Outdoor Articles

Deciphering the Inyo National Forest permit system for the JMT

Inyo National Forest trailhead map (Recreation.gov)

With the increasing popularity of the classic John Muir Trail (JMT), which goes from Happy Isles in Yosemite National Park to Mt. Whitney, more people are utilizing alternate routes. Many of these routes originate in Inyo National Forest and permits are obtained through Recreation.gov. This web-based system is relatively easy to use and has the benefit of being instantaneous, unlike the cumbersome fax-based process at Yosemite. However, the Recreation.gov site has its own idiosyncrasies.

UPDATED 2019

RECREATION.GOV WEBSITE

Go to Recreation.gov, Inyo National Forest – Wilderness Permits

 

DATE, TIME, LOCATION

  • You can apply for a permit six months before your start date unless you’re exiting through Whitney Portal. If you want to exit through Whitney Portal your EXIT date, not your start date, must be within the six month window (as of 2019, it appears that the exit date can be 6  months+1 week) and is subject to the Trail Crest Exit Quota.
    • A number (e.g. 10) in the box under the date indicates the number of permits available.
    • A “W” in the box means only “walkup” permits are available (either all the reservable permits have been taken or it’s a non-quota period [winter]).
    • An empty box means that it’s too far out and is beyond the 6 month window.
    • Click on the box with the number of permits listed for the date you desire, then click “Book Now” and follow the directions on the form. Note that if you selected a “Overnight Exiting Mt. Whitney” permit, you’ll need to select your exit date on the second tab.
    • Dates open up 6 months in advance, by date, e.g. July 4 opens on January 4.
    • Permits are reservable from the last Friday in June to September 15. From September 15 to the last Friday in June is a non-quota time but walkup permits are still required.
  • Applications open at 7:00 a.m. Pacific Time/10 a.m. Eastern Time each day. [2/1/2019: After numerous reports of permits being available earlier, I called an Inyo ranger who confirmed the following: the official time has not changed. However, the website has been acting up and is inconsistent. They are working on it but for now I recommend that you check the site earlier, perhaps at midnight and later just to see what’s going on. Reports indicate that by 3:00 a.m. permits are sometimes available.]
  • You are not allowed to stay in one location longer than 14 days. This does not mean that there is a 14-day limit to camp in Inyo NP; it simply means you can’t stay in one single location for 14 days. You may stay in the wilderness as long as you wish based on the last date you indicate on your permit.
  • Note that the Whitney Portal exit quota applies to permits obtained through Inyo NF only. There is no exit quota for permits obtained through Yosemite NP (e.g. for a YNP permit, you may exit Whitney Portal without restriction) or other parks.

