Half Dome Trail

HARD 841 reviews
#3 of 208 trails in

Half Dome Trail is a 14.8 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
14.8 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
5,164 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

birding

camping

hiking

rock climbing

trail running

forest

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

rocky

scramble

no dogs

Half Dome is a serious endurance hike taking visitors 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 to having 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 elevation gain is very strenuous, starting with steep climb in the beginning to Vernal Falls, followed by another steep climb to the top of Nevada Falls. 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 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 Half Dome hike is the ascent up the cable route. The two steel 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). For Half Dome Permits visit the National Park Service website or call the Yosemite Park Ranger Station.

hiking
18 hours ago

Great hike! Take your time up to Nevada falls, things get easier at Little Yosemite Valley... Until Subdome that is. I found Subdome to be more difficult than the cables. It seems like it goes on forever.

Bring good gripping shoes and gloves for the cables! I was at the summit at approximately 9AM, stayed for 15 minutes and encountered lots of hikers on the cables on the way down.

Hiked up via mist trail and down by JMT to lessen the strain on the knees.

Amazing hike, possibly second only to the Panorama-Four mile loop.

hiking
1 day ago

Easy hike but sore muscles the day after.

rock climbing
1 day ago

Most amazing hike I’ve ever done! Be sure to get a hiking permit from the national park website. They have a park ranger at the cables making sure that if you climb to the top, that you have a permit. If you start from half dome village and go to the top of half dome and back down...it’s about 18.5 miles round trip. Prepare yourself.

Tips:
At least 3 liters of water
Harness with carabiner or some way to clip in to the cables.
Rubber gripped gloves to climb the cables
Extra socks
Gu energy as snacks
Hiking poles are not a must but a HUGE help.

Go slow and drink lots of water. And don’t quit!

hiking
3 days ago

Hike of a lifetime! Sure as hell the hardest one I've ever done, but things like this make me want to sleep in a tent the rest of my days. My buddy Huston's watch said 18 miles from our campground 5 minutes from the Mist Trail in Upper Pines. Left at 5 a.m., summited around 12:30, stayed up top for 30, then got down in about 2 hours. 4 of 6 of my party did the cables, not too bad, the stairs beforehand are worse. Just put that body on autopilot, but don't forget to look up or else you might miss it!

hiking
4 days ago

What an excellent hike and overall experience! The hard work is certainly paid off with the views at the top.

We started the day at 3:45am from Upper Pines campground. We reached the cables around 9am and the summit at 9:30. Starting early is the best advice we received as there were only a handful of people on the cables and a dozen or so at the top. Traffic on the sub-dome had picked up considerably by the time we were descending. We returned to camp at 3:15 with plenty of time for a soak in the mighty Merced River alongside camp to assist in recovery!

Start early, bring ample water and food and enjoy the hike! 55,000 steps on the pedometer for the day...

8 days ago

Bring plenty of water. Leave very early in the day. Pack light. Know that the cables are very challenging should you get that far!

10 days ago

Yosemite disappoints and this hike is no exception! We went up via the JMT and came back via the Mist Trail. Subdome and the cables are an adrenalin rush that lasts for days! love love love. ❤

10 days ago

My 13 year old daughter and I started at 5 am. It took us 11 hours and 15 minutes with about 45 minutes at the top. We didn't bring enough water and ran out at about 10 hours. It is hot coming down. If I did it again, I would start even earlier. Definitely bring gloves.

10 days ago

Great hike

backpacking
11 days ago

Best hike I’ve ever done! Going to the top was worth it. Watch your footing and don’t be afraid to get on all fours especially when hauling you and your stuff up those tiny rock trail/cliff near to the cables. Make sure you bring good boots, a lotta water, and gloves!

hiking
13 days ago

Very challenging hike with fantastic views. Take losts of water because you will need it! When I got to the top my water was almost gone even though I took a whole gallon with me. The water falls were nice and the view of the Yosemite Valley from up above was the best.

