California opens lottery to hike Mount Whitney – SFGATE
This spring, experienced hikers might score the chance to cross the tallest mountain in California (and the lower 48 states) off their bucket list. The Mount Whitney lottery opened on Feb. 1 for the 2023 season, and the competition will likely be fierce.
The window to hike Whitney is from May 1 to Nov. 1. Before entering the lottery, you’ll need to create an account on Recreation.gov.
The Mount Whitney Trail starts in the Inyo National Forest at Whitney Portal, 8,300 feet above sea level. The trail gains over 6,200 feet of elevation before reaching the summit in Sequoia National Park at the southern end of the John Muir Trail. In 2021, Recreation.gov fielded 25,005 applications requesting trips for 108,576 people, but only 28% won the chance to reserve a slot.
Even if you’re lucky enough to get a date, the summit success rate is less than 50% every year, according to park officials.
The 22-mile round-trip hike on the Whitney trail can take up to 14 hours, and in extreme cases, it has proved fatal. In the past year, four hikers died attempting the summit. Park officials say the reason is usually that they didn’t bring the right equipment for the trek. Snow and ice are expected on the path between November and April, so it’s essential to choose your dates wisely if you’re not equipped to handle such severe weather.
To enter the lottery, prospective hikers need to submit only one application for their group. Day-use permits grant hikers access from midnight to midnight the next day, while overnight permits grant access for multiple days.
The application deadline is March 1, and the winners will be revealed on March 15. Lottery winners must then confirm their dates and pay the reservation fee of $15 per person.