GETTING THE PERMIT

  • Obtain the permit for one or two nights initially if you don’t need a Whitney Portal Exit. This allows you to quickly secure your permit as the website times out after a short window. You may then edit your permit details, including the exit date and the campsite locations. If you are unable to get the exit date you want with an “Overnight Exiting Mt. Whitney” permit because you want a longer trip, get what you can and edit it later when more exit dates open up.
    • Select your entry point (such as Cottonwood Pass) from a list.
    • For the first night, many people will choose Chicken Spring Lake or SEKI – Rock Creek (84) for a Cottonwood Pass entry;  SEKI – Army Pass or #1 Lake (Cottonwood Lakes) for a Cottonwood Lakes entry. You can type any word such as “Chicken” or “Rock” to pull up locations with that word.
    • Initially, enter any exit location (e.g. Kearsarge Pass) and change it later (unless you’re exiting Whitney via Whitney Portal).
  • Plan your itinerary on a spreadsheet before you sit down to finalize the permit reservation.  You will need to select a campsite location from a dropdown list for every night (FYI: in 2019, it appears that you can leave campsites blank–try it! It may be a temporary glitch. If you leave it blank, have your itinerary completed when you pick up your permit as you will likely need to complete it then). It’s helpful to have the map in front of you as you may not be able to find the campsite as they may have different names. See the Sample Itinerary below for “Inyo Friendly” camp names and click on the map image above.
    • There is an “Other/Don’t Know” option. For long trips, it will not accept all “Other/Don’t Know” options for more than 14 days. You will bump up against the rule about not being allowed to stay in one location longer than 14 days and they can’t interpret where you’ll be (the computer will interpret 14 “Don’t know” entries as the same location). It’s best to try to identify the names of campsites where you plan to stay and use “Other/Don’t Know” for the ones where you can’t find a name.
    • You are not required to adhere to this schedule but it is useful in case of emergency so Search and Rescue can locate you.
    • You can revise the itinerary at any time online and when you pick up the permit.
  • Campsites for your first night are presented in a limited list of sites close to the entry trailhead on the Recreation.gov website. Campsites for subsequent nights are listed alphabetically in a vastly longer list. One quirk is that all locations in Sequoia National Park/Kings Canyon NP (known as SEKI) are grouped together with a prefix of “SEKI.” Other useful names are “SEKI-Other,” “Inyo NF” and locations with the prefix “Yosemite.”  See below for a partial list of potential northbound sites starting from Horseshoe Meadows. A list of all JMT campsites (called “JMT Campsites along the Trail) can be found in the files of the John Muir Trail Facebook Group, though they aren’t necessarily names you’ll see on the Inyo list. A list of all Inyo campsite locations can be found below, under MAPS AND LISTS.
  • Permits
    • As of 2019, there are two type of default permits, “Overnight” and “Overnight Exiting Whitney”. Other permit types have been replaced by specific questions on the form indicating whether you are visiting Mt Whitney  and what your group size is.
      • Overnight– Most people accessing the JMT from Inyo trailheads can choose this one unless they are EXITING through Whitney Portal. You can use this if you are summiting Whitney from the JMT and are returning to the JMT going either direction, but read the information in the Overnight Visiting Mt. Whitney section below. If you summit Whitney from the west and return the JMT, you will not get cited or fined with this permit. This has been checked and verified multiple times by multiple people, including myself, in 2017 and 2018.
      • Overnight Exiting Mt. Whitney-this the permit you need if you plan to exit via Whitney Portal (east side). As of 2019, the entry and exit permit can be obtained at the same time (see second tab on the permit form). These can be hard to get and are subject to the Trail Crest Exit Quota.
        • First step: Complete the process for the entry permit; without this you have nothing to work with. Your first goal is to secure the entry permit, either for Overnight Exiting Whitney or Overnight.
        • Next step: Figure out what you can get for your  “Mt. Whitney (Trail Crest Exit) permit. One option, if you can’t get an Overnight Exiting Whitney permit on your desired date, is to consider exiting 20 miles further south over Cottonwood Pass to Horseshoe Meadow. To do this, start over in the permit process and select the “Overnight” permit. You may obtain an Overnight permit exiting out of Cottonwood Pass. You may be able to adjust the permit to get an exit from Whitney Portal when you pick up your permit (walkup permits are often available). You can wait until your preferred Whitney Portal exit date comes up and see if there are any permits left on your preferred entry date but this can be risky.
        • More information about the Trail Crest Exit Quota can be found on the Inyo NF Forest Service site.
    • Visiting Mt. Whitney– Click the Yes or No radio button. Inyo NF prefers that you indicate whether you are entering the Whitney Zone or Mount Whitney Management Area (e.g.around the Whitney summit). There is a small additional fee ($10 for a total of $15) which supports the ranger activities (& Wag Bags) in this highly impacted area. It is voluntary. If you don’t check this box, you may still summit Whitney from the west, providing that you are returning to the JMT if you decide to do so at the last minute.
    • Cross-Country-This permit type has been removed in 2019 though they do state the following: Off trail travel is limited by quota; wilderness permit office can help identify quota needed. These permits are for adventurous explorers who plan to navigate without the benefit of a trail. The group size is limited to eight. Most JMT hikers will not get this permit. If you are doing Steve Roper’s Sierra High Route or variation you would get a Cross-Country permit. However, an Overnight permit is fine for solo hikers or small groups, even for cross-country routes as the only difference is the group size.
    • Mt. Whitney Lottery-This is beyond the scope of this article and is only for people entering from Whitney Portal to climb Mt. Whitney (either as a day-hike, overnight hike or extending to the JMT/PCT). Lottery applications are accepted between February 1 and March 15.
  • Inyo NF Wilderness Regulations
  • Call Inyo NF to speak to helpful people who can answer questions: (760) 873-2483.