Tough hike but well worth the effort.

hiking
15 days ago

Wow. This hike was a lot harder than I expected. I went up to Half Dome through the Mist Trail and faced an amazing waterfall. My friends and I got completely soaked since there was a lot of rain that year. Also. There were so. many. stairs. Climbing up Half Dome was a different beast. I thank everyone that left their gloves at the base of the Dome because I definitely wouldn’t have been able to make it up without them. You’ll need to be somewhat fit to make the climb up that beast. Amazing experience overall and I would definitely do it again if I’m able to grab a permit.

hiking
15 days ago

They aren’t kidding when they say strenuous. But it is definitely worth it. My advice...start no later than 4:45am and BRING HIKING POLES! Things to pack...moleskin, head lamp, gloves for cables, harness for cables, water purifier, and lots of food. Lots of people do the cables without a harness and I think that’s crazy. Having a harness definitely made it feel less stressful going up and down the cables. The hike and view is so gorgeous...enjoy!

18 days ago

I did this hike years ago when you didn't need a permit and it was one if the greatest, most fulfilling things I've ever done. However, I went when I was only like, 12 years old with a YMCA overnight camp and it was also one of the most exhausting and painful experiences of my life. Even 20 years later. The payoff is absolutely worth it but they aren't kidding when they say strenuous, but I dont know if you necessarily need to be an experienced hiker. As long as you're in great shape or have the energy of a 12 year old, you'll be fine.

hiking
19 days ago

I’m 25 years old and I hiked Half Dome on June 27, 2018 with my husband, parents, 2 sisters and brother in law. I did mostly long distance running leading up to the hike with some strength training a couple days a week. A week and a half before the hike I ran a 2 hr 15 min half marathon. My husband is naturally lean and did minimal training to prepare and did well on the trail.
The first couple miles through Vernal and Nevada falls are a lot of stairs and uphill most of the way. It levels off after the two falls and gives you a nice little break as you come around behind the base of the dome. Approaching subdome the trail begins to climb as you reach the ranger at the base of subdome. Subdome is steep and exposed but take your time and save some energy for the cables. I took my time up the cables and spent 25 minutes ascending the cables. The descent took 20 minutes and I went down sideways as that felt most comfortable to me. The cables were definitely intimidating but just focus and take your time, the view is incredible. We started at Happy Isles trail head at 4:45am and started our ascent up the cables at 9:30am . We stayed at the top about 2 hours and took our time back down to the bottom. Instead of going back down the Mist Trail past the falls again we took the John Muir trail as it is a more gradual descent and was a little easier on our legs. The view that way is still stunning! We got back to the car at 5:15 pm . Coming down is tough and much more painful than going up.
Make sure to bring gloves because the once thought pile of gloves at the base is not there. Rangers discourage leaving gloves there as it hurts the wildlife. I gave my gloves to a girl who did not have any. Strongly advise bringing your own, it made me much more confident in my grip on the cables! We are also from NC and are used to the humidity. The air is dry and we got thirsty much faster (also the reason for a couple nosebleeds during the trip). We brought a mini sawyer water filter and used it twice to refill our water packs/bottles. Make sure to pack sunscreen, bug spray, lots of snacks (protein bars, nuts, trail mixes, PB crackers etc.), plenty of water, hat/sunglasses, gloves and GoPro if you have it (with 3-4 batteries). I got incredible footage throughout the hike and while climbing the cables. I got the GoPro especially for the hike and am SO glad I did.

