they all require a permit.
there is a permit specifically to hike the trail up whitney. if you want to do the mountaineers route or one of the technical routes up whitney's east face (or a route on russell, carrilon, muir, or a couple other peak) you need a whitney region permit. if you want to approach it from the west you'll need a different permit, as well as a couple extra days. single day permits and multiday permits are two different quota pools.
if you want to go between about may-october you have to submit a lottery entry (already too late for 2016) or go to the ranger station and hope to get a walk-up permit for the same day (40% of the quota is reserved for walk ups). if you want to go on a popular day in peak season plan on getting there by 4 am. if you want to go mid week in early october your odds are much better. winter is self issue, no quota, but hey like people to have permits to help with rescue information.
also, right now there is construction going on on whitney portal road, so you need a parking permit, too (issued free with the hiking permit, but you can't get a parking permit without a hiking permit).>>842731>there is not a cop on this earth that will chase you up that mountain
doesn't matter. there are often rangers at the trailhead checking permits of people coming in and out. especially whitney, since it's far and away the most popular.