Half Dome (Yosemite National Park): As a side-note, if you want to climb Half Dome in Yosemite you’ll need a separate permit from Yosemite. As of 2019, there are no exceptions.  with the following exceptions. From the Yosemite website: “If you’re beginning your backpacking trip outside of Yosemite, you’ll need a Half Dome permit, which you can apply for using the lotteries.There are two exceptions to this rule: if you’re hiking the John Muir Trail and starting at Cottonwood Lakes or Cottonwood Pass trailheads, your Inyo National Forest wilderness permit is valid for hiking Half Dome. These are the only two trailheads outside Yosemite that have this exception.

International Travelers: If the automated system won’t accept entries such as your phone number or zip code, enter all 9s but make sure your email is correct as that’s how they’ll communicate with you. Phone format: 999-999-9999. Zip code format: 99999.

FOREST SERVICE INFO

Here are some direct links to some popular Inyo National Forest trailheads (Forest Service sites are listed). These are just examples; there are other trailheads that access the JMT. These are in order from south to north.

COMPLETE LIST OF CAMPSITE NAMES

Map of Inyo NF Trails on Recreation.gov

List of Inyo JMT Campsites from Inyo NF or Recreation.gov

Alternate List of Inyo JMT Campsites

Inyo Location Names-Complete List (Google Drive PDF: list by Yoshihiro Murakami)

SAMPLE ITINERARY

Here is a list of “Inyo friendly” campsite names to get you started, going South-to-North (NOBO or northbound). This assumes a starting point at Horseshoe Meadow Campground (a good place to acclimate to altitude as it is located at 10,000 feet) via the Cottonwood Pass trailhead. An alternate route from Horseshoe Meadow starts at the Cottonwood Lakes trailhead and goes over New Army Pass (at a higher elevation). You can use the same location, even “Other/don’t know,” more than once if needed in this itinerary.*

  1. Chicken Spring Lake
  2. SEKI-Rock Creek
  3. SEKI-Crabtree (you may want to enter this two nights in a row if you’re going to summit Whitney)
  4. SEKI-Tyndall Creek
  5. SEKI-Center Basin
  6. SEKI-Charlotte Lake
  7. SEKI-Twin Lakes
  8. SEKI-Upper Basin
  9. SEKI-Palisade Basin
  10. SEKI-LeConte Canyon
  11. SEKI-Evolution Basin
  12. SEKI-McClure Meadow
  13. Senger Creek JMT-Sallie Keys near Florence Lake
  14. Bear Creek Meadows, Upper JMT-Lake Edison
  15. Quail Meadows JMT-Lake Edison
  16. Virginia Lake JMT-Duck Pass
  17. Crater Meadow JMT-South of Devils Postpile
  18. Garnet Lake JMT-Thousand Island Lake
  19. Yosemite-Tuolumne Meadows/Lyell Canyon
  20. Yosemite-Cathedral Lakes
  21. Yosemite-John Muir Trail-Little Yosemite

*Adapted with permission from Tim Seymour’s itinerary.

It is mandatory to start on the correct date and trailhead as specified on your Inyo NF permit, but after that you have the freedom to camp wherever you want and exit when you want (with the exception of the Whitney Portal trail quota). You are not required to adhere to your itinerary but it can help in finding you if something happens and you’re reported overdue or missing.

This page was reviewed for accuracy by an Inyo NF Ranger in 2018 and updated by the author in 2019 to reflect the changes in the permit form.

RELATED ARTICLES

OTHER RESOURCES

Horseshoe Meadow campground

Horseshoe Meadow campground

49 thoughts on “Deciphering the Inyo National Forest permit system for the JMT”

  1. buzibu February 10, 2016

    Thanks, but: is it 180 days or 168 days before? that part isn’t clear. Also, perhaps a section on applying 180 days before the exit date for WP exit should be added?

    1. Inga February 10, 2016

      Thanks! I just caught the 168 day error and corrected it. I wasn’t sure of the details on the WP exit. Do you have a link? Or maybe it’s in one of the links I have. I’ll check that out. Thanks for the suggestions.

  2. laurie meade February 10, 2016

    Hi Inga. It’s still stating 180 days. One thing you might add in the second paragraph under “key things to know” is that campsites generally fall under an area basin. That’s what a woman in the Bishop office told me yesterday. It helped tremendously in filling out the boxes from the selection they offer. You might also explain SEKI.

