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Half Dome Trail

HARD 828 reviews
#2 of 225 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
1 day ago

Loved your review Rashid! Agree. This hike is one to remember.

hiking
10 days ago

Scariest hike ever. I'm talking about the cable portion, it is steep as hell and even steeper than photos when you see it in person. But it is do-able you just have to focus on moving to the next wooden board. The wooden boards I believe are spaced out 10 feet from each other from the bottom of the dome to the top. It took us about an hour just to get to the top because there was traffic lots of people going up and down simultaneously. We had to take turns for those coming down and those going up. To get to the top without traffic should only take maybe 10-15 mins to give perspective on what traffic does. Also the traffic IMO makes it more scary because you have to hold onto the cables even longer.

I'd recommend using gloves with a latex coating to help with the cables as it gives your hands much more grip and you'll avoid blistering your hands like many other people.

I'd recommend doing it if you want to face your fears. Just take it one wooden board at a time until you reach the top and you'll be fine. Lots of people did it and have done it.

Would I do it again? Probably not lol just because it was scary as shit. BUT DO IT ONCE AT LEAST :D

22 days ago

Amazing hike did this back in September and forgot to put a review, but this hike is beautiful! We left early in the morning at 2am and it was perfect going up in the dark with headlamps and enjoying seeing things from a different perspective rather than going later like 7am so heading down you see everything that you didn’t going up so it makes the hike better since it’s pretty much a 10hr hike. Going up early at 2am and not knowing much farther you have to go was just great, but to just keep moving and the hike went by quick because by the time daylight started to show we were at the base of sub dome. Heading down was quick n easy, but by 10am traffic rolls in and makes it difficult.

Leave early for the hike to make the cables with little to no traffic. Make it before 8am cause up top people start to roll in and head down the cables with traffic is a pain to wait for people to pass n continue to descend.

The hike in general starts pretty easy for those that hike normally. The hike gets tough when you hit the foot high steps n they continue to get higher n higher, but that’s why you start early n you don’t see how much farther you have to go. Sub dome is just the same a bunch of foot high steps, but aren’t to bad if you go early and rest at the steps. Cables were surprisingly easy both up and down. Down is easiest, but going up isn’t bad if you have RUBBER GLOVES. Crazy beautiful site seeing going up cables and top. Used my GoPro and the videos are awesome.

Pack some good food and 4L of water. I managed to make it with 3L and have some left over,but it’s probably because we left early in morning.

Go prepared (food&water), go early, proper gear (boots&gloves, don’t forget permit, and enjoy the views going down.

hiking
22 days ago

What can I say, basically nothing beats this for a day hike.

hiking
1 month ago

The toughest I have ever done!! absolutely worth it! Me and friend went during off season when the cables came down. If that's the case please bring safety equipment (carabineers, harness, leather gloves) if you are planning to do the 400 ft. climb along the face of Half Dome. We did not have that equipment so I didn't do it, because safety always comes first! Have a safe hike guys and don't forget to bring lots of water and salted snacks :)

1 month ago

One for the bucket list.

hiking
1 month ago

Awesome hike with amazing views at the top of half dome. I did this as a day hike in November with the cables down. I left the valley at 630 am right as the sun was coming out and I was the ONLY person at half dome. Had the whole place to myself. The hiking by Vernal and Nevada falls is the toughest part. Half dome is easy with a harness, some rope, and some leather gloves. Half dome with the cables down is a much more enjoyable experience, you just have to be more prepared but definitely worth it! Total hike took 9 hours to the top of half dome and back to the valley, the hike is tough and exhausting but with the appropriate rest and breaks it can be very enjoyable.

hiking
1 month ago

Certainly a hike for your bucket list. Just make sure that you get your permits in advance. We tried to get ours on 5 separate occasions and never got lucky. In the end, on our last day in Yosemite, we decided to hike up anyway to see how far we would be allowed to go. As luck had it, we ran into a group of other hikers who had 2 extra permits, so we were able to make it all the way to the top. Otherwise, the permit check is just below Subdome, which means is that there are some views to be had even without the permit, however, they are nowhere near as impressive as from the top and you won't even see the Half Dome at all. The rangers check the your permit against an ID of at least one person in the group, so if you don't get lucky with your own applications, you really need to find a group of people who have extra permits - getting a permit from people who get tired and turn back doesn't help.

