1 – August 16
  • August 17 – October 31: Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays only

Peak-hours reservations are valid for 3 consecutive days. If you want to visit Yosemite for more than 3 consecutive days, you (or someone in your group) must apply for and secure a second reservation.

Want to make the most of 3 days in Yosemite? Check out my action-packed blog post How to Spend 3 Perfect Days in Yosemite National Park, here.

Who Needs a Yosemite Peak Hours Reservation?

Every vehicle driving into or through Yosemite National Park during peak-hours days in 2024 must have a valid peak-hours reservation.

The peak-hours reservations apply only to private cars entering the Park. If you are entering Yosemite on foot, horseback, or via public transportation (YARTS bus) or an authorized tour group, you do not need a reservation.

One peak-hours reservation is required per vehicle. The permit holder must be present in the vehicle. And only one reservation is required per vehicle to enter the Park.

If you have an existing lodging or campground reservation, wilderness permit, or Half Dome permit, at one of the following locations, you do not need a peak-hours reservation:

  • Hotel reservations at the Ahwahnee, Yosemite Lodge, Curry Village, Housekeeping, White Wolf Lodge, or Tuolumne Meadows lodge
  • Any Yosemite National Park Campground reservations
  • Vacation Rental reservations (inside Park boundaries only) at Wawona, Yosemite West, or Foresta
  • Wilderness permit (wilderness permit holders may enter the park and stay at the backpackers campgrounds 1 day prior to their permit date)
  • Half Dome day-hiking permit
  • visitors to the Hetch Hetchy area of the park
Yosemite Reservations 2024

How to Get a 2024 Yosemite Peak Hours Reservation

2024 Yosemite peak-hours reservations will be released online on recreation.gov in two phases.

Most reservations for all peak hours dates will be available on January 5, 2024 8AM PT on recreation.gov. These reservations will allow you to enter the Park at any time during the peak-hours period.

Additional reservations will be released 7 days in advance, on a daily rolling basis, at 8AM PT on recreation.gov. Some reservations released in this phase may be “afternoon only” reservations. Afternoon reservations allow you to enter the Park only after noon on the dates of your reservation.

Each reservation is valid for 3 consecutive days. For example, a reservation for Friday, July 5 is valid on July 5, July 6, and July 7.

Unlike the February day-use reservations, a reservation is required regardless of the date of your first visit to Yosemite. For example, if you visit Yosemite and pay the $35 Entrance Fee on Friday, June 7 (not a peak-hour date) you will still need a peak-hours reservation to return to the Park on Saturday, June 8.

Traveling to more than 2 National Parks or National Forests this year? Purchase an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass for $80, which covers entrance fees at all National Parks and NPS managed sites.

Tips for scoring a peak-hours reservation: 2024 Yosemite Peak-hours reservations will sell out almost instantly. Be sure to create your recreation.gov profile well in advance and become familiar with how to use the site. When reservations are released, be sure to be logged in in advance and request tickets the moment the clock strikes 8AM.

The peak-hours reservation fee is $2, paid when you reserve your ticket on recreation.gov. In addition to the day-use reservation fee, you will also have to pay the normal Entrance Fee to Yosemite National Park, when you enter the Park. The Entrance Fee is $35 per vehicle.

You can also use your National Parks annual pass or military and lifetime pass to pay the Entrance Fee, although a peak-hours reservation is still required.

Half Dome Permit Reservations

Half Dome. Yosemite’s most iconic landmark, and the ultimate day hike in Yosemite National park.

A permit is required to hike to the top of Half Dome any time the cables are up. Hiking above the subdome when the cables are down is NOT recommended, and can easily result in fatalities and serious injury.

The cables are usually up from the Friday before the last Monday in May (ie the Friday before Memorial Day) until the second Monday in October. Cables dates are subject to winter conditions. Check cable status, here.

The Half Dome Preseason Lottery issues most permits to visitors looking to experience this bucket list hike. The preseason lottery is for day hikers only. Overnight backpacking trips can include Half Dome on a wilderness permit (see below!).