    1. Inga February 14, 2016

      Thanks, Laurie.
      It’s 180 days for Inyo (168 for Yosemite). I posted a map of the basins so that might aid in locating campsites and added a complete sample itinerary. I explained SEKI (Sequoia Kings Canyon National Parks, which are operated jointly). Appreciate the comments!

  3. Suzanne February 14, 2016

    Hi Inga! Thanks so much for the helpful information. I have one additional question. Is it at 12:01am pacific time that you can started applying 180 days before a Whitney exit? Thanks for all of your help.
    Suzanne

    1. Inga February 14, 2016

      Hi Suzanne, I’m not sure of the exact time but a Facebook poll indicates that it’s 7 a.m.. I tried to call but they are closed weekends during winter. I’ll call later but if you need the info soon call the office at (760) 873-2483

      1. Jim January 11, 2017

        The post about when the reservations would open for a specific day is from Feb 2016? Was there ever a definitive answer as to whether one should apply in the reservations website at 12:01 am or 7:00 am PCT six months in advance to have the best chance at a NOBO permit? Thanks, Jim

  4. Suzanne February 14, 2016

    Thank you, Inga! Last question, I promise :). So if we choose Overnight- visiting Mt. Whitney, does that mean we can still summit Mt. Whitney, but instead of using the crest trail, we’d exit through another trail like cottonwood pass? But we can still summit Whitney? Thank you for all of your help and advice!

    1. Inga February 14, 2016

      It’s very confusing and I had to call the permit office to clarify. If you are going to summit Whitney from the WEST (from the JMT/Guitar Lake) and are going to return to the JMT you only need “Overnight”. “Overnight Visiting Whitney is for those who are perhaps bagging other peaks that fall inside the Whitney Zone, which is administered by Inyo NF. The summit of Whitney is in Sequoia NP.

  5. buzibu February 15, 2016

    I just went through the Whitney Portal exit application today at 7 am PST (did snag permits, but what a weird setup, searching by exit date and then scrambling to pick available entry dates, many were already filled since those opened up several days ago)) and it was for Aug 15. So I think it is not actually 180 days as per the calculator (which is giving me Aug 13 for 180 days from today) but the calendar date, 6 months.

    1. Inga February 15, 2016

      Yes, someone mentioned that so I changed it to 6 months. Sorry, I hope that didn’t hang you up. This document is slowly getting better as I collect more info so thank you for the update.

  6. Roleigh Martin February 15, 2016

    Great writeup, Inga! I just discovered this writeup today. I’m adding a link to this in the JMT Permit FAQ.

    1. Inga February 15, 2016

      Thanks, Roleigh.

  7. Nathan February 17, 2016

    Thanks for your help. When I did this it told me to wait for a response in March. I’m hesitant to stop applying in case I’m denied. Did you mention that it should be an immediate response?

    1. Inga February 21, 2016

      Hi Nathan, are you applying for a Whitney Portal exit? Those are subject to lottery and I’m not an expert in that area as I’ve never applied for one of those. Those are processed in March and you should know by April 1. http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/inyo/passes-permits/recreation/?cid=stelprdb5150055. If it’s NOT a Whitney Portal exit you should have instant confirmation.

  8. Richard Russell March 14, 2016

    Thanks for making this excellent web page Inga. After getting lots of rejections for a SOBO permit, I found your web page and used it to book a NOBO from Cottonwood Lakes-JM39. No faxes, no lottery! And there were 30 other permits available that day. So easy!

    1. Inga March 22, 2016

      Richard, I’m so glad the article was helpful. Have fun on your NOBO adventure!

  9. Stephen April 1, 2016

    What trailhead entrances can overnight permits be reserved from the Mammoth Lakes area for Northbound JMT travel, if we wanted to spend a couple weeks northbound JMT through to Tuolumne Meadows or Happy Isles? (i.e. Could one use a “Fish Lake” trailhead overnight permit to enter the JMT, even though that trail doesn’t connect to the JMT?

    1. Inga April 1, 2016

      Hi Stephen, I’m not an expert on every trail around Mammoth and I’m not familiar with Fish Lake Trail. Do you mean Fish Creek Trail? The ones I’m familiar with around Mammoth that would get you north on the JMT are Rush Creek (north of Mammoth-on the bus line), Agnew Meadow, Devil’s Postpile North, Red’s Meadow, Duck Pass. Your best bet might be to call the Ranger at the number I provided in the article. Good Luck!

