This is the first part of my Fastpacking the John Muir Trail Planning series. It'll cover the intricacies and complications of planning for this trip and share some of my own experiences while working my way through this endeavor. I will split this series up into 5 parts (Permits, Training, Gear, Food, & Mileage) The first part, Permits, will cover the permit application and acceptance process and what you have to do to get one.
The permit process may seem a bit confusing but I hope to make it a little bit easier to understand.
First of all, you are not applying for a permit you are reserving one until you get to Yosemite. The National Park Service website actually explains this process pretty thoroughly, but even after reading through it you might still have a few questions and I hope to answer them. So follow these steps and you'll be on your way.
1.) Read this about wilderness permits.
2.) Then read this information sheet about Yosemit permit reservation.
3.) Fill out this reservation form.
-Happy Isles is the official JMT starting trailhead, any other trailheads are not official however they start very near Happy Isles so you are virtually beginning there. Tuolumne Meadows is a starting trailhead 25 miles into the JMT. So choose Happy Isles (or a trailhead near), because Tuolumne Meadows is more of a fallback. The areas after the arrow are simply for Yosemite's direction of travel and picking any of those just gives you more chances. The picture above shows my choices when I applied for my reservation.
4.) Check which trailheads are full here.
5.) You should send in your reservation form 24 weeks (168 days) in advance of your starting date. To calculate that date go here. To send in the form fax it (preferred), mail, or call it in. See here for an explanation of how to send it. You must fax it in (if you choose that option) the day before the date listed here. They explain the fax process on the website here.
-One of the things they don't tell you is that the permit office gets many, many forms sent in daily so when your fax machine is trying to get through it will most likely say busy multiple times (it personally took me from 5 o'clock in the evening to around 9:30 in the morning the next day to finally get through at 9:30). So just keep on trying you'll get through!
And thats about it, so follow these steps and good luck!