Preseason Lottery applications must be submitted March 1 to March 31, 2024 on recreation.gov. Applicants must apply for a specific date or range of dates with their preseason lottery application. Preseason Lottery winners are contacted mid-April.

Want to increase your odds? This graph shows how popular certain permit dates are. Applying for a less popular date increases your odds of getting a permit!

The Half Dome Daily lottery is open on a rolling daily basis, and hikers should apply 2 days in advance of their desired hike date, between midnight and 4pm. Hikers are notified of results late on the day of their application. (ie to hike on Saturday, apply on Thursday before 4pm, and get notified on Thursday night).

Learn more about the Half Dome Permit Lottery and apply here.

*Tip: Didn’t get a Half Dome Permit? Don’t want to hike the half dome cables? Check out my guide to hiking the Mist Trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls – one of the best hikes in Yosemite that doesn’t require a permit.

Yosemite Wilderness Permit Reservations

Wilderness permits are required year-round for all overnight backcountry camping in Yosemite National Park. Reservations are required for all trailheads, April through October.

60% of all wilderness permits are issued by a Preseason Lottery, 24 weeks in advance. To enter the preseason lottery, applicants must apply any time during the 7 day lottery window, Saturday – Friday, 24 weeks in advance of their intended trip on recreation.gov.

Applicants are notified 2 days after the close of the lottery (Monday) and must confirm their reservations by Thursday.

Any permits not reserved in previous week’s preseason lottery become available the Friday after the lottery application period closes.

The remaining 40% of permits are released 7 days in advance, on a daily rolling basis at 7AM PDT on recreation.gov. Online reservations can be made up to 3 days in advance.

Yosemite Valley from Dewey Point in Winter / Yosemite Reservations 2024

Tips for Getting A Yosemite Wilderness Permit

Scoring a Yosemite Wilderness permit can feel next to impossible, especially if you are trying to hike on one of the popular trailheads. I spent the entire spring of 2022 entering the lottery every week for permits to hike the John Muir Trail south out of Tuolumne Meadows or Happy Isles. Even after entering 10 different times I didn’t win once!

If you’re applying for a Yosemite Wilderness permit here’s a couple of tips to consider:

Pick less popular dates and trailheads. The Happy Isles, Cathedral Lakes, and Lyell Canyon (Donahue Pass) trailheads are immensely popular and difficult to get. Consider a backup itinerary or research some of the amazing but lesser known trails in Yosemite for the best chance of winning!

Check for cancellations: Even though I never won the preseason lottery, on several occasions I was able to score permits for the most popular trailheads by constantly checking for cancellations. Set an alarm on your phone 1-2x per day and check recreation.gov. Chances are, you’ll eventually get lucky!

Any remaining permits not reserved online are available on a walk-in basis from the Wilderness center, during business hours. Few, if any, permits are available this way, so don’t count on this!

Can I Hike Half Dome with a Wilderness Permit?

Yes! (Kinda) Backpackers with wilderness permits issued from specific trailheads can also opt to hike Half Dome as part of their wilderness itinerary. Not all trailheads are covered, and it does not include PCTA or any permits issued outside Yosemite Valley.

Learn more about hiking to Half Dome with a Wilderness Permit, here.

Do I Need A Wilderness Permit for Trips Starting Outside Yosemite?

Trips originating outside Yosemite National Park and ending in Yosemite (ie, the John Muir Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Inyo National Forest, Mammoth Lakes, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks) should obtain wilderness permits from their starting locations.

For example, northbound trips on the John Muir Trail originating at the Southern Terminus / Mt Whitney should obtain a permit from Inyo National Forest. In my experience, getting a permit for Cottonwood Lakes / Cottonwood Pass (JMT Northbound) was much easier than getting a permit for Happy Isles or Tuolumne Meadows (JMT Southbound).

Pacific Crest Trail hikers are permitted to hike through Yosemite using the PCTA Long Distance Permit. Long distance hikers without a PCTA permit should obtain a permit from a National Forest for Sierra travel.

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