Half Dome Trail

HARD 694 reviews
#2 of 203 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
5164 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.

1 day ago

Hermosas vistas de las caídas de agua y de los imponentes bloques de piedra del half dome y de los cercanos. Me tocó mucho hielo en el ascenso por mist trail a Vernada falls la verdad muy peligroso, opté por regresar y seguir por John Muir trail !
Me faltaron un kilometro y medio estimo para la base del half dome, era llegar a tiempo o bien disfrutar sacando hermosas fotos, y esto último fue lo que hice
Muy bueno para tail running mi garmin marco exacto 30 kmts y 1560+
Altamente recomendable

12 days ago

I've done this hike many times since I was 15. It's always a fun hike but now it sucks that you must have a permit. It used to be a beautiful hike with a lot of scenery and lots of water and water falls now there's minimal water which is sad. Still pretty and enjoyable for those who never been there. Hardest part might be the cables at the top. The whole trail there is maintained and easy with moderate hills here and there. A lot of ppl like to start at 5am but we always leave at 9am and return by 6pm with plenty of time to enjoy the whole hike. Bring snacks, food and water if you've never done this long of a hike before. There's restrooms at little Yosemite and there's a guard at the entrance of the trail there checking permits so make sure you have them or you won't be able to continue. There's shaded parts along the trail which makes it nice during summer.

hiking
17 days ago

One of the hardest hikes I've done in my life, and worth every moment. Wow!

hiking
1 month ago

Hands down my favorite hike I’ve ever had. If you haven’t you should.

hiking
1 month ago

By far my favorite hike I have done. Went when the cables were down and we had the entire summit to ourselves. Car to summit was about 9 to 10 miles (we climbed out to waterfalls, walked around the summit, and did some general exploring along the hike). The views are breath taking and second to none. Would highly recommend this hike to anyone!

Check out and follow Instagram.com/gregszymbor for photos and other hikes!

hiking
1 month ago

Scored in the lottery and then had a conflict come up so returned those lottery permits back which gave us good karma as we then scored in the daily lottery for an alternate date. Super fun, super rewarding hike. Didn't even realize how many miles we hiked until we looked at our Apple Watches - time seemed to pass by quickly. The same advice as anyone: bring lots of water and snacks, stay on trail. wear proper shoes and sunscreen. I'm not going to lie, the cables were harder than I had thought. I had an awesome hiking partner that encouraged me to take breaks when needed even on the cables and to catch my breath and that was exactly what I needed. No need to rush - listen to your body especially on the cables. Take breaks and encourage others to do so as well. Everyone on the cables with us were great - we were all taking breaks and motivating each other. It's hard...there are a couple of steps up you have to do while on the cables and for me who is shorter, that was the hardest part of the whole hike...but like I said, breath and be smart and take your time and you will be fine. We started the hike just before 6am and parked right by the trailhead/falls. It was so amazing being in the park while still cool out and no one around. Hiking Vernal and Nevada Falls at that time was so peaceful and breathtaking. We didn't need any layers in July - just wore a tank top and shorts the whole way...no poles either. The switchbacks were fine - just like any other hiking switchbacks you encounter. The sub-dome was harder as you are exposed to the sun and tired, but super duper pretty. I took so many photos. Just make sure you eat and drink up before the sub dome but pee ahead of time as you don't wanna get to the top of Half Dome and have to pee - not going to work up there. Then the cables - you see them and you're like "HOLY SHIT" - put on your gloves, drink up, and just do it! It's incredible experience that only a handful of people get to do. Don't rush it...breathe, be smart and you will be fine. Encourage those around you - you guys are all so awesome and at that moment, you are doing something super cool. Go down backwards, high five everyone, look up and say "Hell yeah, we did it!" Then head down for some beers! We did the John Muir Trail down and clocked in around 20 miles total back to the car. I don't remember what time we finished but it was still sunny outside - felt like around Happy Hour time. Yay guys! Have fun! If you have any more questions, I am happy to help - find me at HikerWomen on Instagram. :)

hiking
1 month ago

Christine, Charlene, Cal and I started at 5am from the parking lot. Original plan was to backpack to Little Yosemite Valley, but there was so much people during Thanksgiving weekend that it took a long time to get in the park, find parking, order and eat dinner, that we decided to rest and start early next day. Also because the forecast was calling possible snow and for sure cold weather next night, and didn't want to go through the mist trail with ice. Best for use was to do it as day hike. We took small detour to Nevada Fall where we found a guy that spend the night there because he did have a lamp and was not able to come down. Cable were down but we had harnesses and cords to prusik ours self to the cable, which is much safer than going up when cables are up (well, only if you have climbing experience). We were maybe like 10-15 people on the top (half of them a climbing family). Looking up Half Dome, the left cable 3/4 from top had a snag that could damage your prusik cord, so use the right cable just in case.

hiking
2 months ago

Loved it! My fear of heights was at it’s peak but, I did it!

