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Re: A Simpler and Better Way to Distribute Half Dome Permits (a modest proposal)

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avatar A Simpler and Better Way to Distribute Half Dome Permits (a modest proposal)
May 06, 2011 02:38PM
I think the current system of distributing Half Dome hiking permits is severely flawed. It's a perfect environment to encourage scalping since most ordinary people don't plan so far ahead to try to get ahold of a Half Dome permit the first day they become available on recreation.gov, and even those that do have trouble competing with scalpers and their more sophisticated methods of obtaining the permits via the web.

So here's a modest proposal for a more simpler, fairer, and effective method of passing out the permits for next year:

Distribute Half Dome permits on a first-come, first-serve method at one location, the Yosemite Valley Wilderness Center, starting at 12:00 noon one day before the day of the permit. The Half Dome permits will then be distributed until they all gone for the following day.

In other words, if you want to hike Half Dome on Saturday, you'll need to line-up at the Wilderness Center before 12:00 Noon on Friday. Want to hike it on Sunday, then get in line on Saturday.

This will eliminated all the scalping of the permits being done on Craig's List and EBay. It will also minimize the number of no-shows, and you won't need a computer to have a chance in obtaining them.

The only major downside to this method is that you won't be able to hike Half Dome if you are visiting the park just for a single day. But that's probably a good thing too, since it will force most Half-Dome hikers to get acclimated to the altitude for at least one extra day.
I don't know how much acclimatization can be done at 3997'. How about a tiered system where they give out some permits online and the rest you can get by waiting in line the day before?
400 permits a day at say one minute each to process equals nearly seven hours. If two minutes each then nearly 14 hours. Granted there would most likely be more than one permit sought by each person in line but it would also more likely take longer than two minutes to process each permit. The logistics make it look like a non-starter.



Old Dude
Really?

How long should it take to personally hand out permits?

A simple way to distribute them quickly would be to hand out the Half Dome permit applications to those waiting in line after the Wilderness Center opens at 8:00 AM each day. So while the people are waiting in line to get their Half Dome permits starting at 12:00 Noon, they can have their permit application filled out including how many Half Dome permits they need. Then starting at 12:00 Noon, the hikers start handing over to the one or two rangers working at the Wilderness Center their Half Dome permit application, and the rangers hand them over the number of permits that they requested.

Typical Scenario:

Ranger: "How many Half Dome permits do you need?"
Hiker: "Two" (The hiker gives the ranger the permit application)
Ranger: "Here they are" (The ranger hands over two permits to the hiker after quickly checking the application to verify it was filled out correctly)

Total time elapsed:15 to 20 seconds.

So let say on average, each person requests two permits, and that there are two rangers working at the desk at what would become the 12:00 Noon rush for Half Dome permits. That means on average about 12 to 16 permits would be handed out every minute starting at 12 noon, so if there was a constant line for the permits, the 400 Half Dome permits given out per day would be distributed in about 25 to 35 minutes. Very doable in my opinion. (And even if there was only one ranger working the desk, the time would be about 50 to 70 minutes to distribute all the Half Dome permits each day.)
avatar Re: A Simpler and Better Way to Distribute Half Dome Permits (a modest proposal)
May 07, 2011 02:50PM
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mrcondron
400 permits a day at say one minute each to process equals nearly seven hours

Vending machines?
The problem with any permit line are the folks who don't just ask for a permit but tie up the line with a gazillion questions totally oblivious of those waiting. I see this at the wilderness permit offices and it makes me crazy.
avatar Re: A Simpler and Better Way to Distribute Half Dome Permits (a modest proposal)
May 08, 2011 02:45PM
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tomdisco
The problem with any permit line are the folks who don't just ask for a permit but tie up the line with a gazillion questions totally oblivious of those waiting.

The entrance stations also have that problem. I find myself wanting an express lane at times.
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tomdisco
The problem with any permit line are the folks who don't just ask for a permit but tie up the line with a gazillion questions totally oblivious of those waiting. I see this at the wilderness permit offices and it makes me crazy.

That's the worst. I'm sure most of you, like I can, can quote the regulations in the Ranger's speech when getting a permit verbatim. There's nothing wrong with a couple of clarification questions, but when you overhear "Why do I need a bear canister?" 15 minutes into a permit conversation, you can't help but get frustrated.
avatar Re: A Simpler and Better Way to Distribute Half Dome Permits (a modest proposal)
May 08, 2011 09:12PM
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oakroscoe
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tomdisco
The problem with any permit line are the folks who don't just ask for a permit but tie up the line with a gazillion questions totally oblivious of those waiting. I see this at the wilderness permit offices and it makes me crazy.

