NPS announced today that an official Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan has been signed. Those who have been keeping up with the evolving policies surrounding the day use permits for the hike to Half Dome summit won’t find anything shocking here although a few of the numbers have changed slightly in response to public comments and feedback.
The hike to the summit of Half Dome, possibly the most recognizable and iconic of Yosemite’s many majestic features, draws people from around the world, and has become increasingly popular in recent years, necessitating a management plan to preserve the wilderness character of the hike and improve safety for hikers.
300 permits will be issued each day – 225 to day hikers and 75 to overnight backpackers who plan to summit Half Dome as part of a longer trip, a decrease compared to previous years. These permits will continue to be distributed in two lotteries through Recreation.gov. The preseason lottery runs from March 1 – March 31, with lottery winners notified on April 15, 2013.
In previous years, overnight backpackers were able to receive day use permits with their overnight wilderness permits. Now, they will also need to apply for permits for the Half Dome summit.
Approximately 50 permits will also be available daily during the hiking season two days before the hiking day. (That means that to hike on a Saturday, you’d apply for the daily lottery on Thursday between midnight and 1pm PT, and get notification Thursday night.)
Find more detailed information on the permits and how to apply on the NPS site. You can read the full Park Service announcement below.
Yosemite National Park Announces the New Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan
Yosemite National Park announces the signing of the Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). This document records the decision of Yosemite National Park to adopt a new day-use permit program for the Half Dome Trail which includes continued use of the Half Dome cables. Hiking to the top of Half Dome is one of the most popular hikes in Yosemite National Park. The iconic granite monolith, at 8,842 feet above sea level, attracts people from all over the world who attempt to climb to the summit. Most visitors ascend Half Dome via the cables, which are typically in place from mid-May through mid-October.
In 1964, Congress passed the Wilderness Act, creating the National Wilderness Preservation System. In 1984, approximately 95% of Yosemite National Park, including Half Dome and the Half Dome Trail, was designated as Wilderness through the California Wilderness Act of 1984. The Selected Action reduces congestion and improves conditions for public safety, while providing a range of wilderness experiences. Under the Selected Action, Yosemite National Park will retain the cable system and implement day-use limits through a permit system, managing for a target of 300 people on the Half Dome Trail per day.
The Selected Action is generally the same as the Preferred Alternative in the Environmental Assessment (EA) that was released for public review in January 2012. The park received a total of 1,649 comment letters during the 52-day public comment period. A wide range of comments were received: some urging the park to reconsider installing a third cable, some supporting the Preferred Alternative, and others supporting the removal of the cables altogether. Commenters sought clarification on visitor use studies, safety measures, commercial use, wilderness character, and permit allocation. There are some clarifications and corrections to the EA based on public comment, mainly in the area of commercial use. These corrections are included in an Errata to the EA.
Applications for permits to hike the trail are available from March 1 through March 31, 2013. The park will allocate permits through a preseason lottery, a two-day in advance lottery, and as part of the Wilderness Permit process. Details regarding the lotteries and the wilderness process can be found at the park’s website at http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/hdpermits.htm. The lottery will be conducted through http://www.recreation.gov.
The FONSI and errata sheets completing the decision-making process are available online at: http://www.nps.gov/yose/parkmgmt/hdp_information.htm. Requests for hardcopies or CD-ROMs of the FONSI, available on a limited basis, can be submitted to: Superintendent, Yosemite National Park, and Attn: Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan, P.O. Box 577, Yosemite, CA 95389.