It’s official, we got our permits!
But it wasn’t easy…
This year saw some of the highest rejection rates in history. 2016 was the first year that Yosemite National Park enforced a new limitation of 45 permits per day for JMT hikers. That, combined with the growing popularity of the trail, led to a permit application rejection rate of up to 97%! (Click here for more information on the JMT permit quota.)
Needless to say, the application process was stressful! In a previous post, we broke down the application process and our initial plan in detail. To summarize, we started applying only for the three most popular trailheads – the two Happy Isles options (representing the “classic” JMT starting point), as well as Glacier Point, which meets up with the JMT only 3 miles down the trail from Happy Isles.
We submitted three applications a day, one with each of us listed as Group Leader, with a different trailhead as our #1 choice. We applied this way for two weeks with no good news. Brenda used her position as a night shift nurse to the group’s benefit, and faxed each application at 1 am mountain time/midnight pacific time, the earliest time possible to apply daily. Every afternoon, we would eagerly check our emails for yesterdays’ application results, only to have our hopes crushed yet again.
Part of our strategy was to shoot for the popular trailheads first, and then expand to other alternatives if we didn’t have luck with our first round of applications. After two weeks of rejections, we modified our applications to include the Sunrise Lakes and Lyell Canyon trailheads. These two trailheads start slightly further down the trail (12 and 20 miles, respectively), making them slightly less popular – but in a twist, also have more permits available per day, making them easier to obtain.
We sent our new applications in at 12:01 am as usual… but this time, Eric woke up to a different email!
We did it!!! After two weeks, almost 40 applications, and on our first try with the new trailheads, we secured our permits for the JMT!
Our permit’s entry trailhead is Lyell Canyon, located in the beautiful Tuolumne Meadows section of Yosemite National Park. This trailhead meets up with the JMT about 20 miles downtrail from the traditional Happy Isles starting point. From here, it is only roughly 12 miles to Donahue Pass, the exit point from Yosemite into the Ansel Adams Wilderness.
Starting here would give us an easy first day of hiking, since it is all fairly level until the pass. However, we still don’t want to miss out on the first 20 miles of the JMT through Yosemite Valley, past major landmarks such as Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, Half Dome, and Cathedral Lakes…
So! Our new plan is to try and obtain a walk-up overnight hiking permit from Happy Isles to Lyell Canyon, and spend two days hiking the first section of the JMT on this permit before picking up our JMT permit at Tuolumne Meadows. If we can’t get an overnight permit for within the park, we will spend a couple of days day hiking around the park, to get as much of a full experience as we can.
No matter how we end up exploring Yosemite prior to starting our JMT hike at Lyell Canyon, we know that we have a magnificent adventure in store for us! Though the application process was crazy and stressful, we would do it all again for the chance to be part of the lucky 3% (can you believe that?!) of applicants who secure a permit to hike this incredible trail. Now the clock is finally ticking… August 6th, here we come!!!