That's the worst. I'm sure most of you, like I can, can quote the regulations in the Ranger's speech when getting a permit verbatim. There's nothing wrong with a couple of clarification questions, but when you overhear "Why do I need a bear canister?" 15 minutes into a permit conversation, you can't help but get frustrated.

Solution for that: http://www.ske-art.com/skestuff9/B000LF652Q
Ok, I'm gonna guess this is an exceptionally unpopular viewpoint, and I must preface it by disclosing the fact that I'm a backpacker and you couldn't pay me to stay in a campground, but why isn't the Park selling these camping spots/Half Dome permits for the price the scalpers are? Obviously the demand is there, and people are willing to pay it, so why shouldn't the Park service get that money and reinvest it in upkeep, the facilities and salaries. Before you call me out, I would have no problem paying for permits for trailheads or paying for an annual access pass to head out from the trailheads on top of the Annual Access Pass to just get into the park. And if that money went to trail upkeep, I would be a happy man.

The Park Service could throw the campsites up on ebay or stubhub and use the money instead of letting the scalpers make all the profit.
Simply put: because the enjoyment of our national parks needs to be accessible to everyone, including people with very limited means. It's bad enough that there really is no longer decent "affordable" lodging inside Yosemite, but to let the campsites be reserved only to the highest bidders would make Yosemite what those who first proposed that Yosemite Valley be set aside in 1864, feared -- a place where only the wealthy would only be able to fully enjoy.

Yosemite generates enough revenue due to its popularity and its $20 entrance fee. The Park Service doesn't need to generate more revenue for the upkeep of Yosemite. There are other National Parks that are in more dire need of funding than Yosemite.
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plawrence
It's bad enough that there really is no longer decent "affordable" lodging inside Yosemite

When did "affordable lodging stop"? Correct me if I'm wrong, but an "America the Beautiful" national park pass is only $80. So for me, spending 40 nights in the backcountry, that's only $2 a night for lodging. It doesn't get much more affordable than that, and I guarantee that I have slept in some very "decent" spots.

Oh and simply put (to use your term), when does enjoying a place include lodging? Plenty of people are able to enjoy Yosemite for $20 a carload and have a great day trip. But if you want to stay a night there, why shouldn't it be up to the highest bidder for the most desirable spot in the Valley?


And to your point about the other Parks in more dire financial straights, that's exactly why Yosemite should charge more. Its the National Park Service, not the Yosemite Park Service, money made at Yosemite can go to plenty of other National Parks.
Why should only the wealthy be able to enjoy Yosemite to the fullest by being able to afford overnight camping or other accommodations? And by lodging, I don't mean camping -- I mean lodging -- motel rooms, cabins, etc. Again, Yosemite was set aside in a public trust so everyone, not just outdoor types who know how to camp, or the wealthy who can afford high-priced lodging, could enjoy its wonders. And not just for the day, but to be able to wake-up to its grandeur in the morning. It was meant to be accessible to everyone, not just the elite and wealthy.
avatar Re: A Simpler and Better Way to Distribute Half Dome Permits (a modest proposal)
May 08, 2011 10:52PM
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plawrence
Why should only the wealthy be able to enjoy Yosemite to the fullest by being able to afford overnight camping or other accommodations? And by lodging, I don't mean camping -- I mean lodging -- motel rooms, cabins, etc. Again, Yosemite was set aside in a public trust so everyone, not just outdoor types who know how to camp, or the wealthy who can afford high-priced lodging, could enjoy its wonders. And not just for the day, but to be able to wake-up to its grandeur in the morning. It was meant to be accessible to everyone, not just the elite and wealthy.

You know... you're right. Let's pave the valley floor and make it one big parking lot. That way everyone can come here. We'll cut down all the trees and use the wood for campfires.
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Dave
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plawrence
Why should only the wealthy be able to enjoy Yosemite to the fullest by being able to afford overnight camping or other accommodations? And by lodging, I don't mean camping -- I mean lodging -- motel rooms, cabins, etc. Again, Yosemite was set aside in a public trust so everyone, not just outdoor types who know how to camp, or the wealthy who can afford high-priced lodging, could enjoy its wonders. And not just for the day, but to be able to wake-up to its grandeur in the morning. It was meant to be accessible to everyone, not just the elite and wealthy.

You know... you're right. Let's pave the valley floor and make it one big parking lot. That way everyone can come here. We'll cut down all the trees and use the wood for campfires.

Huh? I don't understand you're logic.

