Half Dome Trail is a 15.6 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Yosemite National Park, CA that features a waterfall and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking, rock climbing, camping, and birding and is accessible from April until October.
Half Dome is a serious endurance hike taking you 4800 feet above the Yosemite Valley to spectacular views of Vernal and Nevada Falls, Liberty Cap, Half Dome, and panoramic views of Yosemite Valley and the High Sierra. Preparation and safety are key and you'll have a fantastic experience. This is a hike that requires you to be in shape. Most take 10 to 12 hours to hike to Half Dome and back depending on the routes up and down. Plan to leave around sunrise (or earlier) and then have a non-negotiable turn-around time. The trail is fairly well marked but make sure you watch for all trail signs as you can miss them. The 4800 feet of elevation gain is very strenuous, starting with steep climb in the beginning to Vernal Falls (1.5m, 2.4km), followed by another steep climb to the top of Nevada Falls (3.4m, 5.5km). After the second waterfall, there is about 1 mile of fairly level hiking until you reach Little Yosemite Campground, followed by steep switchbacks through the forest. At about 7 miles (11.2km) you will reach a break in the trees, with a beautiful view of the side of Half dome with the valley below. After some steep switchbacks carved like stairs into the rock, you will reach Half Dome with only 400 feet to go. These last 400 feet are the most challenging, but also the most rewarding (although you may not realize it until you are comfortably back on the valley floor). The famous part of the hike is the ascent up the cables. The two metal cables allow hikers to climb the last 400 feet to the summit without rock climbing equipment. The cables are around a 45-55 degree grade, with wooden supports every 10 to 20 feet to rest and maintain your balance. Using gloves is highly recommended to get a better grip and avoid painful blisters (there is usually a large pile of gloves at the base that you can borrow for the climb up, but you might want to bring your own just in case). Be sure to tightly secure your water bottles and cameras for the climb up, because you will want them once at the top. The Half Dome cables usually go up the Friday before Memorial Day (conditions permitting) and come down the day after Columbus Day. Compared to the hike up, the return journey flies by and before you know it you will be back at the top of Nevada falls. You have 2 options here: the Mist Trail, which is how you came up is about 3.4 miles (5.5km), or the John Muir Trail for a slight change of scenery (about 0.5 miles further). The waterfalls suddenly seem much more pleasant as you hike down compared to earlier uphill climb, and it's hard to hold back a smile as you reach the Vernal Falls bridge where you can refill your water (there are also facilities here). About 30 minutes later you are back at the trail head where you can catch a free shuttle to your car or anywhere else in the valley (there is a concession stand near the bus stop where you can buy cold drinks and ice cream). More info here: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/halfdome.htm
I hiked to summit of Half Dome July 3 2015 there was a really bad thunderstorm and the night before right up until I left at 5:am which was great because the falls were roaring. I had a permit to do the cables and there were two forest rangers checking permits at the base of subdome. By the time I peaked Subdome I was spent but seeing the cables and the summit of Half Dome it seems like that ignited me to shoot up the Dome. From my tent at camp curry I tracked 20 miles and calculated about 6000 feet cumulative elevation gain. As I reached my tent I took my last gulp of water, I burned through 5 liters. If you are packing in your water you can take 3 liters, fill up at the drinking fountain about 1 mile in and hit it again as you are coming out. I took the falls trail up and the John Muir trail down. Very tough day hike but one of my favorite.
It was an awesome hike. It gets strenuous as you go near to the half dome. Me with my friends did it on November 19th 2016 when cables were down. The half dome rail-climbing got difficult due to chilly wind. But, we did it, yo! Keep hydrated with electrolytes! Hike safe.
My husband and I did this hike in August. We started at 1am and I have to tell you that was the best decision ever. The trails are well worn and marked so a headlamp and small flashlight were just fine. It was so nice not having the sun zap your energy! Bring lots of water or some kind of pump/filter system. We went up Mist trail and leaving that early, couldn't really see Vernal Falls (except via moon light) but it made me take in the sound of it! Amazing. After Vernal Falls you go thru a pass by Nevada. Can I mention the thousands of steps you will go up? My husband and I marveled at the time and craftsmanship that went into making this trail. While you cite those steps, think about those men who build this trail for you! Once you get to the top you'll have a small reprieve in the flat sand section. It's about a mile and preps you for the uphill forest section. Once you feel like you get to the top BIG BAD Subdome comes into view. You literally think "I have to climb THAT?" The bottom of Subdome is where the ranger will check your permits. Don't chance it!! They check everyone going up and down. My husband and I got to the top of Subdome to watch the sunrise. Another bonus of starting early!! We enjoyed the view and gathered our mental marbles for the cables. Let me tell you: I stalked IG photos and YouTube videos for months to prep for what the cables would be like. I knew where every ledge was and cable connection was. But NOTHING video or picture could really capture the steepness of the accent. Wow! I almost chickened out. Being that early my husband and I had the cables completely alone. No traffic jam, no passing anyone; it was perfect. Also, bring your own gloves!! The cables hurt even with gloves. There is known to be a small "hand me down" pile at the base of the cables, but when I went the wind had blown them to far over the edge to retrieve them. Lastly, doing back down the cables: Go backward! Body facing the wall. Gravity will want to tumble you backwards. Step back, slide your hands, step back, and slide. Going down was easier! Enjoy!!!!! And get and early start! You'll thank me :)
This hike is challenging, but you don't need to be a health goddess to be able to do it (although being in shape will really make this hike less exhausting.) If you want to train in advance, I would say your best bet is walking/running up stairs and hills. Make sure to bring gloves for the cables and hydrate beforehand. Water is SO important. To reduce backpack weight you can hike up to the top of Nevada Falls and refill and filter water there. I break this hike up into roughly five parts in my head:
-Mist trail up to Vernal Falls and Nevada falls: this part has a ton of stairs and is pretty difficult. Views off the waterfalls and the spray and the trail itself is so gorgeous.
