Hiking Mt. Whitney - any advice on how to get permits?

Eric

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Apr 16, 2023
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I decided this year would be a good year to try and hike Mt. Whitney but then learned that I just barely missed the lottery for permits. Apparently the lottery runs Feb 1 - Mar 1. I'd really like to get the day use permit and go during the prime window (late Aug/early Sep), if at all possible, to minimize the amount of snow/ice on the trail. I know that unclaimed permits are released on April 22. Has anyone had luck with this? Are there any other ideas out there for how I might go about getting a permit?

(Also cross-posted this on Reddit at: https://www.reddit.com/r/socalhikin..._mt_whitney_any_advice_on_how_to_get_permits/)
 
Location
California, United States
Looks like your post got a lot of traction on reddit, glad to hear it. From what I'm reading, it may be best to wait until the 22nd to see if any cancellations come in, then just pounce on it as soon as you can. I imagine there will be some people who don't pay enough, or end up changing their mind, so maybe you will luck out with a win here.

I've only ever hiked a few times in my life, but never hiked a mountain like Mt. Whitney. Though, I must admit, the idea of hiking it does sound like fun.

Here's hoping they have a permit opening for you soon.
 
One thing of note, I'm sure like yourself, there are many people looking to obtain said permit. I can see a lot of people flooding their systems come April 22nd, so keep that in mind. I don't know if getting this permit is in high demand, but I assume it is, and therefore I can see a swarm of people attempting to secure the permits from those who've decided to cancel their trip or can't make it.

I hope it works out for you. And if it does, make sure to document your hike with some pictures. :)
 
Looks like your post got a lot of traction on reddit, glad to hear it. From what I'm reading, it may be best to wait until the 22nd to see if any cancellations come in, then just pounce on it as soon as you can. I imagine there will be some people who don't pay enough, or end up changing their mind, so maybe you will luck out with a win here.

I know, I got a surprising amount of interaction and upvotes off that Reddit thread. The hiking community definitely has its share of avid Redditors, as it turns out.

I thought it was interesting how some of the people who replied made it seem like it's basically impossible to get permits at this point while others said pretty much the opposite. One said that the best way to get a permit is to "become an avid hiker and be extremely active in the hiking community and the permits just flow in" (not exactly an option for me right now, lol). And another said, "At this point you'll have to find a friend with empty spots on their permit or check for last minute cancellations." However, most others seemed to indicate that getting a permit is really pretty straightforward as long as you're persistent about it. I definitely need to try April 22, like you mentioned, but it sounds like monitoring recreation.gov for cancellations is also a pretty surefire way to go. As one Reddit user said, "Last year I bookmarked the permit site and made a habit about of checking regularly, didn't take long to find the date I wanted."
 
I decided this year would be a good year to try and hike Mt. Whitney but then learned that I just barely missed the lottery for permits. Apparently the lottery runs Feb 1 - Mar 1. I'd really like to get the day use permit and go during the prime window (late Aug/early Sep), if at all possible, to minimize the amount of snow/ice on the trail. I know that unclaimed permits are released on April 22. Has anyone had luck with this? Are there any other ideas out there for how I might go about getting a permit?

(Also cross-posted this on Reddit at: https://www.reddit.com/r/socalhikin..._mt_whitney_any_advice_on_how_to_get_permits/)

There's a new Mount Whitney group on Facebook that's providing automated open permit alerts which will be posted to the group as they're discovered. There's no need to be paying for a service that does this as the sms delivery can be delayed and those extra minutes will be the difference between scoring one and seeing nothing once you log in.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/whitneyelevated/
 
Thanks IceClimbers, really appreciate the info! I went ahead and signed up for that FB group (under my full name, Eric Sweeney). I'd actually subscribed to that Outdoor Status service but then canceled because I knew I still had the opportunity to get permits on April 22. They were really good about refunding me the $50 at least.

Someone on Reddit also mentioned the FB group and it definitely sounds interesting. Like I mentioned on that thread, in addition to getting permits it'd also be great if I were able to connect with a hiking group based out of San Diego. I'm trying to get a couple permits and convince a friend to go with me, but (knowing my friends as I do, lol) I think finding people on FB who are more clearly fully committed is probably the more realistic option.

For the alerts, I'm just hoping I don't have to adjust my FB settings so that I begin receiving all the other FB updates again. I disabled all the email/push notification settings years ago because I was tired of receiving FB updates. Nowadays I need to actually log into FB in order to know what's going on there - just as I prefer it to be (lol). Or maybe I just need to cull my friends list...I'll take a look my FB settings and figure something out...