Since the price of lodging inside Yosemite is regulated by the federal government, the only thing necessary to make the lodging inside Yosemite more affordable would be for the government board that sets the price of the lodging inside Yosemite to develop some backbone and say no to the yearly price increase requests sought by Yosemite's park concessionaire, the Delaware North Corporation, and instead rollback the price of the lodging, especially the price of staying at Curry Village which is supposed to be the economical lodging accommodations for Yosemite. It's not about building more and more hotel/motel rooms and cabins inside the valley. Sheesh.
avatar Re: A Simpler and Better Way to Distribute Half Dome Permits (a modest proposal)
May 09, 2011 08:17AM
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plawrence
Huh? I don't understand you're logic.
It was a response to the false claim that only the rich get to stay in Yosemite.

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Since the price of lodging inside Yosemite is regulated by the federal government, the only thing necessary to make the lodging inside Yosemite more affordable would be for the government board that sets the price of the lodging inside Yosemite to develop some backbone and say no to the yearly price increase requests sought by Yosemite's park concessionaire, the Delaware North Corporation, and instead rollback the price of the lodging, especially the price of staying at Curry Village which is supposed to be the economical lodging accommodations for Yosemite. It's not about building more and more hotel/motel rooms and cabins inside the valley. Sheesh.
Oh, sorry. I didn't know you were on that "committee" or were privy to what they do and how they do it. Who said Curry Village was supposed to be "economical"?
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Dave
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plawrence
Huh? I don't understand you're logic.

It was a response to the false claim that only the rich get to stay in Yosemite.


An interesting response, I must admit. Especially since I was responding to the hypothetical situation proposed by Oakroscoe where the price of the campsites (or campsites reservations) would be increased substantially so it could generate move revenue for the Park Service.


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Dave
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Since the price of lodging inside Yosemite is regulated by the federal government, the only thing necessary to make the lodging inside Yosemite more affordable would be for the government board that sets the price of the lodging inside Yosemite to develop some backbone and say no to the yearly price increase requests sought by Yosemite's park concessionaire, the Delaware North Corporation, and instead rollback the price of the lodging, especially the price of staying at Curry Village which is supposed to be the economical lodging accommodations for Yosemite. It's not about building more and more hotel/motel rooms and cabins inside the valley. Sheesh.

Oh, sorry. I didn't know you were on that "committee" or were privy to what they do and how they do it. Who said Curry Village was supposed to be "economical"?

The Park Service did in its Yosemite General Management Plan (GMP) and reiterated it in its Yosemite Vallley Plan. In the Yosemite GMP, the first Curry Village Vistor Use Goal stated is for Curry Villiage to "Provide several types of accommodations, primarily in the low-cost range". I would think that "low-cost range" means economical. I'm a bit silly in that regard.

And the Yosemite Valley Plan states: "Of the 487 lodging units at Curry Village, 174 would be rustic, 288 would be economy units..."

Any more questions?
avatar Re: A Simpler and Better Way to Distribute Half Dome Permits (a modest proposal)
May 09, 2011 12:09PM
If you are going to be consistent with Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal", wouldn't the solution involve eating the scalpers?



The cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument, not the suppression of ideas.
-- Carl Sagan
avatar Re: A Simpler and Better Way to Distribute Half Dome Permits (a modest proposal)
May 09, 2011 03:13PM
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plawrence
Any more questions?
Yes Were you on this "board"? Are you privy to what went on? How else could you say they have "no backbone"? That's all I'm questioning; your assumptions.
avatar Re: A Simpler and Better Way to Distribute Half Dome Permits (a modest proposal)
May 09, 2011 10:20PM
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oakroscoe
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plawrence
It's bad enough that there really is no longer decent "affordable" lodging inside Yosemite

When did "affordable lodging stop"? Correct me if I'm wrong, but an "America the Beautiful" national park pass is only $80. So for me, spending 40 nights in the backcountry, that's only $2 a night for lodging. It doesn't get much more affordable than that, and I guarantee that I have slept in some very "decent" spots.

It can be cheaper than that. There are the senior and access passes - lifetime for $10 and free.

If all you visit is Yosemite, the Yosemite Pass is $40 for an entire year. If you don't throw in enough visits to other federal fee sites, then it makes a lot of sense. I also believe that if you get the Yosemite-only annual pass, most of the fees go to Yosemite - I'm thinking the same percentage as standard entrance fees. If you get the full annual pass at an NPS site, that goes back to the NPS, which redistributes that back to individual units. I heard the same (back to the agency) goes if you buy at a BLM or FS site.
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tomdisco
The problem with any permit line are the folks who don't just ask for a permit but tie up the line with a gazillion questions totally oblivious of those waiting. I see this at the wilderness permit offices and it makes me crazy.

