Help! I didn’t get a SoBo permit for the JMT

Haven’t got a SoBo permit in the lottery? Still really keen to get yourself out there this year?

Well, don’t worry – there are a few other options for you!

I didn’t get a SoBo permit
You shall go to the ball!

1) Northbound

I met quite a few people who had gone for a NoBo permit after missing out on the SoBo lottery. I think it’s a good option, particularly if you are really restricted in terms of when you can hike. You will need to apply through Recreation.gov. Search for ‘Inyo National Forest Wilderness Permits’ and work through the steps.

NoBo hikers generally begin from the Cottonwood Pass Trail or Cottonwood Lakes trailheads, camping at Horseshoe meadow the night before. You can reach Horseshoe Meadow by car or private shuttle from Lone Pine.

2) Starting outside of Yosemite

If you have an extra couple of days to play with, you could consider applying for a permit leaving from the Chiquito Pass or Quart Mountain trailheads. There are a lot of permits available and they are not covered by the exit quota. A friend who I met on the trail began at Chiquito Pass and joined up with the JMT at the end of his day two (my day one), camping at Little Yosemite Valley. He was a big fan of this option as he was able to get his permit a year in advance, allowing for more planning time. The only downside is that the trailheads can’t be reached by public transport, so you’d need someone to drop you off.

Didn’t get a SoBo permit
Be like this guy; start at Chiquito Pass

To get a permit you can apply through Bass Lake Ranger District – 559-877-2218.

3) ‘Walk Up’ permits

The ‘walk-ups’ available from the Lyell Canyon trailhead weren’t an option for me as I wouldn’t have felt comfortable coming from so far away without a permit reservation. However, if you have time to play with and nerves of steel, you could give this a go. I didn’t meet anyone with a ‘walk up’ permit so I’m not sure what the process is like, although I’ve read about very long ques and people sleeping out for multiple evenings.

Aside from very unlikely last-minute cancellations no other walk in permits are available at other Yosemite trailheads.

4) Permit voodoo

There are some more – increasingly complicated – options that you can look at. I haven’t included them as they involve things like getting two permits, walking to Tuolomne in a day, or doing loops back on yourself.

If you want to look into these options in more detail check out the Raymond E Rippel e-book, ‘Planning your thru-hike of the John Muir Trail’.

JMT sobo permit
Permit wizardry with Raymond

Whatever you decide to do, good luck!

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