BTW - I also don't know why your FB link had all the Chinese symbols. I fixed it so only the link shows and deleted your edit comment.
 
The Facebook alerts is one of the concerns right now, there's some uncertainty about the ability to turn on alerts for JUST specific groups or not, and even then, if someone posts at 3am, people could be woke up. There's some consideration about using a push notification app along with Facebook, so how it would work is people would download this generic app, "subscribe" to the Whitney alerts, and they'd be published that way too. Through this app people would be able to subscribe specifically to either overnight or single-day permit alerts. There's a bit of a mad scramble to have this ready so keep an eye on the group for an announcement.
 
The Facebook alerts is one of the concerns right now, there's some uncertainty about the ability to turn on alerts for JUST specific groups or not, and even then, if someone posts at 3am, people could be woke up. There's some consideration about using a push notification app along with Facebook, so how it would work is people would download this generic app, "subscribe" to the Whitney alerts, and they'd be published that way too. Through this app people would be able to subscribe specifically to either overnight or single-day permit alerts. There's a bit of a mad scramble to have this ready so keep an eye on the group for an announcement.

Thanks and agreed on the disadvantages of Facebook notifications. It is really unfortunate, and kind of mind-boggling, that you can't set FB alerts for specific groups. I do love this whole crowdsourcing + single-purpose app w/ push notifications approach that the Whitney Elevated group is working out. But we still have April 22 as the next opportunity for permits, right? My question is, would permit cancelations before April 22 even be available on recreation.gov right now, and therefore be fair game for the alerts you're talking about, or would those cancelations go into the pool of available unclaimed lottery permits? Does crowdsourcing/alerts even matter before April 22 or should everyone just be focused on April 22 right now and only start thinking about other strategies if that doesn't pan out?
 
Nothing will show before April 22nd for anything May 1st and beyond. It's open quota until the end of this month and then everything goes wild. There will be additional permits showing up after that point (randomly), I'm not fully convinced that just cancellations alone dictate new ones popping up. For example, people doing other trails out there, JMT included, can get permits with the "Overnight Exiting Mt. Whitney" option, if they cancel THAT permit, that possibly opens up an overnight slot for those just wanting to go up from Whitney Portal.

Permits open up all the time, it's just being persistent. You'll get yours, but yes, April 22nd is the ONLY date people should care about right now. If they don't get lucky that morning, then it's just catching the random extras that pop up for the remainder of the season.
 
Thanks. Appreciate that insight into how permits become available after April 22. Definitely makes sense that canceled permits for connected trails would have some bearing on Whitney Portal permit availabilities. I would think NPS would have awareness of how many people are actually going to be on each trail on a given day, based on all the permits issued for all the different routes, and would adjust permit availabilities accordingly.

You can be sure I'll be on recreation.gov before 7am on April 22, continually hitting refresh and ready to grab a permit.

I was gaming out the process I'm going to use to spam refresh and try to successfully hit the "book now" button. Unfortunately, I noticed that when you're on a certain date (e.g., 8/28/24 below), and then hit refresh, it takes you all the way back to today's date.

For example, say I'm starting here at 6:59am on April 22:
1713019773672.png


As I'm waiting and continually hitting refresh, I get taken back here:
1713020083575.png


So each time you hit refresh, it looks like you have to re-enter your desired date and number of group members, before you can see whether the clock's struck 7am and permits are available for the day you entered (or days within the 10-day window that's shown).

Is that pretty much how this is done? I don't suppose you have any browser/mouse/keyboard tips for refreshing and checking one's desired date as soon as possible after 7am?
 
Success!

1713831828973.png


I got on recreation.gov at 7am PT this morning and was able to grab a permit (group of 2) for 9/26. I first tried clicking and changing the date, thinking that would refresh the permit availabilities for me, but turns out that approach doesn't actually work. Instead, looks like you really do have to refresh the entire webpage to get the counts to update. After a few minutes of refresh page -> navigate from today's date to Aug/Sept and set # of group members -> repeat, I finally got through and was able to book a permit.

Now all I have to do is find someone to go with me (lol). My wife said she might be up for it but we'll see. I might also check on @IceClimbers' Mount Whitney Elevated FB group or the Mt. Whitney Permit Share group to see if anyone else from southern California has a permit for that day or might be interested in going.
 
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