Half Dome Trail

Yosemite National Park, California 95389

Distance16mi
Elevation Gain4,800ft
Trailhead Elevation4,042ft
Top8,842ft
Elevation Min/Max8748/8804ft
Elevation Start/End8748/8748ft

Half Dome Trail

Half Dome Trail is a hiking trail in Mariposa County, California. It is within Yosemite National Park. It is 14 to 16 miles long out and back, depending on the route taken. The trail ends at Half Dome (elevation 8,842 feet). This trail connects with the following: The Cables and John Muir Trail.

Half Dome Trail Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Hiking Yosemite National Park (Falcon Guides)
Suzanne Swedo
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"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" Read more
100 Hikes in California's Central Sierra & Coast Range (The Mountaineers Books)
Vicky Spring & Tom Kirkendall
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"Some people hike to the summit for the view. Others go to the top just to say they did it. No matter what your reason, it is important to understand that the climb to the top is not for everyone. The final ascent of the dome requires strong arms to pull yourself up a set of near-vertical cables. The exposure is extreme. If you are not comfortable with extreme exposure, do not go." Read more
101 Hikes in Northern California: Exploring Mountains, Valleys, and Seashore (Wilderness Press)
Matt Heid
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"The Hike is an extremely strenuous, all-day affair that climbs to the summit of Half Dome from Yosemite Valley. (It is a dramatic extension of Hike 85.) The final stretch to the top is by a cable route so steep that you need to pull yourself up with both arms." Read more
Day & Section Hikes: John Muir Trail (Menasha Ridge Press)
Kathleen Dodge
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"For many, Half Dome defines the Yosemite landscape; this stunning granite monolith appears in more scrapbooks worldwide than virtually any other peak. Reigning supremely over the valley floor at 8,842 feet, its looming form is unmistakable as it beckons hikers to a lofty 360-degree panorama. On the must-do list of nearly every California hiker, this is a challenging and long journey that features rushing rivers, turbulent waterfalls, and steep granite walls. The hike first ascends past Vernal and Nevada Falls to Little Yosemite Valley, plateaus briefly, then continues rising. The last 400 feet of the climb are the most memorable, as they include the infamous Half Dome cables that carry you up the final exposed pitch. But the real prize is the jaw-dropping view once you arrive, which should help you forget nearly all the pain of this 5,000-foot ascent. Outstanding features: Vernal and Nevada falls, stupendous views of Yosemite Valley, steel cables at top (late May–mid-October; do not attempt hike if cables are down)" Read more
Top Trails Yosemite (Wilderness Press)
Jeffrey P. Schaffer & Elizabeth Wenk
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"If I as a first-time visitor were allowed to do only one day hike in the park, I would unquestionably choose this hike—the one that I most associate with Yosemite and on whose summit I’ve sat countless times admiring the surrounding landscape. On a good summer day, 300 hikers attempt this summit, this number dictated by the number of permits made available by the national park, but many turn back, either from exhaustion or from fear. Indeed, Half Dome is not for acrophobes, klutzes, those out of shape, or those who have bad knees. The hike up Half Dome’s shoulder and its cables is exposed and potentially life-threatening, especially when the rock is wet or thunderstorms threaten. Do not attempt to climb the dome’s shoulder and its cables if weather is threatening because the exposed rock becomes very slippery and a lightning strike is possible." Read more
100 Classic Hikes in Southern California (The Mountaineers Books)
Allen Riedel
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"This is a brutal point-to-point hike. There are cables to hold onto as you ascend the last 800 feet to the top of Half Dome. These cables are mind-blowing. They ascend the last 800 feet nearly vertically. Most people are exhausted by the time they reach the base of Half Dome, which makes clambering up a daunting task." Read more
Backpacking California: Mountain, Foothill, Coastal, & Desert Adventures in the Golden State (Wilderness Press)
Author varies by trail
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"Half Dome may be the Sierra’s most popular backcountry summit. It’s no wonder that it attracts hikers worldwide. Where else do hikers use cables to hike/climb up to a summit? Additionally, this semiloop trip treats you to a close-up of two spectacular waterfalls, Vernal and Nevada. By camping in Little Yosemite Valley, you have a head start on the hordes of dayhikers, who typically impact the cables and crowd the summit in early and midafternoon." Read more
One Best Hike: Yosemite's Half Dome (Wilderness Press)
Rick Deutsch
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"Rise early and get organized—it helps to lay out your gear the night before. Use your checklist to make sure you don’ t forget anything. Have your breakfast and be on the trail by 6 a.m. A good goal is to arrive at the cables by 11 a.m. to avoid the crowds. An early start will allow you to make this an easy hike at your own pace, resting as you go along. Keep in mind this is a fun hike—not a death march! Remember, your pull up the cables will be much easier if you can zip right up, rather than inching up in traffic." Read more
Backpacker The National Parks Coast to Coast (Falcon Guides)
Ted Alvarez
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"Climb 4,800 feet on this classic route to the top of the park’s most iconic peak towering above the valley floor. This is it, people: The most famous chunk of rock in the country and possibly the world. The iconic symbol of Yosemite grandeur, Half Dome just begs to be climbed. The 7-mile route to this granite landmark starts on the crowded Mist Trail, but only 300 people per day are allowed to summit Half Dome (when the cables are up; apply for a permit early). Visitors endure fatigue, altitude sickness, and dehydration in their determination to stand atop Half Dome’s broad 8,836-foot-high crown. Steel cables bolted into the granite assist climbers up the final 400 vertical feet, but the combination of high, open rock and metal fixtures makes this a lousy place to get caught in a thunder-storm." Read more

