Half Dome

OutAndBack • 16 mi • 4842 ft

Half Dome is the symbol of Yosemite; its summit the goal of just about everybody who has ever donned a pair of hiking boots. It is a grueling workout, especially if you do it in one day, but if you spend the night in Little Yosemite Valley and tackle the peak first thing the second morning, you'll have a better chance of avoiding the traffic jams that sometimes build up at the base of the cables. The cables? The last 400 feet are over what feels like nearly vertical (though the angle is probably more like 45 degrees), smooth, exfoliating granite, so a series of horizontal bars about 5 feet apart, flanked by chains with which to pull yourself up are the only way to get there without technical climbing equipment. It sounds scary but is done by kids and grandmas and everybody in between. Because of its popularity, special rules for obtaining wilderness permits to climb it are in effect and are rigorously enforced
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Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Vernal Fall
Length: 16 total miles
Elevation Gain: 4,842 feet
Trail Type: Out-and-back
Skill Level: Strenuous
Duration: One long day or overnight
Season: All summer, whenever the cables are up (they are removed when the going gets icy)
Local Contacts: Yosemite National Park
Local Maps: USGS Half Dome and Yosemite Falls quads
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9/12/2010

Hiked to the top of Half dome today!!! It was an amazing experience. . . if it wasn't for my fiance I would have never made it to the top!!!

10/3/2009

What can I say??? It's Half Dome! Great trail, excellent views and very strenuous. The first time I hiked to the top, I did it during a mid-week backpacking trip and started from Little Yosemite Valley. It was PERFECT! This time, we did it in one day (on a Saturday when the cables were about to come down the next week) from the valley and it was brutal. By the time we made it to the cables, there was a line to the top like a line at Disneyland during a holiday weekend. It took over an hour to get up the cables. There were several people who were there that shouldn't have been. They would freeze and panic on the cables and have to turn around. Next time, I'm doing it mid-week like the first time. It's an awesome trail and well worth the physical anguish.

10/3/2009

Most diffiicult hike I have ever done. The cable climb is hairy, dont go on a weekend, too many people. The end result was an awesome experience

7/11/2009

Saw two bears, one deer, two large waterfalls, one California King snake and numerous chipmunks and squirrels. Kept up with the 20 somethings with the exception of the days after which it takes to restore the body. The 13 hour hike with the numerous stops and the last 800 foot cable climb to the top to take in the views have been worth the 4800 foot elevation gain and the shortness of breath at 8700 feet for the sea level adventurer.

5/23/2009

The way to do this is to leave at around 11 or midnight and get to the peak for sunrise. there really is no other way to go. i hiked it on memorial day weekend and we had the entire mountain/valley (i imagine) to ourselves on the way up. navigation is a little tricky at night, but that's to be expected. probably ideal to go with someone who has done the hike in the day or night the first time you do it. all that's needed is a day pack, 10 essentials (if that), and around 2 or 3 liters of h2o. as far as wildlife goes, we saw a rattlesnake right before quarter dome (the granite slab before the Granite Slab), a couple frogs, many millipedes, a deer, and a baby bear (back in little yosemite valley)

5/5/2009

Excellent one day intensive trek. Next time, I will spend the night at the backpackers camp to allow for more time to enjoy the scenery and waterfalls.

8/8/2008

top 5 trails ever!!! Must do for LuAnne...

7/6/2008

My 14 year old son and I did this hike. It was a fantastic experience. We completed the hike in slightly less than 10 hours and encountered a little of everything. Saw numerous deer during the ascent and also had two bear delays. (I did a great deal of reading and preparing for the hike and did not read of a single person that had a bear encounter!) I certainly recommend starting prior to daybreak. We arrived at the cables by 10:15 or so and beat the crowds. Additionally, on the descent, we used the Muir Trail which was pretty beat up. We may have been better off using the shorter Mist Trail, however we were very conscious of saving our knees. We are from coastal Alabama, so we had to travel a long way. All of our training was at sea level so we used the first day to adjust---did a good bit of hiking and exploring in the high Sierra portion of the park. As a result we had no problem with the altitude on the HD hike. Overall, this is an experience that we'll never forget. A great bonding opportunity for a father and son and a very demanding physical challenge. Well worth it!!

5/31/2008

Absolutely gorgeous views. Can be very strenuous at times. Make sure you replenish your calories and water. Above all be smart and safe, especially when you get to the cables. To many people are very careless and inconsiderate of other people by bumping them and just pushing their way through...not safe. If you want a little piece of mind, wear a rappelling harness with a strap and a couple of caribiners. You have to unhook and re-hook at every stanchion but you can stand on the 2x4 which gives good footing. Overall, one of the best hikes I have ever done.

9/28/2007

This is a life list hike if you are a Californian. Do it for the view and for the experience but not for solitude. There are lots of people up there. Also, it is a hard day hike - we started and ended in the dark. Well worth it.