That's why I proposed that the Half Dome permits would be given out starting at 12:00 Noon.

The Wilderness Center opens usually at 8:00 AM daily. Those with questions regarding Half Dome can ask the staff at the Wilderness Center their questions between 8:00 AM and 12:00 Noon. Then once the staff starts passing out the Half Dome permits at 12:00 noon, if someone has any question that requires more than a short answer, they can be politely told to come back after 2:00 PM or 3:00 PM (after the Half Dome permits have been all distributed) or to just walk over to the Visitor Center where the rangers at the Visitor Center's information counter would be able to answer their questions.
Boy, I was JUST ABOUT to chime in with the very same comment .. till I got to your post; how true ... how true ... I've waited 30 minutes behind a guy at the TM wilderness office one time ... he wanted to discuss evvvvvvvvverything ....
Uh-oh ... don't have us re-live the whole "dimpled chad" ... and "pregnant chad" fiasco

no, those were voting machines ... not vending machines ,,,

hahaha
What about the people that travel long distances planning to stand on Half Dome? If they can't reserve a permit, they could end up unable to get a permit when they arrive.
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traildad
What about the people that travel long distances planning to stand on Half Dome? If they can't reserve a permit, they could end up unable to get a permit when they arrive.

Same with wilderness permits. You go somewhere else! Plenty of other rocks to climb this trip. Try again next time.

Someday it will be as streamlined as Whitney permits.
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AlmostThere
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traildad
What about the people that travel long distances planning to stand on Half Dome? If they can't reserve a permit, they could end up unable to get a permit when they arrive.

Same with wilderness permits. You go somewhere else! Plenty of other rocks to climb this trip. Try again next time.

Exactly. It's not like summiting Half Dome is the only thing to do at Yosemite. But more importantly, if climbing Half Dome is truly that important of a goal for one's trip to Yosemite, with a bit of advance research they should be able to figure out how early they'll need to arrive at the Wilderness Center to get a Half Dome Permit. I'm pretty sure, even on a weekend if the person arrived at the Wilderness Center at, let's say, 5:00 AM in the morning, they would stand a very good chance I would think of landing one of the 400 Half Dome permits that would be distributed that day.
They can go stand on North Dome instead.
avatar Re: A Simpler and Better Way to Distribute Half Dome Permits (a modest proposal)
May 09, 2011 09:13PM
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itchbay
They can go stand on North Dome instead.

North Dome, South Dome...what's the difference? Grinning Devil
Well, I was thinking the hike up to North Dome from the valley is probably on par with difficulty to Half Dome. And they can get a really nice view of North Dome from there.





Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/09/2011 10:02PM by itchbay.
Actually the view of North Dome from on top of North Dome kinda sucks. winking smiley
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plawrence
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AlmostThere
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traildad
What about the people that travel long distances planning to stand on Half Dome? If they can't reserve a permit, they could end up unable to get a permit when they arrive.

Same with wilderness permits. You go somewhere else! Plenty of other rocks to climb this trip. Try again next time.

Exactly. It's not like summiting Half Dome is the only thing to do at Yosemite. But more importantly, if climbing Half Dome is truly that important of a goal for one's trip to Yosemite, with a bit of advance research they should be able to figure out how early they'll need to arrive at the Wilderness Center to get a Half Dome Permit. I'm pretty sure, even on a weekend if the person arrived at the Wilderness Center at, let's say, 5:00 AM in the morning, they would stand a very good chance I would think of landing one of the 400 Half Dome permits that would be distributed that day.

With a bit of advance work they can also get a reservation in advance. I would not want to fly in from Europe in the hopes of getting my permit.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/09/2011 10:15PM by traildad.
Not exactly on topic, but...

found this one on saturday after not reaching the top. boo. still loooots of snow up there. we turned around at the base of the subdome. the last 1.5 miles to that point were covered in snow. I sunk down to the waist at one point. Halfdome is definitely an impressive rock, and not to be taken lightly. There were people going to the top on Saturday, but they were cursing the snow. My wife and I enjoyed a frigid picnic up there and began the long hike back down to curry village. We'll be back for the virtual closer to the top! thanks for the fun virtual cache!

Half Dome Virtual Geocache
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AlmostThere
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traildad
What about the people that travel long distances planning to stand on Half Dome? If they can't reserve a permit, they could end up unable to get a permit when they arrive.

Same with wilderness permits. You go somewhere else! Plenty of other rocks to climb this trip. Try again next time.

Someday it will be as streamlined as Whitney permits.

