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Acquiring a Inyo National Forest Wilderness Permit
How quickly can you hit the "book" button!
I just reserved my next section hike on the John Muir Trail for July 2023. Inyo National Forest uses www.recreation.gov for permit reservations. Yosemite National Park also moved to recreation.gov this year, but every wilderness permit in Yosemite is done via lottery.
With Inyo National Park, 60% of the daily available quota is released exactly 6 months before the date and the remaining 40% is set aside for “walk-ins” which are also reserved through www.recreation.gov, but two weeks before the date.
Given that some of us have to make travel arrangements and PTO arrangements, the 6 month window is the ideal to reserve.
The permits open at 7am Pacific Time exactly 6 months before and are often sold out within a minute. Here are some tips to make sure you can get that permit.
Identify the trail head you need to start your hike.
Identify the campsite you will sleep the first day of your hike.
Do a few dry runs days before your actual date (6 months before).
10-15 minutes before 7am on D-day, visit the www.recreation.gov site and fill in the information (commercial trip, type of permit, date and how many people)
This does not automatically refresh at 7am. If you hit “refresh” on the browser, it will lose the information you entered, so you need a way to preserve the information you have entered and update the table alone. For that, you hit the “Prev 5 days” and “Next 5 days” links. They refresh the table and does not lose your information.
When the number of permits change from 0 to whatever is available, select immediately and hit the “Book Now” button as quickly as possible. Do not hesitate.
If you get in, you have 15 minutes to finish the reservation. If you know which campground you will sleep first night and have your credit card handy, you will be done reserving within a few minutes.
Practice this a few times, ideally a few days before you actually need the reservation.
If these fail, consider:
Starting on a Wednesday or Thursday.
Consider reversing your direction of hike. For instance, Cottonwood pass is hard to get a permit, but Kearsarge pass is relatively easier, so consider hiking South Bound if you are hiking that section.
Consider trailheads which have a hard first day (for instance, Silver Creek entrance).