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Half Dome Trail

HARD 420 reviews
#2 of 150 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).

18 hours ago

hiking
1 day ago

My husband and I hiked to Half Dome this past Tuesday and words cannot accurately describe how incredibly amazing it was. Whatever you do, do not give up once you get to the cables! You already did the hardest part by climbing up those nutty ass steps on the sub Dome. Shake your nerves out, put on your gloves, and do it. You'll need at minimum 4 liters of water so if you can't carry that much, bring a filter thing and get water from the river. Trust me, you'll drink every last drop!

backpacking
1 day ago

This is the most rewarding hike we've ever done. Make sure to bring lots of water and bug spray. The mosquitoes were outrageous in the forest. Definitely allow atleast 10 hours to do it.

1 day ago

2 days ago

This was my first hike and the best, I took on a challenge and succeeded. Although I'll never do this again without food and water, big mistake.

camping
3 days ago

second time:) best memory

hiking
4 days ago

4 days ago

hiking
4 days ago

Great hike, can be very busy. Did it twice years ago, planning again soon! Second time I remembered the gloves, must have, and harness, very happy to have! Take plenty of water, pump is great too. Amazing views!

5 days ago

Super awesome experience. There was so much water this year though that we couldn't take the mist trail because the visibility was only one foot in front of you and it was so dangerous. Two men had slipped off the trail into the waterfall the day before we went and hadn't been found yet so we chose to take the longer way around in the John Muir trail (2miles longer). FYI if you are going to take kids on half dome it's best to put them in a harness and clip them into the cables just in case. My 5 year old son and I made it to the top and there was still snow up there to play in. It was amazing to see the whole valley from up there.

5 days ago

I did this hike in January of 2016 and again in April of 2016.
Januaries hike featured BEAUTIFUL snow and ice scenes, particularly on Mist Trail as the waterfall turned to snow. We had to turn around at saddle of Half Dome because we were stomach deep in snow and couldn't tell anymore what was solid, flat ground. If you venture to make this winter hike, come prepared. We had crampons (these were CRITICAL even to navigate the valley floor), an ice ax, waterproof pants and gortex boot/calf huggies.
In April we completed the hike to the top of Half Dome. The cables were down but usable to climb. Perfect weather with almost no one else on the trail. I wasn't as prepared for that as I should've been. I now have a harness for security for the next time I go!

hiking
6 days ago

hiking
6 days ago

Hiked June 9th, 2017

I feel extremely blessed to cross this hike off my bucket list. We hit the trailhead at 7am and made it back to the parking lot by 6pm. High of 65 that day and the weather was perfect. The hardest part for me was the last 1/4 accent on the hike. The cables were my biggest struggle carrying 25lbs on my back including my SLR. Worth it. The views from the visor and pretty much anywhere in the Dome are breathtaking. Would do this hike again over and over.

hiking
8 days ago

hiking
8 days ago

It's a hard trail at times, but worth it. Especially if you have permits for the cables.

hiking
9 days ago

I hiked this trail on June 4th, 2017 with three other friends. We started at 7:30am and reached the summit at 11:20am. It took us just under 4 hours to get to the top and 3 hours to get back to the valley floor, but we were going at a fast pace since we've done this hike before and we were basically just doing it for time. Took like 30 minutes to go up the cables, and like 40 minutes to come down the cables.. there were some slow people and we didn't want to be rude and pass them (so be patient). Mist trail to Vernal Falls was really wet and the mist was HEAVY, I got soaked. So much water right now! We also ran into a beer on the trail, just past Yosemite valley campground.. it got startled and quickly walked away. (Thank god!). Overall it is a difficult hike, but very rewarding. Great views! Tips: bring gloves, easier using two hands on one cable going up the cables, and easier to look down coming down. Don't descend like you would a ladder.

backpacking
11 days ago

Amazing experience. Much easier coming backwards on the cables. Take it easy but do it, it is worth the experience!