The number of people who can hike on the Half Dome summit trail every day will be permanently limited, according to a decision by Yosemite National Park officials.
Park representatives said the permit program that has been in place since 2010 for the popular trail will remain as an ongoing policy. The permits will be issued in a lottery system for the Half Dome trail with the goal of limiting the number of people on the trail to 300 per day - 225 day hikers and 75 backpackers.
Park spokeswoman Kari Cobb said Friday that the number of individual permits that will be issued per day will likely range from 400 to 450 due to no-shows and cancellations. The permits are required for hikes beyond the base of the subdome.
The popular trail guides hikers to the summit of the iconic granite dome, which towers over the Yosemite Valley at around 8,800 feet. Cobb said the number of people on the trail historically has ranged from 500 to as many as 1,200 on a busy summer day.
The final stretch of the trail is a steep incline up the side of the dome, with hikers using a pair of cables to ascend and descend. The park will keep the two cables for the summit stretch.
Due to the high number of hikers on the trail, Yosemite officials have been testing the new policy to regulate the route.According to the National Park Service, hikers will be able to apply for permits through the lottery system before the season during March, with about 50 permits available two days before the day of the hike.
Cobb said the summit trail for Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States, utilizes a permit system as well, though not a lottery.
The park has been studying the Half Dome permit system since 2010 and released details of the permanent policy in January. According to the park service, the proposal received more than 1,600 comments during a 52-day public comment period.
Two separate fees are collected for the permits. The first, which is charged at the time of application, is $4.50 online or $6.50 by phone. This non-refundable fee, charged per application (not per person), is collected by Recreation.gov for the costs of processing the application.
The second fee is $8 per person and is charged when the permit is received. This fee pays for park rangers checking for Half Dome permits and providing Half Dome visitors with hiking and safety information, Cobb said.
The $8 fee is refundable for those who cancel their permit more than two days before the specified hiking date or if the cables are not up on the date the permit is valid.
For more information, and for permit registration, http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/hdpermits.htm or call 877-444-6777.