  10. Stephen April 1, 2016

    Thanks, Inga, I had a momentary senior moment and so I guess I had meant Fish Creek. But thanks to your excellent enumeration of those trailheads, we have successfully made reservations for Duck Pass, and it appears that connects into the JMT and we can head north from there and meander our way north for a couple weeks, taking various day trips (I’m assuming that’s OK, right? Once you’re “on the JMT” you’re not restricted to any itinerary?)

    When we did that JMT segment south from Red’s Meadow in 2012, it was the summer right after a devastating 100 MPH wind storm had flattened miles of trees! JMT sections north of Mammoth were closed until mid-summer, due to impassable downed trees. It was also the first year of the drought, with only 50% of normal snowfall — many marked streams were DRY! One hopes this year will be a little wetter…

    Do you find there’s any essential difference hiking NOBO vs SOBO?

    1. Inga April 7, 2016

      Hi Stephen, That’s great that you got your permit. You’re correct, once you enter the correct trailhead on the correct date listed on your permit you are free to wander like John Muir did. Duck Pass does connect to the JMT and you’ll see some of that tree devastation–it still reflects the amazing power of Mother Nature. This year has had normal rain/snow so the streams should be replenished. The section you’re doing is beautiful–one of my favorites. I haven’t hiked NOBO (I have a 6 day NOBO section planned for this summer) so I can’t offer any advice there. Have fun!

  11. Rob June 2, 2016

    Hi Inga, I’ve been emailing (out of country so can’t call) with a ranger from Inyo National Forest, and he is telling me that with my current permit (plain overnight, leaving from cottonwood pass trailhead) I will not be allowed to summit Mt. Whitney. He is saying that I would need the “visiting Mt. Whitney” permit type, and that the Whitney zone extends to the west of guitar lake so it is not possible to summit without the “visiting” permit. It seems a little strange considering all of the maps I’ve seen of the Whitney Zone do not include this area to the west of the summit. Thanks for all of your great info about the trail!

    1. Inga June 3, 2016

      Hi Rob, there is a lot of mis-information out there and some of it comes from well-meaning rangers or volunteers manning info lines. When you get back, call again to (maybe a couple of times) and see if you get another story. I believed what you were told for a long time, but after researching it extensively, I believe that it is legal to summit Whitney from Cottonwood as long as you don’t exit to Whitney Portal. The wording is unfortunate and leads to confusion.

    2. Inga January 21, 2017

      Rob, Yikes, sorry for the ridiculous delay but I was having some issues with my website and I guess I wasn’t getting notified of comments. Anyway, for others reading later, you were getting incorrect information from the ranger you were emailing with, provided that you were NOT exiting at Whitney Portal. If you enter from the west, e.g. Guitar Lake, summit, and return to the west, you are fine with the Overnight permit. See my later comment with a quote from a ranger.

  12. Bor August 5, 2016

    Hi Inga! First of all thanks fort the excellent write-up! I now at least have an inkling of an idea on hot to get my permit. But I have some additional questions. I’m planning to hike the JMT NOBO next June/July, but a little bit extended. I want to start at Walker pass and finish in Yosemite. If I understand correctly, the Inyo National Forest is the first protected area the PCT crosses northbound from Walker Pass. If so, I need to get an »Overnight« pass from recreation.gov starting at Kennedy Meadows TH? Is that right? Is that the most southerly TH? In addition I then only need a California fire permit form my gas stove and I’ll be good to go? If this is the case I only have one follow up question. Permits for the Kennedy Meadows TH are designated as “w” as in “Available at the Facility”. What Facility is it referring to? Thank you for your replies and have nice day! Bor from Slovenia

    1. Inga August 21, 2016

      Hi Bor, Thank you for your post. I am not as familiar with the permit requirements south of Whitney and I looked around on the Inyo site but couldn’t determine the answers to your questions. I’d recommend calling the Inyo Ranger Station (phone # is in my original post) if you can. They usually answer their phones are are quite helpful. Or, if you have found some PCT forums they may be able to help more. If you really get stuck, write back and I can call for you. However, I’m just getting ready for two big trips and will be out of town for the next month. But since we have plenty of time I can help do more research in the fall. Good luck!

