In 2010 and 2011, if you want to hike up Half Dome on a weekend or holiday when the cables are up, you’re going to need to do some serious planning-ahead, because now you need a permit to do so.

According to the Yosemite National Park web site:

Beginning in 2010, all people using the Half Dome Trail above the subdome must have a permit in possession on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays when the cables are up. A maximum of 400 permits will be issued each of these days.

The Park says that, on average, fewer than 400 people hike to Half Dome a day during the weekdays, while on weekends and holidays that number can double – leading to congestion, trail over-use, and dangerous crowding conditions on those perilous chains.

For now, you will have to use Recreation.gov to get a day-use permit, from four months to a week in advance of your trip. No permits will be issued day-of, or on a first-come-first-served basis, although climbers who make their way up to the summit can hike down without a permit, and backpackers with the proper wilderness permit can pick up a Half Dome permit without any additional reservations.

This permit system is currently only scheduled to last through 2012, when a new management plan for Half Dome is expected to take shape.

This sort of move always ends up being controversial in the outdoor community. One school of thought says permits (and things like Adventure Passes) cause unnecessary difficulty for those trying to enjoy the outdoors, and can prevent people from getting outside. Nature should be free for everyone at their own risk, and all that. Another school says these popular trails need this sort of regulation, both for human safety and to reduce the impact on the environment.

Even though some permit applications can be logistical headaches, I tend to side with the second camp for the most part. I have never done the Half Dome Trail myself, and one of the big reasons is that I don’t want to get to the end of a hair-raising trek and have it look like a tour bus just made a stop there. Maybe with this new system in place, I’ll be able to climb up those cables without worrying about the crowds.

Or I’ll just enjoy the view from North Dome or Cloud’s Rest, where I’ve got a pretty good chance of having the place to myself!

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Via Calipidder, a great source for NorCal hiking news and all sorts of other great outdoorsy info!

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