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How difficult is it to get Permits for Inyo backcountry?

PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 10:38 am
by enzian
Hi--I'm new here, but not to backpacking. I hiked the whole JMT in my youth and would like to return for a short stretch to celebrate my 65th B-day with family---probably a group of 6. I am familiar with the backcountry permit procedure for national parks (Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Rainier), but not with forest service/wilderness areas like the John Muir Wilderness.

I'm thinking of a 4 to 5-night trip using Kearsarge Pass for access. I've read the regulations and printed out the form for Inyo NF, but am wondering how much competition there is for the permits if I apply 6 months in advance by fax?

Also, how is the 6 months calculated? If we want to start on, say, August 10, do I send the request on February 10? If I'm off by a day do they reject it? Also, if I include alternate dates, can they be AFTER that date, say August 11, 12, 13, etc.? These dates would be more than 6 months away so I assume not. But permits for preceding dates (August 7, 8, 9) might already be gone, no?

I'm mainly trying to get a feel for how much competition there is for the permits 6 months ahead, and what our chances are. My experience with Grand Canyon has been about 50% during rim to rim hiking season; better at other times. For Yosemite backcountry permits we've usually had success if we applied on the opening date. Is it similar for wildernes areas? I understand that Onion Valley is a very popular trailhead.

Thanks for your help!

Re: How difficult is it to get Permits for Inyo backcountry?

PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 11:14 am
by East Side Hiker
This far in advance shouldn't be a problem. Even the week you apply shouldn't be a problem if you have to wait a day or two.

You can always get a permit for "the season," passing through. Get one for Walker Pass or New Army Pass, and get on the trail.

Re: How difficult is it to get Permits for Inyo backcountry?

PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 12:45 pm
by enzian
Thanks. We are specifically interested in Kearsarge pass, but it sounds like the competition for permits isn't all that keen? I wondered because my sons tried to get a permit for a one-week trip last summer, applied two months in advance, and got shut out. I thought maybe they all get snapped up on the day the permits are available.

Re: How difficult is it to get Permits for Inyo backcountry?

PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 2:47 pm
by East Side Hiker
The competition may be harsh, but they don't give out all the permits by mail or email.

You just have to be patient, or find another inlet to the mtns. The permits aren't like a speeding ticket. You are not required to adhere to the specifics, you can deviate.

You should be able to get your permit for Kearsarge now. Negotiate the exact day you want to start. Go in from Baxter.

Re: How difficult is it to get Permits for Inyo backcountry?

PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 2:53 pm
by rlown
enzian,

If you want the exact date and the scoop, just call them. They are friendly. Earlier is better.

Re: How difficult is it to get Permits for Inyo backcountry?

PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 6:10 pm
by Mike M.
Getting permits is easy. Go to the Inyo National Forest website and download the application form, then fill it out and submit it by FAX. The rules do not allow you to apply for a permit more than six months ahead of time. The website shows the quotas for each trailhead and there is also a page that shows which days are full (at least in terms of advanced reservations); beware that this page may not be entirely accurate -- two years ago, they experienced problems maintaining this page and the data available to consumers was woefully out of date.

Kearsarge has one of the biggest daily quotas, so you should not have a problem securing a permit for that pass.

Re: How difficult is it to get Permits for Inyo backcountry?

PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2011 1:14 pm
by richlong8
I see they changed the rules for 2011. It used to be that you could not start applying for reserved permits until March 1st, but now that restriction has been removed, and you can apply anytime 6 months in advance. Yes, you do need to apply 6 months from the entry date, ..that has been my experience, they will let you know by phone if you are too early. They are easy to get permits from by phone until May-June, then they get busier. I agree with Rlown, the earlier the better. Kearsage is one of the most popular, along with Bishop Pass. You will find that the weekend entry dates, especially the holiday weekends will fill fast for Kearsage compared to other spots. For what its worth-hope it helps....