  13. John Muir Trail: Permits, Planning and Prep | Inga's Adventures December 31, 2016

    […] If you want to go Northbound the permit will be issued from Inyo National Forest through Recreation.gov. The traditional route would start at Whitney Portal and include the summit of Whitney. An alternative to this popular route, which is subject to lottery, is to start a little further south, at Horseshoe Meadow, going over Cottonwood Pass or New Army Pass. This adds approximately 20 miles to the JMT and is described in Wenk’s guidebook in the section called “Lateral Trails.” A topo map for this section can be downloaded for free from Halfmile (CA Section G).  You can also enter at many mid-way points, almost all in Inyo NF. I find that the easiest way to search the Recreation.gov site is to enter the name of the pass + permit, e.g. “Cottonwood Pass permit” or “Cottonwood Lakes permit. You’ll usually select “Overnight” options rather than “Cross Country”, which are described in the Permit General Rules document. You may select options to visit Mt. Whitney (approaching from the west and returning to the JMT/PCT) vs exiting Mt. Whitney (traveling west to east and exiting at Whitney Portal). For more information see Deciphering the Inyo National Forest Permit System. […]

  14. Lisa January 8, 2017

    That permit application process was just painful. Since I’m going NOBO from Cottonwood Pass, I was able to use your sample itinerary as a guide, however I could not find out how to locate the sites listed in the drop downs anywhere! I tried various maps, guide books, and apps; however, there was nothing anywhere that had the same names as the recreation.gov reservation system had in their itinerary item drop downs. That was just awful! They really should put the items in order by location, not alphabetical; it would be so much easier!

    1. Inga January 26, 2017

      I agree that it’s challenging to correlate the campsite names they use with other maps. Once we hiked it and I became more familiar with the terrain it got easier but that’s hardly helpful when you’re planning your first hike.

  15. Inga Aksamit January 19, 2017

    A reader, Jennifer Swann, was given info from an Inyo NF representative that didn’t sound right so she kept pursuing it, finally getting a call back from a ranger who provided a lengthy explanation. I’m not sure it’s that satisfying but Jennifer and I thought this should be shared. Bottom line, either Overnight or Overnight Visiting Whitney permits are OK.
    “Had a great conversation with Cindy Gervasoni at Inyo NF today. She explained everything beautifully. She said that there are actually two different Whitney zones. There is a Whitney Waste Management Zone and a Whitney Permit Management Zone. The Whitney Permit Management Zone does not include the summit when accessed from the west. The Whitney Waste Management Zone includes the summit and all of the mountain, plus adjacent areas (including Guitar Lake, but not Crabtree). So, if you summit from the West, you could legitimately argue that you are not in the Whitney Permit Management Zone…but you are in the the Whitney Waste Management Zone. The whole purpose of the extra $10 is waste management, therefore, the ethical thing to do would be to select Overnight Visiting Whitney for your permit, since you are indeed visiting the Whitney Waste Management Zone. Also, (as you and I already know) they provide the waste disposal kits and suggest you carry one (regardless of how you get to the top), since you may need to use it between Guitar Lake and the summit. She also made it clear that you do not have to select Overnight Visiting Whitney, as they cannot, by law, force you to pack out your waste. She compared the concept to LNT practices. Not enforceable, but hopefully practiced. She also said that by selecting Overnight Visiting Whitney, it is a method of education and outreach. When a person picks up an Overnight Visiting Whitney permit, they are issued a different set of rules and recommendations regarding waste management procedures in the Whitney Zone. You do not receive this if you do not select Visiting Whitney, as a different set of rules/recommendations apply. So, if an uninformed JMT hiker does not select Visiting Whitney, and summits Whitney, they may be unaware of the waste management expectations/recommendations should they need to “go” between Guitar Lake and the Summit. Cindy was clear that ultimately, either permit option is acceptable, however, they encourage Overnight Visiting Whitney, as it allows them to continue to educate, manage, and enhance the waste management program. So, this simply means that it is up to each of us as an individual to select the option that feels right to us.”

  16. Lori L Ritter January 21, 2017

    Hi Inga
    Thank you for the information it has been very helpful. I have noticed on recreation.gov that it looks like permits may not be offered for overnight Mount Whitney beyond the 22 of July. There is no longer the number 15 below the X. I tried calling Inyo in Bishop but no luck. Maybe it is some kind of glitch in their system. Any help suggestions much appreciated.