5/4/2007

I read some of the other reviews of the Half Dome trail. Let me say I have hiked to the top about 12 times over the years starting from the valley (Happy Isles), Glacier Point, and Lake Tenaya via Clouds Rest (looking down on Half Dome. Always in day hikes. I have never seen a rattle snake at any time of the year nor bears on this trail. The only time I have seen bears on a trail were along the 30 mile day Hike from the valley to Merced Lake (also an incredible hike for scenery, elevation, falls, etc. If you see a snake, let it go by (very rare). If you see bear in the middle of your trail looking for bugs in a stump, make noises and throw some soft pine cones. He''ll run away fast. These are brown bears, not grizzlies. The hike is FANTASTIC! If you just jog 1 mile a night for a couple weeks prior, you''ll have plenty of stamina. I usually make it to the top (8 miles one way) in 3.5 hours. But I am in shape for this. Best recommendation: follow the Mist Trail, especially in June. On return take the John Muir with a stop to photograph Vernal Falls from several hundred feet above. If you have a film camera, bring about 3 rolls of 24 exposures. Have fun!

2/2/2007

To anyone who accepts this challenge, this trail is rated as EXTREMELY STRENOUS and for good reason. Though it is tough I highly recommend it to anyone who loves to hike. If not sure 1 day will be enough take the extra day and stay at Little Yosemite Valley, next to the river this campground has all you will need to get a good night rest for the next day including restrooms. From the trailhead it is roughly 8.5 miles plus over a 4,000 foot elevation gain and a cable climb along side and to the top of Half Dome. I fell in love with this hike and did it a total of 6 times the summer of 2005. STOP THINKING ABOUT IT AND GET UP THE MOUNTIAN!!!

7/24/2006

Don't start from Glacier Point. It is too long. The hike to Half Dome is arduous. You must prepare physically and psychologically. Two days is best. Bring lots of water and a purifier. If you try to do it in one day you may be caught after dark in the park as I was. Bring a flashlight. Wear stiff hiking shoes. Much of the terrain is loose rock and hard on the feet. Amazingly, I saw flip flops and very light foot gear. I got blistered feet wearing good shoes. Many people do not do the cables. Don't feel obligated, embarrassed or pressured to climb them if you don''t want to. You will get a fantastic hike and stunning scenery without doing the cables. There is no shame in using good sense and turning back after you reach the cables. Just getting to the cables is daunting enough. In fact, if you are acrophobic you may not want to climb the last steep access to the base of the cables. It is dizzying. Finally, be prepared for altitude sickness. It is quite common. That is another reason for doing it in two days. It gives you a day to acclimate. I am 60 years old and out of shape. Just getting to the base of the cables starting from Glacier Point took all I had in me.

6/22/2006

What a hike, We started at 6am, took our time to enjoy the amazing scenery and took lots of pictures, We took small rests but often. It is essential to start early to make it beck before dark. It was a challenging hike to say the least, but well worth it. Take drink bottles with filters, it allows you to carry less water which means less weight and gives you the chance to drink from nature's water. We took 8 hours going up, stayed there for one hour, then it took us 6 hours to get back. If you don't mind getting wet, I highly reccomend the mist trail.

5/28/2006

There were 18 in our group that started the hike, with only 8 planning on summiting Half Dome. As it turned out there were 4 of us that got to the summit. There were 4 in our group that took one look at the cables and decided that they were not prepared for that part of the hike. We found the hike to be moderately strenuous, but very doable. All of the 18 in our group are over the age of 43 with some of us in our early 60's. This is one of the easier day hikes we have done. The scenery is also some of the best. We spent a lot of time taking pictures at the waterfalls and enjoying the hike. If you are in shape, this is a 11 hour hike. Start early and have lots of film and water.

9/22/2005

This has to be one of the best hikes in California,not for the faint of heart, most would probably like to do this in two days stopping in little Yosemite valley and then going on the next day for the final climb.The views are everything you can imagine and more with huge granite everywhere you look.Our group left at 4:30 A.M. and had a little difficulty locating the start of the trail,there is some construction going on and the signs to the trail head are a little lacking.If you can scout it out in the light before hand for a better idea of the beggining.Bring plenty of water unless you have a hand pump to purify,there are plenty of areas to access water if you like.We took the steep mist trail up allthough there was very little water and no mist.Coming back we took the John Muir trail to avoid the large steep granite steps,much easyier on the knees after the long hike.Make sure you have some leather gloves if you are going to climb the cables,be prepared for the steep switchback section just prior the the shoulder area, you may want to consider a rest period before going up this section.all in all we had a great time,the view from the top of Half Dome is unbeatable.A word of caution, this is a long long day hike.Be prepared, and be in shape.Michael Reynolds

9/17/2005

I would not recommend the hike to Half Dome. I've done it twice, once 8 years ago and again last year. I was surprised to find that the trail was much more worn and crowded that my previous trip 8 years earlier. Even in September, there were a lot of people (my estimate is more than 300). One sign of the waring of the trail is the sand that has been put on the trail by the rangers (to shore up the trials) and the other is the slick rubber left on the rocks (up to Nevada Falls) and on the face of Half Dome. The rubber is from the soles of hikers shoes. No doubt the view a top Half Dome is great, but I would recommend the Four Heart Thumping Miles to Glacier Peak and the Nevada Falls Mist Trail hike. Less crowds and great views.

