How to apply for a southbound permit on the Nüümü Poyo (John Muir Trail)

erica

APRIL 28, 2021

The  Nüümü Poyo or John Muir Trail (JMT) is arguably the most pristine high altitude trek in the contiguous united states. Spanning 211 miles from Yosemite to Mt Whitney its elusive beauty is often sought but seldom discovered due to difficulty to obtain permits- about 70% of applicants are denied annually. 


For 2022 hikers the lottery application period is midnight  November 14th, 2021 through 11:59 pm Pacific Time May 7, 2022. This year things are changing a little but don't worry, we have you covered! 


Planning a backpacking trip here can seem daunting, so here is where to start..

#1

CHOOSE A DIRECTION


While most PCT hikers will  be headed Northbound (NOBO) for this section, many JMT hikers  choose to start their adventure in Yosemite Valley and head south so that they can get their  “trail legs” before summiting Mount Whitney. This particular blog is focused on how to apply for a southbound permit!


 


#2

PLAN AHEAD


Permit availability for the many different trailheads varies, however if you're looking to hike the classic SOBO (south bound) route things are changing this year! Instead of applying through the wilderness permits offices you'll be directed to recreation.gov to obtain your permits!


60% of wilderness permit reservations are available by lottery 24 weeks  (170 days) in advance. After the lottery runs each week, any remaining reservations are available on a first-come, first-served basis. 


If you don't score your permit in advance you can try again by heading to one of the wilderness canters one day before your hiking start date. 40% of wilderness permits will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. 


Here is an example of the permit schedule:


You will need to know the following when you apply:


Which trailhead you want to start at

Your desired entry date

Your first night’s camping location

Your trip length

Your exit trailhead

The number in your party

Whether you also want to apply for a Half Dome permit


We will cover all of this below


Check here for more PERMIT DATES


#3

BE FLEXIBLE

The new system means you'll have to apply more often!


While you can choose a more specific time frame in when you apply, being flexible on when you start can help you get a permit. Set aside time to apply every week to increase your chances of getting your ticket!


There is a reservation fee for each permit application ($10/application) which is nonrefundable.


If you score a permit you will be required secure your permit by the following Thursday. Cost is an additional $5 per person on the permit.


Half dome Permits, that can be added to your trip, are an additional $10/person

In addition you will be asked to provide the number of people in your party. What we love about this is that you can be flexible with a maximum and minimum number of permits you want. We applied for 4 permits, with a minimum of 2. This means that if 4 permits were available and we wanted to hike with friend we could, but if only two permits were avaible we would accept it. If you get 4 permits and no one can make the dates work, which happened to us, you can easily release your extra permits later.


#4

CHOOSING A TRAILHEAD

There are 5 options for starting points and you'll need to know where you'll be camping the first night for each.


Happy Isles:  (1st nights camp: Little Yosemite Valley Camp) 4.5mi 2,100ft elevation gain *GOLDEN TICKET* If you're looking to hike the full trail, and hoping to score half dome permits this should be your top choice! The climb out of the valley is brutal but worth it! We chose to hike in early on our start date, set up camp at Little Yosemite and then made our way up Half Dome in the early afternoon.


 

Happy Isles: (1st nights camp: Sunrise/Merced Lake- pass through) 6.5mi 3,200 elevation gain. If you're looking to get more miles in day 1 and get away from the half dome crowd  and hike the complete trail this is a great option. Adding in Half Dome will make this an even longer day, but it's possible and will set you up to get to your next camp- we reccommend Catherdral lakes- early the following day. This permit allows you to camp anywhere along Sunrise Creek past the junction to Half Dome (Not at little Yosemite valley campground).

Tenya Lake/ Sunrise Lakes: (1st nights camp: Sunrise Lakes) 3.3mi 1,300 elevation gain (Now listed as Tioga road) Not a great option if you're trying to do half dome, but you could easily hike over to Clouds Rest (no permit required) for some EPIC views of the valley.

Glacier Point: (1st nights camp: Little Yosemite Valley)  6.6 mi 1,100 elevation loss. If you're looking to avoid the climb out of the valley this trail head is a good option. You'll camp at the same place as those leaving Happy Isle, but instead of climbing several thousand feet over 4 miles you drop 1000 ft over 7 miles. Its possible to add in Half Dome here as well.

Lyell Canyon:(1st nights camp: Upper Lyell Canyon) 10,100 ft elevation gain- Your odds increase at this trail head with a handful of extra permits up for grabs. Leaves from right from the ranger station at Tuolumne Meadows &  skips the brutal climb out of Yosemite Valley.

To complete the John Muir Trail you will want to choose Whitney Portal as your exit. Otherwise you can choose Cottonwood Lakes and backtrack to connect with the PCT and continue backpacking for a few days.


#5

KNOW YOUR PACE 


You’ll have to pick an exit date/number of days on trail. While you can complete the trail before, you can't be on the trail longer than what your permit allows. Average hiking time is 3 weeks or 10-12 miles/day. Keep in mind you will be hiking difficult terrain at high altitude- If you want to take your time we recommend counting in a few  days to hike into town, grab some grub, resupply or relax.


If we were to do this again, We would go for a longer permit 20-25 days would have been perfect to enjoy some of the places we passed by a little more and treat ourselves to some zero or nero (low milage) days!


#6

CONNECT WITH OTHER HIKERS


 If you're on facebook we recommended joining the current year's JMT hiking group. The moderators have a wealth of knowledge and can be super helpful with planning. In these groups you'll find plenty of gear recommendations, trail updates and more.




#7

KEEP APPLYING

If you're like us, you'll probably receive hundreds of denied emails before getting lucky so don't forget to keep reapplying every week!


You can also check HERE to see what dates aren't full yet!


We are so excited for you to embark on the most epic adventure! If you have any questions we are more than happy to help! You can send us an email or join us on Instagram HERE


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