Half Dome Trail

HARD 635 reviews
#2 of 165 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).

1 day ago

BEST DAY OF MY LIFE! Absolute MUST do. I'm gonna be honest the way down the cables terrified me and this was probably personally the hardest thing I've endured as a hiker. That said, highly recommend and I would do it again a thousand times over.

hiking
7 days ago

Seeing Yosemite via Half Dome Hike was an amazing experience. I've been to Yosemite a few times but seeing it up-close and personal was awe inspiring!!! Pics and videos will not capture it's true grandeur and beauty! This is a must do hike.

Everyone's experience with Half Dome is unique to the challenges they face accomplishing the feat of climbing it whether physical or mental. But the choice has to be made by you alone. There is no wrong or right decision. You're life is literally in your hands when you climb the cables. From what I read, there has been a total of 60 deaths on this hike. Take your time and be safe.

Check out our video.

https://youtu.be/RP5ky0aqUrQ

Or YouTube search: Camfamfun

hiking
7 days ago

Amazing hike! I suggest you bring gloves with a lot of grip for the cables and extra water. I run out of water by the time I reached the top of the cables and it was a cold day. I'm glad I started the hike at 4:30am as we avoided the crowd on the cables on our way up. However, we bumped into the crowd in our way down. Bring a head light if you start hiking at night. It was very cold (less than 30 degrees) when we started the hike. Don't quit and make it to the top....you can do it :)

hiking
8 days ago

What can I say? It’s Half Dome. Incredible-a challenge physically, mentally and spiritually. Yes the cables definitely make this more then just a hike. In addition to gloves I also recommend a harness for added safety. Subdome is ‘no walk in the park’ especially when the granite stairs end and you have the scramble up the granite. The hike also offers two incredible waterfalls (Vernal and Nevada) and a nice flat part in little Yosemite Valley.

9 days ago

Good

10 days ago

Just did it for the third time, and it never gets old. Fantastic hike--I went by myself this time, so I did it much faster (8a-3p). A must-visit if you go to Yosemite, just be sure to bring plenty of water, and gloves for the cables if you'd like to scale the Half Dome portion at the summit. Make sure you get pictures!

hiking
11 days ago

Unbelievable, Definitely an amazing hike and well worth it

hiking
11 days ago

Absolutely incredible hike. Started at 530am and back at 520pm. GPS clocked at 19 miles from the parking lot and with all the walking at the summit. This hike is the stair master from hell. You have to be able to hike many many many stairs on this trail. Your quads will not take it. Subdome ascension almost got me to quit. Bucketlist yes but many months of prep to accomplish this hike.

hiking
13 days ago

hiking
14 days ago

14 days ago

Half Dome 2.0! This is my second time doing half dome. Mount Whitney is next!!!!! 落

hiking
14 days ago

Guys. I can't believe I hiked Half Dome! I won a coveted permit via the lottery on recreation.gov way back in February I think it was (before they switched the permit system). On Monday, September 18th, the day finally arrived: Myself and three others were going to hike HALF DOME! We camped at Upper Pines Campground the night before and woke up at 2:30am to start hiking at 3am. There were a few reasons for this: 1. We're crazy 2. I really had to be back in LA by Monday evening 3. Two of my group members had previously hiked Half Dome and I felt confident hiking in the day with their guidance.

So yes, we started hiking in the dark and were not able to see the elevation gain accompanied by Vernal and Nevada Falls. No big deal though; we took the Mist Trail down and were able to see the waterfalls in the daylight while descending and killing our knees. Anyways, we reached Sub Dome right as the sun was rising. It - was - INCREDIBLE! An excellent break before those gosh-darn-cables.

We came prepared with our own gloves - rubber palms work best, not leather - but boy I could not have prepared myself for what I was about to do. Looking at those cables from Sub Dome... I nearly had a panic attack. But I did not hike all that way for nothing - I was going to keep going. I'm glad I did, because they don't look nearly as bad standing at the base of the cables. I had a GREAT support system that encouraged me and I got up those cables in about 15 minutes or so. Personally, I would not allow myself to be THAT person that "freezes" on the cables.

I must say, climbing the cables at 8am was a fantastic experience because we did not have to deal with traffic from others. Coming down the cables was the exact same way - no other people to maneuver around. We only stayed on the top long enough to eat a quick brunch (it was only like 8:30, lol) and take some pictures. I wish descending via the Mist Trail would've been less crowded but wow the sheer number of people coming up was overwhelming. Definitely try to get an early start if you can.

We were back at the campsite by 12/1pm so we were able to get out of there in time for the next night's arrivals. Overall, Half Dome was incredible. A bucket list item, for sure. The views from the top - even among the smoke from the forest fires - were breathtaking. Highly recommend this hike but note, it's not for the faint of heart aka those with even a little fear of heights!

hiking
14 days ago

15 days ago

15 days ago

hiking
15 days ago

15 days ago

Pretty brutal, but unbelievably worth it! Pack extra water, and then extra water beyond that! Also gloves if you’re doing the cables. On the cable note: make sure everything you have is thoroughly in your pack/tethered to it. I saw people lose a water bottle, GoPro, and cell phone all before I had even started the ascent

hiking
15 days ago

16 days ago

Awesome trail and huge payoff at the end. Top of half dome is everything you'd think it should be.

Climbing the cables is very physically demanding, I'm in pretty good shape and was exhausted by the time I made it to the top.

Stick in there and keep pushing, you'll be so proud that you did!

hiking
16 days ago