Number of permits for Yosemite’s Half Dome could be cut

The number of permits available on a daily basis for Yosemite‘s popular Half Dome hike could be reduced in number starting next year – if a National Park Service proposal goes into effect. The move could be made in an effort to make the hike up the iconic mountain less crowded, and therefore safer, following the death of a hiker this past summer who fell while descending on the steep slopes.

The Half Dome hike is amongst the more popular attractions in Yosemite, despite its strenuous and daunting nature. The trail to the summit is 8 miles in length and wanders up the side of the massive rock slab, requiring hikers to use metal cables to help stabilize them both on the way up and down. It can be a treacherous walk, particularly if bad weather sets in, and traffic jams, like those seen in the photo to the right, are not uncommon along the way.

Last year, the Park Service began requiring a permit for the hike, limiting the number of people on the trail to just 400 per day. That was way down from the 1200 that it would sometimes see on busier days before the permit system went into effect. Under the new proposal, which is currently open for public comment, the number of permits issued would be reduced to 300, cutting crowds even further.

Cutting back on the number of people on Half Dome will have the added benefit of helping to protect the environment there as well. Large crowds can have a adverse effect on any ecosystem, and by reducing the number of visitors, the region is more likely to stay protected and viable for future hikers to enjoy as well.

We’ll have to wait and see if the number of permits available does indeed get cut for 2013, but it almost seems like a foregone conclusion at this point. All around, I think it’s a good move, although travelers will have to plan further ahead if they hope to hike Half Dome.