I agree I think. With wilderness permits, you can reserve them. Go anyway and hope to get a same day if you want. At least you have a choice of going the reservation route or just hoping.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/09/2011 10:14PM by traildad.
ELIMINATE the computer system.

Computer system are breeding grounds for hackers wanting to make profit.


- Create an automated phone system.
- Two permits per person allowed.
- One credit card and a corresponding driver license ID#, with the name that should match the credit card name.


PROBLEM freckin solved.
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plawrence
Distribute Half Dome permits on a first-come, first-serve method at one location, the Yosemite Valley Wilderness Center, starting at 12:00 noon one day before the day of the permit. The Half Dome permits will then be distributed until they all gone for the following day.

Wouldn't this favor the people who have the means -- time and/or money -- to spend the night in Yosemite? It seems that limiting the opportunity for passses to people who are physically present in the Valley, rather than people with access to the internet, would favor locals over everyone else too.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/09/2011 12:48PM by bbb.
It would indeed favor those who staying overnight close by, though not necessarily inside of the park itself. I think visitors who have overnight accommodations in Mariposa or even Oakhurst should feasibly be able to arrive at the Yosemite Valley Wilderness Center in time to secure a place in line that would enable them to procure the coveted Half Dome hiking permit. One more reason why I suggested a 12:00 noon start for the distribution of the permits (and not an earlier one like at 8:00 AM when the Wilderness Center usually opens).

As I stated in my original post, the vistors to Yosemite who would probably be most negatively impacted by this proposal are those visitors who only planned on visiting Yosemite for just one day.
What about just making it so that one person/email address/physical address can only reserve a finite number of campsites and permits?

Also, I don't see why they wouldn't have a certain percentage of permits/reservation as walk-up. It wouldn't have to be a huge number requiring a lot of staff to handle, but enough so that people who can't plan their lives six months in advance at least still have a shot at getting a FCFS permit/reservation.

Personally, I have very little interest in hiking Half Dome, although my interest has gone up as the possibility of having to stand in line to do so goes down.

And as for charging more for campsites, they're already charging more than we pay at state parks were we camp. $20 a night is a fair amount, IMO. Asking that they keep the valley accessible doesn't necessarily mean we want it paved with campsites. That's a false choice fallacy. In the real world, there are more subtle ways of making decisions.
avatar Re: A Simpler and Better Way to Distribute Half Dome Permits (a modest proposal)
May 09, 2011 03:58PM
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itchbay
What about just making it so that one person/email address/physical address can only reserve a finite number of campsites and permits?

The scalpers probably have that covered already.
True. I don't know anyone who doesn't have several different email addresses.

And they probably have several different computers set up so they can log in multiple times to get so many at one time on opening day.

Selfish people suck.
avatar Re: A Simpler and Better Way to Distribute Half Dome Permits (a modest proposal)
May 09, 2011 07:07PM
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itchbay
And they probably have several different computers set up so they can log in multiple times to get so many at one time on opening day.

They're probably using networks of zombie'd windoze machines. Makes them hard to trace.
avatar Re: A Simpler and Better Way to Distribute Half Dome Permits (a modest proposal)
May 09, 2011 07:12PM
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itchbay
What about just making it so that one person/email address/physical address can only reserve a finite number of campsites and permits?
That's probably what they are working on.

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Also, I don't see why they wouldn't have a certain percentage of permits/reservation as walk-up. It wouldn't have to be a huge number requiring a lot of staff to handle, but enough so that people who can't plan their lives six months in advance at least still have a shot at getting a FCFS permit/reservation.
There are many "first come first served" campsites. Camp 4 is all fcfs, I think. Most, if not all, of the others are not in the Valley though. There is also a waiting list for those that come without a reservation.
True. I don't know off-hand how many sites are available in Camp 4. I guess I'm thinking about how half the sites in TM are FCFS, but not necessarily that many. But then again, I wonder how many people wouldn't come if they couldn't have a guaranteed camp spot in the valley?
avatar Re: A Simpler and Better Way to Distribute Half Dome Permits (a modest proposal)
May 09, 2011 08:16PM
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itchbay
True. I don't know off-hand how many sites are available in Camp 4. I guess I'm thinking about how half the sites in TM are FCFS, but not necessarily that many. But then again, I wonder how many people wouldn't come if they couldn't have a guaranteed camp spot in the valley?

35 sites with 6 people assigned to each site. It's definitely less than the reservable campsites in the Valley, but it's almost always full in the summer and there's no such thing as a no-show leading to an unused space. I doubt the other campgrounds fill up with their maximums (6 per standard site).

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/camp4.htm
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