Such an amazing sight to sit at Glacier Point and look at the massive dome. I will relive this day for the rest of my life. Yes it was very challenging both mentally and physically but it was worth every ache and pain to get up to the top. If you get the opportunity DO IT, then drive to Glacier Point and sit and stare in awe at the dome and what you accomplished while the sun sets over the valley! I would do this hike again and again if I could!

hiking
19 days ago

Amazing and strenuous hike! This is my second time hiking this trail and it was a better experience than the first time as I am more prepared. Pack light and give yourself a day to acclimate to the elevation... this will make the hike more pleasant!

hiking
20 days ago

Bring lots of water! Such an amazing hike with great views. I made it to the sub dome, but I plan to do the hike again when my upper body strength improves!

hiking
21 days ago

What to say that hasn't been said?! Just reinforcing the main points:
1. Leave early (like 05:00 AM the latest) during the summer months
2. One gallon of water minimum;
3. Save energy for the last 2 miles;
4. Hike light (don't pack much)... water, energy bars, sunscreen, gloves, cap, sunglasses, i.d. and permit are the essentials.

It's one the best hikes you'll ever do. Worth every step.

hiking
22 days ago

16.46 miles (7.5 hours) via the mist trail from happy aisles parking lot.
Started at 5:30am got to the bottom of the cables at 9:00am. (3.5 hours to top)

First 4 miles is pretty much all uphill. Once you get to the top of the second falls it’s mostly flat until you get to the bottom of the Subdome.
I took a little break to rest my legs before climbing up the cables. When I arrived at the cables (9am) there were plenty of gloves people had left, but when I came down they were all gone due to how busy the cables were. Gloves with a rubber grip are a must so I would suggesting bringing your own or getting there early.

Cables are a lot steeper in person than they look in pictures- takes a lot of upper body strength so be mentally and physically prepared! View at the top is well worth the climb!

Going back down took about 4 hours because there was a lot of opposing traffic that I pulled to the side for.

*bring bug repellant! I got a ton of mosquito bites

hiking
23 days ago

My wife, 3 daughters and 2 son in laws left Happy Isles parking lot at 4:45am. We reached the cables at 9:30am and made it to the top of Half Dome at 10:00am. We enjoyed the views for over 2 hours and started down the cables at 12:15pm. We arrived back at the parking lot at 5:15pm. I am 54 years old, 6’ and 165 lbs. My wife and I trained for this day. We hiked around our home town with backpacks and 10-15 lbs in them to get ready for this hike. I’m glad we prepared. It is a difficult, strenuous hike, but worth every single step and sore feet and muscles. We wore Merrill hiking boots and used Camelbak backpacks with water bladders. I drank 3 liters of water from the backpack and 2 -16 ounce water bottles. I ate 3 Clif 20 ounce protein bars, 3 packs of PB crackers and 1 banana during the hike. We also used a Sawyer mini water filter and used it. The pictures and memories will last a lifetime. The Park rangers were checking permits and I’m glad we had ours. The pile of gloves at the bottom of the cables are not there. I’m glad we had ours. We used the nitrile gripped kind and they worked great. When we got down from the cables, we ran into people that didn’t have gloves and we gave them ours. If you do this hike, make sure you have gloves for the cables. This is certainly a hike of a lifetime!!

hiking
23 days ago

Hiked during weekday. Left at 5 am. Steep and beautiful through the falls. Easy to subdome. I was actually more intimidated by the loose gravel on subdome than cables and half dome. Bucket list views. The return however was a traffic jungle. Literally 50+ people without permits hanging on the cables. Some asking me to help them to top as I descended. Once back to Nevada Falls, the crowd worsened. It’s steep, wet and slippery in places so care must be taken around the masses. All in all, an awesome experience.

hiking
25 days ago

Best views and a fantastic hike. 1am start time and 1pm finish.

