Half Dome Trail

HARD 528 reviews
#2 of 157 trails in

Half Dome Trail is a 15.6 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Mariposa, California that features a waterfall and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until October.

DISTANCE
15.6 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
5652 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

birding

camping

hiking

rock climbing

trail running

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).

hiking
18 hours ago

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1 day ago

1 day ago

The best

3 days ago

hiking
3 days ago

hiking
5 days ago

hiking
5 days ago

Amazing hike. Trained for this all summer and felt it was easier than people made it out to be. Mist trail section was steep, and quarter dome to the saddle was also steep but the rest of the trail was long but pretty mellow. The cables were as difficult and terrifying (for those afraid of heights) as everyone made them out to be but totally worth it.

5 days ago

Amazing sunrise!

hiking
6 days ago

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7 days ago

hiking
7 days ago

Amazing!!!

hiking
8 days ago

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8 days ago

hiking
8 days ago

An amazing hike! My group went up at around 5:30 and reached the sub dome by about 11:00. We took our time and enjoyed the views. Traffic was moderate.

Bring tons of water. I personally brought 4L and that wasn't enough. Luckily we brought a filter and replenished at the river when we ran low.

Also bring a good amount of food. You'll burn through about 5-6k calories and need to refuel along the way.

All in all, it was an unforgettable hike. I really wished I was a lot more physically prepared though. My legs are killing me right now. Unlike a lot of people on this hike, I have a reaaallly bad fear of heights and made it about 3/4 up the subdome before turning back. I really want to get to the top next time though, so I'm going again next year.

hiking
9 days ago

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10 days ago

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11 days ago

11 days ago

Was the first major hike I have Done , and I've ended up doing this hike three times ! Once at night, and it's worth it every single time , pushes your limits and pays off in the end ! The cables aren't as bad as they look either ! Enjoy!

hiking
12 days ago

12 days ago

Bring lots of water. Took 8 water bottles for myself, still needed more. Bring gloves too. Consider bringing hiking poles if your joints in your knees and ankles give you trouble on descents. Gl and have fun :D