Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan

Half Dome Cables

Half Dome Cables

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.

That baby animal is fine, thanks.

Young animals like birds or fawns may seem to be alone, but are still being cared for by their parents. Help them by leaving them alone.

‘Tis the season for cute baby animals to start appearing in Yosemite. Baby birds are fledging, hoping and fluttering along the ground not yet able to fly. Spotted fawns are starting to make their appearance on wobbly legs, and lie concealed so they are not spotted by predators. These newborns bring out a sense of protectiveness in many who want to help by taking these animals in, but the best way to help is to leave them alone.

Although you may not see an adult nearby, the parents of these young animals know where they are and return regularly to check on, feed and care for them. Please help protect these animals by leaving them where they are, giving them plenty of space, and making sure that pets, including dogs and cats, are under control and/or on leash at all times.

Read the National Park Service announcement for more information.
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Merced River Plan Feedback Requested

Merced River reflecting Half Dome

Merced River reflecting Half Dome

Change is in the air, and you can help shape the future of Yosemite. With the Merced River Plan the National Park Service is drafting the blueprint for decisions that will dictate the way the park within the river corridor, including most of the floor of Yosemite Valley will be managed in the upcoming decades. Would you like to see more camping or less? What do you think of the transportation and parking options in the park? More? Less? Are there too many people, or should it be easier to get in? If you have ever said to yourself, “I wish they would do X…” about the park, now is the time to make your voice heard. As they say, speak now…

The name for the recently released document is quite a mouthful, “Alternative Concepts Workbook for the Comprehensive Management Plan for the Merced Wild and Scenic River Plan” (MRP), but more simply, it is the first chance for all of us to see what the park has come up with after the initial round of looking at scientific findings and public comments.

As the NPS says in their official press release, “The MRP will guide future decisions about transportation, camping, parking, lodging, employee housing and other administrative uses, restoration, and set user capacity – most notably within Yosemite Valley – and will establish the management strategy and actions for the next 20 years by modifying the General Management Plan.” The planning team has come up with five different concepts ranging from those that emphasize a self-reliant experience, to those that aim to provide more services and experiences for people visiting the park. For example, the number of campsites are increased in 3 of the 5 concepts, while the number of lodging is decreased in all but one. Which alternatives do you prefer? Do you see any problems with any of the alternatives? Have they overlooked something? They are looking for your feedback.

Once we’ve had a chance to look at this draft, the park service will further refine these ideas into the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which will also be open to public comment. To find out more about what is happening with the MRP, you can download the workbooks, read more on the NPS planning page, or attend a workshop, site visit, or webinar.

The Workshop schedule is:
• Wednesday, March 28, 2012, 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Yosemite Valley Auditorium
• Wednesday, April 4, 2012, 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Golden Gate Room, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco
• Thursday, April 12, 2012, 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., El Portal Community Hall
• Friday, April 13, 2012, 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Wawona Community Hall

Site Visits will provide an opportunity to discuss proposed actions “on-the-ground” at the locations where they may be implemented. They will be conducted in conjunction with the Workshops outlined above. Visitors are asked to wear comfortable walking shoes.

The Site Visit schedule is:
• Wednesday, March 28, 2012, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., meet at the Yosemite Valley Auditorium
• Thursday, April 12, 2012, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., meet at the El Portal Community Hall
• Friday, April 13, 2012, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., meet at the Wawona Community Hall

There will also be two webinars conducted that will review the draft alternatives. These will be held on Tuesday, March 27, 2012, at 10:00 a.m., and on Wednesday, April 11, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. People can participate in the webinars by logging into yose.webex.com.

Big Oak Flat Road/Hwy 120 closed for repairs Feb. 29, 2012 thru April

Click for larger version

A section of Big Oak Flat Road, leading from Hwy 120 into Yosemite Valley and other park destinations is scheduled to be closed for roughly six weeks starting at 8:00 am Wednesday, February 29, 2012 to repair damage from a rockfall on January 22 of this year. The road is expected to be closed 24 hours per day, seven days per week until early April. During this time, crews will be working around the clock to the get road ready for visitors hoping to use that route to see Yosemite’s waterfalls in peak flow for spring. (You can see an interactive version of the map here.)

Meanwhile, you can still get to Yosemite Valley via Hwy 140 (El Portal Road) coming from Merced/Mariposa and Hwy 41 (Wawona Road) coming from Fresno/Oakhurst. If you’re coming from the Bay Area, the Highway 140 route is commonly referred to as the year-round Yosemite Highway, and although longer in terms of distance, adds little, if any, time to your drive.

The best way to get current road information inside Yosemite National Park is to call (209) 372-0200 and press 1 and then 1 again. This recorded road information is updated by NPS as soon as road conditions change. For other current park information, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Read the full NPS press release below:
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Big Oak Flat Road/Hwy 120 to Re-open Tomorrow

Great news for the folks heading in from Sacramento and the Bay Area! NPS announced that the Big Oak Flat Road is re-opening tomorrow morning at 8am. That section of the road surface is still currently gravel, so be aware and drive carefully. We may see some traffic restrictions or closures over the following week for paving, but specific dates and times have not been set yet, so check the road conditions line if you’re planning to take that route next week – (209) 372-0200 (press 1 and 1 again). That recorded message contains the most up-to-date information on road conditions inside the park.

A huge shout-out and thank you to the road crews for working so hard to get 120/Big Oak Flat open again!

Read the Official News Release here.

Hwy 120/Big Oak Flat Closed

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A short section of Big Oak Flat Road, the continuation of Hwy 120 inside the park, had to be closed following a rock slide at about 11:30 pm January 22. Hwy 140 and 41 are both still open for travel. Chain controls may be in effect. (See the interactive version of closure map here.)

Park Spokesperson, Scott Gediman, says a boulder “the size of a house” fell into the road approximately 1000 feet above the 120/140 junction. At the this point situation is still being assessed to determine when the road might open again, so there is no information on the estimated reopening.

Yosemite National Park remains open and Yosemite Valley is accessible via Highway 140 (El Portal Road) coming from Merced/ Mariposa and via Highway 41(Wawona Road) coming from Fresno/

With winter conditions present, chain restrictions are in place on select park roads. For 24-hour road and weather information, please call (209)372-0200 and dial 1 then 1 again. For ongoing park information, please join us on Facebook or visit the National Park Service Facebook page.

You can read the official NPS press release here.

Tioga Road Closing for Predicted Storm

NPS announced today that Tioga Road will close at 7pm in anticipation of incoming winter weather. Glacier Point Road will remain open through the evening and will be reassessed in the morning to gauge whether or not driving has become hazardous.

This year Tioga Road stayed open later than any other year in its nearly 70-year history, providing visitors with a unique opportunity to enjoy the frozen high sierra lakes. Still, the forecasted snow is a blessing for skiers and other winter sports fans who are eager to hit the slopes at Badger Pass Ski Area this winter, and for those that hope to enjoy Yosemite’s spectacular snow-fed waterfalls this spring.

Weather is notoriously unpredictable in the mountains, so stay tuned for more weather updates. For the most up-to-date road conditions, including which roads are open or closed, call (209) 372-0200 and press 1 and then 1 again.

Half Dome Interim Permit Program Extended

Half Dome permits will once again be required seven days per week to hike the iconic granite monolith that crowns the east end of Yosemite Valley. However, the system for getting these permits has evolved into a double lottery system. The preseason lottery applications are due in March and will be awarded in early April. If you don’t get in on the preseason lottery, there will also be a daily lottery that you can apply for two days prior to the hiking date. More details on the Yosemite NPS website and in the press release below.
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