8/20/2005

In my experience, this is really about a 9 hour round trip hike.

7/26/2005

An Excellent overview of the trail. Great deal of explanations and wonderful maps.

6/27/2005

This is one of the best hikes I have taken in my life! Fantastic scenery, magnificent water falls, and the challenge of climbing the cables combined with unbelievable views from the summit to the valley floor 4000 feet below make this a top ten hike! Followed the directions to travel along the John Muir Trail on the way up, and then followed the Mist trail on the way down. I would highly suggest this, as it was nice to limit back tracking. We went on a Monday morning and the crowds were few. Avoid the weekends if you can because this hike will be very crowded with the planned closure this summer. If you forget to bring gloves, not to worry, there is a large cache of gloves at the base of the cables you can dig through to find some that fit.

5/12/2005

I am a veteran of the Half dome jaunt via the mist trail. It is awesome and very majestic. I used to hike it with a friend, however now I run up it for time by myself. 5.5hrs up and back from Happy Isles horse stables. You have to be on the trail head by 6:ooam to beat the crowds, or go in off season just after the snow melt, however the cables on the dome may be laid down, just hold on tight all the way up. This is a perfect challenge of endurance and trail negotiating, fruit filled hip pack, two water bottles and determination is all you need for a day. Oh yeah, and $20.

9/6/2003

The trail to Half Dome was the hike I have been on in 16 years. It was very hard for me because I am not in the best shape. After about 10 minutes into the hike I told my friend that I didn't think that I was going to make it to the top. I kept going. There were several steep climbs in this hike. The one I will not forget is the staircase up to Vernal Fall. After Vernal Fall, we hiked up to Nevada Fall. It was beautiful. You really get a good close-up of Liberty Cap. Next we hiked to Little Yosemite Valley. The hike through Little Yosemite Valley offer a small break from constant climbing. Most of it was on flat ground and some down hill. The last part of the hike took us to Half Dome. When we finally got to the stairs that go up the side of Half Dome, it was too late to make the final few hundred feet. All in all this was a great experience. I am going again October 3 of this year to do the hike again. I hope the cables will still be up!

6/28/2003

Hot weather for a great trip. There were long lines at the cables because a lot of people were afriad of heights and kept going up the cables anyway. We saw a black bear steal someone's backpack on the way back to the trailhead. Bring lots of water and a flashlight and be ready to burn lots of calories.

6/8/2003

This is a long hard 12 plus hour day, but it is doable. Start early and bring lots of water, 1.5 liters per person was not enough. Many wonderful views along the way. We had little traffic on the trail. There is one tough mile on sand. Unfortunately we did not make the last 400 feet to the summit. Too late, too tired, to chicken. We took the mist trail on the return trip which gave us a great place to cool down just before the end, and it took a mile of the return trip.

6/5/2003

One of the best day hike in the world. Better be in shape if you are going to do it in a day.

3/31/2003

Three of us woke up early in the morning when it was still dark out. By the time we packed our campsite and drove to the trailhead their was a glimmer of daylight. Somewhat of a strenuous hike. We were among the first to reach the top that day due to the early start and our quick pace. Don't forget to pack a pair of gloves for the cables section. I would rate the switchbacks as among the hardest part of the hike.

10/4/2002

This hike requires some preparation! Being in good shape is a must for this trail. It is an absolutely gorgeous hike, but it takes the vast majority of the day to get from the valley floor to the top of Half Dome. It is important to start early so you can enjoy your time on top! The last few miles are tough, but definitely worth it! You can go two ways: the Mist Trail, and the John Muir trail. The mist is almost all steps, while Muir winds all over the place. This time, I opted for John Muir because it's a bit easier on the knees. Either way will get you to the top though!

9/23/2002

This was a great last summer hike. Several stunning stopping points, Nevada Falls and subsiquant lookouts were worth the 18 miles. The last two miles are extremely stenuous.

9/4/2000

We hike this trail every other summer, as a two day pack trip. Go during the week, bacause on the weekend there is so much traffic on the cables, that it can take as a much as an hour to do that last 1/4 mile. It makes a nice two day trip, making camp in Little Yosemite Valley. Take the Mist Trail, make camp and than take a swim in the river. In the evening you can share one of the two communal camp fires and meet people from around the world. Rise early on the second day, and take the 2 mile hike to the top, which, if you get an early start, you'll have all to yourselves! You can come back down, take a last swim, grab your pack, and be on the valley floor by late afternoon. Watch for the bears though - they are agressive. You'll want to remove everything, including lotions and sunscreens. Thankfully, there are bear boxes at the campsites.

9/17/1989

Took all day to reach top of half dome , stayed too late and came down in the dark(scary), Great views .

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