-Meadow area after Nevada falls: This part is where the trail flattens and follows the Merced. It's a good rest after the mist trail. This is where I fill up my water.
-Huge long forested uphill walking: OW. It's beautiful but train!! your!! thighs!! and!! calves!! This part felt like the longest section of the hike.
-Subdome: Basically a ton of switchbacks with amazing views every time you stop to look behind you.
Cables: For me, the cables were a little scary at times, but if you remain calm and cooperate with the people around you it can be a fun experience. Physically, the cables are tiring, but the queue of people stops moving every few feet so you can rest. Tip! On the way down, walking down the cables backwards helps so much (even if it seems scarier at first.)
If you don't want to do it all in one go, camp at little Yosemite valley. I'd recommend taking the John Muir trail on the way down because it's less steep and easier on the joints.
Oh hard so hard. And yet so fulfilling. Be ready to be wowed but also be ready to be pushed to your limits. Once you manage the 5+ miles of relentless elevation gain, you'll witness heart wrenching views of the subdome. And if you have as much a crippling fear of heights as I do, then climbing those chains will take every last physical and mental strength fiber you have in your body. Just know that besides the views, the euphoria of success at the end is worth every tired step you'll take.
Did this hike in one shot. Started at 5:30am. We bypassed the Mist Trail since we have done it multiple times and went through the John Muir. Also, to conserve energy. It adds two miles to the trip but it is faster. The satellite dome before half dome is all steps and is more difficult than the actual cable climb. I recommend good shoes with grip when climbing the cables and also some good gloves. At the cables it is all purely arm and grip strength. I found that going down using one cable with body weight against the cable was very easy. It got a little busy on the way down I just went underneath the cable and walked down the side where there is no wood planks but still holding cables. All worth it!
Cut your toenails
Hydrate 48 hours in advance
Eat a high carb dinner the night before
Take an extra pair of socks
Get an early start
Thrilling day hike! The ascend up the subdome was the most difficult part of the hike for me. The cables, not as intimidating as I expected. Upper body strength is what will get you to the top. Coming down them was a bit more difficult for me. Overall, great hike with a rewarding view halfway through.
Make sure to have a headlamp and/or flashlight. You will either start the hike in the dark or end it in the dark.
There are a lot of bees on the trail. I was stung by two. We also saw a scorpion on the trail as we were finishing up.
I am glad I was able to hike Half Dome! I went backpacking so I do not know how difficult it is to complete in one day.
The second most difficult one day trail I've ever done but absolutely the most rewarding. Definitely one of the best views in the world from the top. One of those truly epic hikes. Only downside is I did it at 58 and I'm not sure I'll ever do it again... Four years later I'd have to train more than a little before doing it again.
Great adventure hike with various views, forests, and falls to keep you entertained on the 5000ft journey up. The hike is challenging in intensity and duration. Make sure you have gloves and some upper body/grip strength for the cables. They take longer than you expect to ascend/descend.
To limit frustration either start in the morning darkness or plan to end in the evening darkness. This way you can avoid the congestion on the cables. The experience is much better when you can go at your pace and enjoy the views along the way. Also, refill your water at the river halfway up and down.
Ideally, next time I will get a wilderness permit and camp in the Little Yosemite Valley, before hiking up Half Dome early in the morning. Make sure to get your permits either in March, or in the daily lottery 48 hours in advance of the hike. Took us 3 tries to get the permits in the daily lottery.
Amazing hike from start to finish! Plan ahead and start your hike early. Glad they instituted the lottery system to limit hikers to Half Dome to 400 a day. We camped in the valley and headed out around 5:45 AM the 20th of July, 2016. Took Mist Trail up that morning and JMT on return trip which added 1 1/2 miles to the hike but will worth the views!
BTW - I'm 64 !
Awesome hike! We elected to go up via the Mist Trail and return via the JMT to save some wear and tear on our knees. Having only been to Yosemite once before, and only having time to hike Yosemite Falls last year, we previewed the Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall during the day this time to see what we'd be in for when we started early in the AM before dawn. We started at 4:00 AM and took our time enjoying the trek - stopping at Little Yosemite on the way up and back to filter water. The weather was a perfect 79 degrees and virtually clear skies. We can't wait to go back and do this one again - the hike was long but rewarding and completely worth the effort. The cable route was not crowded, and people were very nice - considering our lives depended on it. The granite beneath the cables is a bit slippery, so be prepared and wear good shoes. Bring gloves for the cables. I was behind a fellow wearing worn out, unlaced Vans, and he struggled almost violently to the top. His descent was no prettier. Start early to avoid "tourists" walking the whopping .8 miles from the bus stop to the Vernal Fall footbridge for their selfies to prove they were there. Next time we hope to land wilderness permits and camp in Little Yosemite and summit Half Dome and Clouds Rest from there.
Hiked this three days ago, calves still on fire!
Start early, enjoy the scenery, and take your time on the way back down. The cables are intimidating, but I think the real danger to this hike are the steep, exposed, rocky staircases along the way.
You won't regret this hike. Bring a pump for water in Yosemite flats. Wear hiking or trail shoes, don't try to be a hero.
Will do it again!