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permit questions

Posted: Sat May 13, 2006 5:39 pm
by billy the kid
hi all i dont know if this is the right forum to post this in but here it goes. i have been camping/hiking all my life but only resently started long distance backpacking and im wondering what kind of permits i need besides a fishing liscence. do i need a fire permit? and i read somewhere that in some parks u need a bear proof canister? any advice would be great thanks.

Posted: Sat May 13, 2006 7:00 pm
by markskor
Good questions -
There are really only two permits needed for most backpacking in our Sierra climes - maybe a third - a parking permit for the LA area, but lets stick to the first two here...we deal with the Sierra:
1) The wilderness permit - mandatory for all wilderness areas - the good news is that you can obtain these from more than one source.
You can:
a) - go online and apply - up to 6 months in advance - from the National Park service, the regional park, or the local ranger station - just do a google search for the park/area you are going to go to.
b) By mail, if you know the address of the park you intend to go to
c) Fax - the same if you have their fax number
d) Phone...ditto
The way it works (for most areas) - 60% of all the allotted wilderness permits - (they strictly ration how many people can go to a specific area or trail...too many and you can spoil the wilderness experience. How do they make up the quotas for how many people allowed... the numbers...who knows but...not our problem here) - these 60% are reserved - saved...usually a slight fee charged for the processing... $10 - $20. You contact them, they mail you back a form, or phone you, or maybe fax you if then give them a check or a credit card #... and they send you a paper which says that you have a reserved permit held for you for a specific date...pick it up before you go on the trip at a certain specified ranger station ***. This response is not the permit per se, but only a guarantee that a permit is waiting, in your name (or maybe in a second person's name too to pick up) as of a certain date. You cannot miss the date - or show up a week later - as the permit is only valid for a certain number of people and a specific length of time indicated. IE - Half Dome trail...3 people...July 4-6...entry Tenaya Lake...exit Happy Isles.
As I said before, you MUST have one of these wilderness permits in the Sierra to go backpacking... (You could try to go without one...some do...there are some hefty fines if caught though...not worth it really.) The remainder of the wilderness permits - the remaining 40% are "next day only", non-reserved, pick up at the ranger headquarters at the trailhead - or close by. These are not reserved and also include all the no-shows of those who pre-reserved 6 months in advance and never show up***.
For example, without a permit reserved, you go to Tuolumne, stop off at the wilderness permit shack, tell them you want to go to Vogelsang tomorrow, 5 days, 2 people, exit the Valley...and they issue you one right there. (I always go this way if I go solo) - I always get a permit too...but if you have a large group or are pressed for time, or need to be sure...…then I recommend the pre-reserved 60% route...your choice though. FYI, wilderness permits - the next day ones...are free!
Now about bear cans:
In most of Yosemite, Seki, and in the Whitney Zone, you must have at least one in the party, a bear can, or some other officially approved food storage method with you. These are the ungainly, heavy, black, or (now clear) tubs for keeping your food safe from bears... (Oh, Ursacks are now sanctioned too, those with the aluminum liner). These bear cans are designed for the protection of the bear - keeps them from becoming dependant on human food, reduces having to destroy a bear because he learns to like human food too much, and inadvertently comes too close to humans... It was legal once to hang food - (still works well too) - the double balance method - but as the bears learn...big problems from not doing it right...The bottom line...if you are in a bear can zone...use one...please. There are also some bear boxes placed in many heavy use areas (IE – in LYV), but do not depend on these, as they might be full or worse yet, no longer there.
There are rangers on the trail…not too many…but they are there. They have the right to stop you - anytime - and make you show them your permit and/or the bear can, anywhere…the permit and the can you must have. I would be lying if I said that they always give out the full fine in all circumstances…up to $5000, but there are stiff fines…and they can make you get up, break camp, and maybe even leave the Sierra altogether, along with the fine. Is it worth it not to comply? Permits are necessary, so are the Cans…use them always is the best advice.

