One upside to the drought: Hikers eager to summit Yosemite's Half Dome will have more time to try this year. The all-important cables that allow hikers to scale the final 400-foot pitch of the granite face will be in place starting Saturday, three weeks earlier than usual.
The low snowpack in the Sierra because of the state's devastating drought also allowed Glacier Point Road to mark its earliest opening in 20 years on March 28.
For fit hikers eager to go, the extra three weeks offer a shot at getting a permit between May 2 and 22. Permits are required to hike up Half Dome, and you can't show up and get them at the park.
Each day 300 are issued: 225 to day hikers and 75 to backpackers. Hikers use the cables to complete the 14- to 16-hour day hike to the roughly 8,800-foot summit. (Check out Yosemite's hiking page for more details).
Here's how to apply for an early permit: Enter the lottery two days before you plan to go. (So if you want to hike on Saturday, you would apply Thursday). The daily lottery opens at midnight and ends at 1 p.m. the same day.
You'll be notified if you win at 6 a.m. the following day (the day before your hike, or in this case, Friday). Two days before your trip is the soonest you can apply and receive Half Dome hiking permits.
Permits for the popular hike were already given out for the season during a March lottery starting May 23.
However, the park makes 50 permits available daily under the two-day advance lottery system. (That lottery will begin May 21.)
It costs $4.50 if you book online, $6.50 if you book by phone to process your lottery application. The fee is nonrefundable and collected by booking site Recreation.gov.
If you win dates in the lottery, you'll be charged an $8 fee per person for the actual permit. That money goes to the National Park Service.
Info: www.recreation.gov or call (877) 444-6777