Half Dome Trail Reviews

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11/28/2018
I did this hike over 50 years ago and it remains one of my fondest memories of Yosemite. Started in the dark and got back to the valley floor in the dark. Incredible day!
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10/27/2018
This June 4th hike was the culmination of a Sequoia, King's Canyon and Yosemite hiking trip. The two days before this hike were spent doing Clouds Rest and upper Yosemite Falls. I saved the best for last. 8-1/2 hours. There were no rangers checking for permits, so a few of us had a bit of fun stopping hikers and asking for permits and identification, before telling it was just a joke. Some people complain about the permit process, but having done this hike 3 times before the permit process, it is a solid decision on the part of the park. The chains would always be jammed up by folks who had no place being there (so many turn arounds). Instead of wall to wall people at the top and not inconsiderable trash.
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8/6/2017
I only wish everyone could feel the exhilaration of climbing to the top of Half Dome. We took the long way around via Snow Creek Trail, up the side of North Dome through Clouds Rest, and on to Half Dome. When we arrived at the bottom of the dome where the cables begin the line of people waiting to go up was quite long, so we debated about attempting an ascent. Suddenly clouds moved overhead and within minutes it began to rain. At that point the hikers began to scramble off the dome seeking shelter from the rain and lightning. The smooth granite of Half Dome becomes slick when it rains so everyone in line began to turn around to head back down the steep trail. The rain continued long enough such that every hiker hiked back down off the rock and down into the forest below, except for we three stooges. After an hour the sun came back out in all of its brilliance and dried the rock dome. The difficult cable section was now empty so we had the entire dome to ourselves. Going up the cable section is tough to say the least, especially for those of us challenged with short arms & legs, so not having to wait for others while hanging off of cables on a near vertical granite face was a blessing. Once we made it to the top of Half Dome the scene was perfect, puffy clouds and rain falling in the distance, complete double rainbows glistening over the dome, and best of all the top of Half Dome void of people. The beams of sunlight were spectacular as the sun was dropping to the west and the sought after feeling of conquering a long time goal had finally come to fruition. As we reveled in our accomplishment and revered the incredible vistas we suddenly noticed two rock climbers emerging up over the face of Half Dome. An impressive feat for sure, they seemed as exhilarated as we were. I had long heard about the crowds at Half Dome so I new we were very fortunate to have had this popular wilderness experience in near solitude. It was an experience I will always treasure!
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7/25/2012
What a great hike. You get scenery change, a challenge and views of the valley and high country. Leave early in summer heat, defined by headlamp necessity!!
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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!!!
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7/7/2010
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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.
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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
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9/12/2009
It was amazing! I don't think I even can find the words to explain this awesome park.
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9/6/2009
Took off at 2:45am. Could hear the water running, but couldn't see anything. Got to the summit in 4hrs. Very hard, but well worth it. Amazed at the beauty of the area once the sun came up.
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Trail Information

Yosemite National Park
Nearby City
Yosemite National Park
Parks
Moderate to Difficult
Skill Level
10-14
Duration
Camping
Additional Use
Wildflowers, Waterfalls, Views
Features
Yosemite National Park
Local Contacts
Tom Harrison Yosemite Valley map (1:24,000 scale), the National Geographic Trails Illustrated #306 Yosemite SW map (1:40,000 scale), and the USGS 7.5-minute series Half Dome map (1:24,000 scale).
Local Maps