2 months ago

Once in a lifetime

2 months ago

The most difficult and rewarding hike I’ve ever completed. The views are out of this world! Can’t wait to go back.

hiking
2 months ago

I went 20 years ago. Ten years ago and I am trying to schedule a trip soon. This is a must for anyone that likes to hike. Incredible views and such a scenic change as you walk. A must!

2 months ago

It’s definitely hard, but so worth it! Take your time.

hiking
3 months ago

Awesome hike!
You should have some experience to summit especially given the limited light hours in the winter. This trail is able to be done in 5 hours if you are moving quickly. When the cables are down, you do not need a permit to summit half dome, but it is slightly more risky. A few members of our group made it up the cables on December 30th 2017, and then a member from our group went back and re-sumitted on January 9th, even after there had been snow accumulation near the cables (crampons required).

If you are planning to do this on a day hike bring a flash light! I would not want to be stuck in the wooded area at night without a flashlight! Not to mention going down hundreds of uneven stairs without a flashlight is very dangerous.

If you plan to trail run this - Going up may take awhile with crowds, but they tend to thin out the further you go. Coming down is rather easy until you get to the stair section, but easily possible to descend in 2 hours depending on fitness level.

hiking
3 months ago

No permit needed if you hike a day or two before season opening date. Usually starts around mid-late May depending on the weather. Beware the cable won’t be up and ice/snow at higher altitude.

hiking
3 months ago

I was glad I brought my trekking poles because I would not have made it without them. I did this hike by myself 6 years ago at age 62, but only up to the Sub Dome because I was not lucky enough to win a lottery spot. It wouldn't have mattered because it started to snow causing the Rangers to stop anyone beyond that point. But it was the hike of a lifetime which I will never forget and always be glad I attempted.

hiking
3 months ago

One of the most amazing and challenging hikes!

hiking
3 months ago

Great trail and hike. There is plenty of wildlife to see along the way and awesome waterfalls.
Make sure you bring a water filter or at the least a gallon of water. You will need to get a permit to climb Half Dome. Be prepared to wait for other hikers that have no business climbing Half Dome and holding up the line to get to the top.
Make sure you plan accordingly and check the weather, if there are any storm clouds they close the cable up to the top.

hiking
3 months ago

Hiked this twice and it was amazing both times. Aim to leave before 5am from Half Dome Village to get to the top before the line forms at the ropes.

3 months ago

This is an amazing hike! Take plenty of water...The final ascent to the summit is difficult, but the views are worth it

hiking
4 months ago

Possibly the hardest hike I have ever done. Did 18 miles loop, starting midnight. It was amazing seeing sunrise peaking out in half dome. The cables can be intimidating.

4 months ago

Great hike

backpacking
4 months ago

Hiked up to the top of half some when I hiked the JMT. It was worth every mile to the top. If you wanna do a day hike it’s around 16 mile round trip

4 months ago

It's tough on the feet, but the views are breathtaking. Make sure you do train for it, because it's not for someone that's not out of shape. Don't forget gloves for the cables.

5 months ago

Bring extra socks.

5 months ago

The best hike of my life!! Did this hike on 11-9-2017. The weather couldn’t be more perfect.

hiking
5 months ago

One of the most epic hikes , its kind of like being on the stair master for 6 hours straight. Encountered a man who had ONE WATERBOTTLE at the base of halfdome and was nearly passing out. People flocked to help him- please do not go unprepared!
Bought some grippy gloves off amazon and they worked fine. Getting down the cables backwards is easier

5 months ago

It’s been over a month since I went and every day since then I daydream about how amazing the entire experience was. Absolutely the best thing I’ve ever done. 12 hours total. My knees were wrecked by the end (already have bad joints) and I would do this hike again and again and again. Unforgettable. If you’re debating on anything, then stop. Go! Get out there!

5 months 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
6 months 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.

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hiking
6 months 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 :)

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