26 days ago

Steep start, but Vernal falls and Nevada falls provide great photo-ops/excuses for rest. After that, is a mostly-flat, shady stretch that’s a bit monotonous, but a welcome break before the steep granite switchbacks. When we hiked on Saturday, 6/02/18, there was a ranger stationed at the subdome with a tablet and walkie-talkie checking permits. We hiked with our usual trekking poles (especially helpful for your knees on the pounding hike down), and tied them to our backpacks once we got to the cables. Some people left their poles at the base of the cables. There was a small pile of gloves at the base of the cables up for grabs; definitely recommend bringing a pair with good grip (gardening gloves worked well for us). The cables are definitely intimidating, but I felt safe and comfortable taking my time. Once you reach the top, there’s lots of space to roam and enjoy lunch. We lucked out with clear views of the valley. I preferred descending the cables backwards, my wife went forwards, many others did it with the help of a harness. Whatever you choose, take your time and enjoy!

27 days ago

What an epic hike. Truly a bucket list worthy adventure. We started at 0400 to make sure we got a parking spot at the trailhead parking lot near Happy Isles. We jumped on the JMT to avoid the mist from Vernal Falls since it was so early. We then cut down to the mist trail just past emerald pool. Then we proceeded to Half Dome Trail. We had a slower joker with us so there was a lot of stopping to wait. Once we reached the sub dome we showed our permit and IDs to the ranger and headed up. The sub dome was much cooler than I anticipated. If that was the end of the hike it would have made for a great day, but luckily we still had the cables. Wow! I really underestimated the cables. In the picture the cables look like a gradual incline up the curve of the dome. It starts out as that, but the middle gets quite vertical. I brought along Atlas 300 gloves I got at Ace Hardware and they were wonderful; I didn’t slip once. Reaching the top was amazing. We posed for the obligatory phot on the diving board and hung out for a while. I thought going down the cables would be challenging but it really wasn’t. On our way down we stayed on the mist trail to see the waterfalls. The whole day was an amazing experience and my favorite hike to date.

1 month ago

It's a hard hike but enjoyed every moment of it! Did this hike back in September, we were able to get the permit just a couple days before. There's even a couple bathrooms along the way which really helped because it is an all day hike. We started around 7 AM and really took our time and got back around five. It's tough, but you can't beat the views on this hike! The best hike in Yosemite!

hiking
1 month ago

Beautiful trail with so many great pay offs! We took Vernal Falls to Half Dome and returned via John Muir (.5 miles longer, but no stairs so you can go a little faster). We clocked over 18 miles per the app/Apple Watch. We brought 3.5 liters of water each, two gatorades and the sawyer mini water filter as a back up. There are lots of areas to stop for fresh water should you run out and the filter definitely came in handy! One thing to consider is that the sub dome is almost as intense, if not more so, than the cables. There are about 20 minutes of incredibly steep stairs/switchback on the side of an exposed cliff, then another 10 of free climbing the dome face with absolutely no stairs or railing. As someone who is afraid of heights, I wanted to push myself and get out of my comfort zone with a little exposure therapy. I’m glad I attempted to submit half dome, but despite lots of research I was not prepared for the exposed free climb on the sub dome, which really did me in. Hopefully I’ll make it all the way to the cables sometime! For now, I hope this review will inspire others fearful of heights to do a bit more research about the sub dome itself beforehand!

hiking
1 month ago

Long, exhausting, amazing, and so worth it!

1 month ago

Simply amazing!

1 month ago

This hike blows just about all others out of the water. Its all day so get up early. it's fairly difficult so be prepared for some exercise AND do NOT be afraid of heights! The climb up the cables to the top of Half Dome is not for the timid. Have gloves!

It's beautiful on the top. Spectacular views of the valley and great scenery on the way of course. It's freaking Yosemite!

1 month ago

Definitely a strenuous hike but was worth while. The entire trip took 10 hours, but that’s because we stayed at the top for a good 1.5 hours eating and hanging out. We started at 6am from the Mist Trail and got up in 4.5 hours. The first 2 miles to the falls is pretty uphill / steep but the next 4.5 miles to Half Dome isn’t as brutal. It took 4 hours to come back from the top, but that’s because we took a lot of long breaks. Definitely should have a light jacket for the top (didn’t use it the entire time otherwise cause you’re warm from the hike itself).

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