2) Fishing licenses: The fine for fishing without a license in California is $750 for having a pole in the water…and $750 per fish caught, and you lose all your fishing gear too. A license cost ~$34.00. There are only few game wardens in the high country, still…is it worth it? (Ka-ching $$$)

One other thing...fires. There are specific regulations about where fires are legal...usually not above 9,600 feet in Yosemite, 10,000 feet elevation in others. Ask when you pick up your permit...the rangers will always happily tell you what is legal with building fires, rings, and other rules, as well as any other specific regulations that may also apply in the region you are going into.
Any more questions?


Posted: Sat May 13, 2006 8:39 pm
by dave54
There are still Wilderness Areas where permits are not required. These are the lesser visited ones where quotas are not yet necessary. Call or e-mail the ranger station with specific questions. There may be a self-reporting sign up station at the trailheads. The information gained is used for reporting and use analysis.

Bear canisters, although a good idea, are not yet mandatory in all areas. Lassen Volcanic NP and vicinity, for example. They may become mandatory in the future, but not yet.

Campfire permits are required during the summer months (Southern CA may be all year. I haven't hiked down there in a long time). The date the season begins varies depending on the area. As a rule of thumb, the further north the later the date. Campfire permits are free. As the summer continues to dry the level of restrictions increase. This year looks pretty wet so I would surprised if my area (Lassen) ever enters Stage II restrictions.

Posted: Sun May 14, 2006 12:13 am
by billy the kid
thanks for the help know i just need to decide where to go do u guys know any good sites to read over trips people have already taken

Posted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 2:57 am
by sierrawest
Do you have any suggestions of good backpacking trails that don't require wilderness permits and still easily accessible? Preferably ones that lead to a body of water. :)

Posted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 9:02 am
by mountainLight
While there are some places (not sure of any in the sierra) where it doesn't cost you to get a permit most still require you to have that piece of paper. For example. In Northern California, I have hiked in the trinity alps. Beautiful area that should be done by all if you have the opportunity. This lesser known area, has no fees for camping or for permits, but you still have to carry the piece of paper. I think it is more for knowing who is up there. In this case however they will mail you the piece of paper so there is no need to pick it up.

Posted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 1:15 pm
by giantbrookie
sierrawest wrote:Do you have any suggestions of good backpacking trails that don't require wilderness permits and still easily accessible? Preferably ones that lead to a body of water. :)
Permit-less backpacking in the Sierra (to good fishing lakes), this is hard to come by in the "High" Sierra but easier in the lower elevation northern part of the range. There are a good number of prime fishing lakes in the I-80 backcountry that are not in wilderness and thus do not require permits. This includes dozens of lakes in the Grouse Ridge area and points east all the way up to and over the Sierran crest (more than 50 roadless lakes with good trout). There are few south of I-80 in the Loch Leven Lakes and Cascade Lakes area. A bit further north there are dozens of lakes in the Lakes Basin area, north of Sierra Buttes that are also roadless and full of good fish. A general feature of all of these lakes is that the hikes required to reach them are short. The hike to the most remote lake in these categories (collectively well over 100 lakes) is probably no more than 5 miles (using the shortest route in).

As noted by mountainlight, some or all of the Klamath wilderness areas may not require permits. You should check, since it's been a long time since I've been up there (last time 1993 to the Marble Mtns). I know that in the 80's and 90s when I regularly visited the Marble Mtns and Russian Wilderness, both places with lots of good fishing lakes, wilderness permits were not required. In fact when I asked a ranger about a Marble Mtns. permit (circa mid 80's) he mentioned to me that they used to be required during the height of the backpacker boom in the 70s but they stopped requiring them as backcountry usage actually dropped.

Posted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 2:38 pm
by krudler
And there's always DomeLand Wilderness on the south end :)

Posted: Wed Aug 02, 2006 5:55 am
by PJ
Correct me if I'm mistaken, but I've heard that wilderness permits are not required in the Sequoia National Forest, with the exception of the Golden Trout Wilderness.

Posted: Wed Aug 02, 2006 1:44 pm
by markskor