    1. Inga January 26, 2017

      Hi Lori, You are probably getting past the 6 month window. You can only apply for a permit 6 months in advance.

  17. Inga Aksamit January 23, 2017

    Additional nuances regarding the starting dates for quotas for Cottonwood Pass vs Cottonwood Lakes: Cottonwood Pass is in the Golden Trout Wilderness (quota starts last Friday in June) and Cottonwood Lakes is John Muir Wilderness (quota starts May 1).

  18. James Smith January 27, 2017

    Thank you so much for this write-up. By far one of the best for NOBO information. The sample itinerary is really a lifesaver for first-timers.

  19. Matt Schick February 22, 2017

    Thanks for the amazing walkthrough. After getting turned down left and right from the Yosemite lottery, it was so satisfying to just go and book a permit through Inyo

  20. Michael L. March 13, 2017

    Thank you Inga for the great write-up, it’s been very informative and helpful.

  21. Inga March 14, 2017

    More on the question of the “Overnight” vs “Overnight Visiting Whitney” permit. This is from an Inyo Ranger to Heather Goudreau.
    ———- Forwarded message ———-
    From: Gervasoni, Cindy -FS
    Date: Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 2:11 AM
    Subject: RE: WWW Mail: Permit
    To: “hikingthejmt@gmail.com”
    You are allowed to summit from the Crabtree side with either permit. Both will work correctly for our quota system.
    With the visiting Mt Whitney permit type, Inyo National Forest uses the funds for higher costs of servicing the Whitney area.
    This includes staffing trail rangers, who are trained in emergency first aid and search and rescue, operating the visitor center where you will pick up your permit, and funding the wag bag program. We even pay for the wag bags provided at the trail junction near Crabtree Meadows Ranger Station!
    Cheers, Cindy
    Cindy Gervasoni
    Wilderness Permit Office and Web Team
    Supervisory Visitor Services Information
    Forest Service
    Inyo National Forest, Supervisor’s Office
    p: 760-873-2483
    cgervasoni@fs.fed.us
    351 Pacu Lane
    Bishop, CA 93514
    http://www.fs.usda.gov/inyo
    http://www.fs.fed.us
    Caring for the land and serving people

  22. Greg April 29, 2017

    Thanks for all your hard work and making it easier for us!

  23. Glenn Ray February 23, 2018

    Hi Inga, Your site has been invaluable and I appreciate all the effort to keep us informed. It looks like nights 11 and 12 are swapped; you have McClure Meadow before Evolution Basin.

  24. HikerBuddy March 1, 2018

    Thank you for such great information. It’s pathetic that a lot of this information just isn’t to be found on the SEKI and Recreation.gov (Inyo NF) sites. One has to phone (not toll free) to get this info and often get incorrect information. I haven’t dealt with Yosemite (yet) but Inyo NF and SEKI application process leaves a lot to be desired. A lot of room for improvement.

  25. John March 29, 2018

    Hi Inga
    The itinerary portion( camp selection)of the permit application…I was losing my mind over… I am so thankful I found your website… I put down the exact 21 days…it will very… my main concern was taking advantage of the bear boxes at the start… I think I have pulled that off…

    Thank you so much… John

  26. John Muir Trail: Permits, Planning and Prep | Inga's Adventures April 6, 2018

    […] Deciphering the Inyo National Forest permit system […]

  27. mo June 5, 2018

    why is the list of campsites for the first night limited to few places close to the trailhead? Does that mean you are not allowed to go further on the first day? Thanks

    1. Inga June 5, 2018

      These are the most likely places to camp. You are not required to stay there. Just pick one and plan your itinerary as you wish. You can change it when you pick up your permit.

  28. Peter January 17, 2019

    Inga: I don’t know if the following is new, or if it is just new to me, but in pursuing one of our discussions recently I cam across something I have been looking for for quite a while: a geographical listing of JMT campsites all the way down to Kennedy Meadows that I believe corresponds to that infuriating alphabetical list you get at the Inyo reservation site. I have spot-checked a couple of obvious locations, and it seems to match. Inyo has actually hidden this list in plain site at a page you quoted from recently, but here is the direct link to the PDF: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd606695.pdf I have no idea why Inyo couldn’t just do this on their map, but there it is.

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