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Half Dome Trail

HARD 351 reviews
#2 of 144 trails in

Half Dome Trail is a 15.6 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Yosemite National Park, California 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 best used from April until October.

15.6 miles 5652 feet Out & Back

birding

camping

hiking

rock climbing

forest

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

no dogs

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

2 hours ago

Sweet

4 days ago

hiking
5 days ago

My longest day hike so far. Did this in 2007. Took me almost 13 hours. went with friends, and we spent lot of time taking pictures for the first few hours. Coming down from Nevada falls via Mist trail was a bad idea. Painful for knees. If I go next time, I'd do this at 2 day trip, camping first night at little yosemite valley.

hiking
13 days ago

One on my favorite hikes ever. Did it by myself and without permit (I don't suggest this), but I was able to go up without any issues. Very strenuous hike and be careful with amount of water you take. Even on a colder day it will require a lot of water.

hiking
14 days ago

Easily one of the best experiences of my life. What an incredible adventure. I went with a group of guys on 8-27-16. We rented a cabin, and had planned to wake up super early and be at the trail by 7am...which is even later than most people recommend. So around 10am we began Haha. The first mile to the bottom of Vernal fall is a lot of incline. Then it's hundreds of steps upward to the top. Then you make your way up and around to Nevada Fall. This is already pretty tiring. 4 miles in and we were all feeling the elevation difference, compared to Southern California. There's a bit of level ground, through the valley, which is a welcome change. Then you get to the more woodsy area, and you begin climbing again. It feels like a long time, but it's absolutely stunning. When you reach the base of the mountain, before Half Dome, you have to climb thousands of steps...this is by far, the hardest part. Once you finish the death steps, you reach the base of Half Dome. Of course, we didn't bring gloves, but there are a large pile of gloves that others have left behind (You should bring your own, you don't want to risk not having any and cutting up your hands). To ascend Half Dome, you need to climb up using cables and 2x4's. A lot of people freak out with fear and you have to wait, or go around them (both up and down...there's only one set of cables...but keep in mind, if you lose your grip or footing, you're most likely going to fall to your death...it's happened) But when you finally get to the top, the views are incredible! It's unbelievable, when you look all the way down at where you started, and feel that sense of accomplishment while sitting on the "diving board" 8,000+ feet high. So, I didn't prepare and ran out of water before reaching the top of Half Dome. My friends were nearly out too....but we all pitched in and shared with each other. You MUST bring at least 4L of water...if not more. And plenty of food to provide enough fuel for your journey. This is a true test of endurance. You need to be in pretty good shape and preferably have hiking experience. Bring some comfortable hiking shoes, extra pairs of socks to change out when your feet start to bother you and you might feel dumb, but trekking poles REALLY help. We hung out on Half Dome for about 45 mins. When heading down, we went on the outside of the cables to pass a handful of terrified hikers. After reaching the bottom of death steps, our legs felt like noodles. We started getting pains in our legs, I think because of lack of water (There isn't another water station after Vernal, and we didn't have anything to sterilize the river water). We got back to the bottom after sunset. The whole hike was around 17 miles and took 10 hours. Learn from us dummies and be more prepared! You need a permit to climb the cables (although, we weren't able to get any, but by chance nobody was there checking). Take a friend or 2 or 3. This hike is most DEFINITELY worth it.

hiking
19 days ago

hiking
24 days ago

hiking
29 days ago

Hi everyone,

I'm new to this place and single. I want to do the half dome trail. Are there any meetups or groups planing for this.

Please suggest.

Regarsd,
Priyatham

hiking
1 month ago

Intense and long trail to complete in a day. Some incredible scenery along the way, but also some dull stretches.

hiking
1 month ago

hiking
2 months ago

2 months ago

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.

hiking
2 months ago

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.

3 months ago

hiking
3 months ago

3 months ago

3 months ago

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 :)

hiking
4 months ago