As for the hike itself, it is not nearly as difficult as I had expected it to be. That said, it does take a better part of the day, so be prepared for it, head out early in the morning and bring plenty of water, especially if going in summer. The cables look scarier than they in fact are - the only annoying thing about them is trying to avoid all the people going in the other direction, especially if you arrive during a busier day.

On the way back, my suggestion would be to take the John Muir Trail between Nevada and Vernal Falls. It might be slightly longer but offers stunning views of Nevada Falls and is also less steep than the Mist Trail - something your knees might thank you for later.

In all, if you have the chance and ability, I really can't recommend this highly enough!

1 month ago

Vernal and Nevada trail is the hardest part. Once you past that, the rest of the trail is a piece of cake until you get to the sub dome part. Be prepared to scramble your way up to get to the end.

hiking
2 months ago

So maybe we cheated a bit on this, and instead of trekking up from Yosemite Valley floor (y'alls that do it: mad props! that's beast mode hiking right there!), we camped out at the Little Yosemite Valley, and trekked up to the rock at sunset to have a nice view with our dinner...
it is NOT an easy hike... esp. the last part (subdome and the cables). by the time we got to the rock, it was about an hour and 15 minutes to sunset, and thank god there were only three people on the cables coming down, otherwise, it was just our group of 6. i don't know if i'd be able to do the cables if there were a ton of people on them... it is sketchy as heck. do invest in good grippy shoes and super grippy gloves. you'll thank both later. our guide gave us a good advice (it goes esp. for those who have the fear of heights): don't look around, concentrate on the next plank in-front of you, and go from plank to plank in counts of five... take all the rest you need.
THE VIEWS ARE WORTH IT!!!
my personal suggestion for this hike would be to break it up... trek up to LYV, spend the night or rest up... and then continue with the trek up to Half Dome, or do it the next day. :)

hiking
2 months ago

Great hike! Did it 10/14 (first weekend that cables are down). Set off at sunrise, up the Mist trail and back down JMT. Took around 7 hours total with no traffic up to summit. I was actually expecting the hike up to be more strenuous since I’ve just started hiking, but it was absolutely fine. Most tiring bit are the stairs up to sub dome. I had perfect conditions for this and it wasn’t too hot so I survived fine on 2l of water. Saw mother bear and 2 cubs on the way back too!

hiking
2 months ago

Read a bunch of reviews and feel like most are somewhat exaggerated. Did this hike in about 9.5 hours, and you definitely want to start at about 2am. I started at 2:30am by myself, first time hiking in the dark with an REI 20$ headlamp, and what an experience. Couldn’t see but could hear the water falls roaring, and the night critters were frequent on the trail. The headlamp did its job and being up on the cables at sunrise was magical, as well as the dark night sky on the way up. Going down was no problem until vernal/nevada fall, when the trail was packed with people, without much regard for others on the trail. For this I probably would have went JMT, but I wanted to see the things I couldn’t see on the way up. Also the sub dome is not that grueling, and it really only lasts about 20 minutes to the base of the cables.

Didn’t do much training for this, did Four Mile Trail, Eagle Peak, clouds rest, and MT. Hoffman spread out in weeks time. Took 30 liters of water with me and a water filter, to cut down on weight and didn’t have to use the filter (starting in the dark keeps the heat down). Overall awesome experience, happy to do it. Saw loads of people going up as I was going down so start early before 5am if you want to miss that, as there was no waiting on the cables going up or down, which made it easier.

hiking
2 months ago

Nice to have done it but the views aren’t the best. You can’t see Half Dome from Half Dome.

2 months ago

Amazing!!! Such a cool bucket list hike. It’s the cables that make it so unique and such a cool experience. Took us about 10 hours round trip. Our feet were hurting at the end and we were definitely tired. Started at 6:15a and found easy parking in the parking lot closest to the trailhead. We were surprised that the parking lot was so full. Met a lot of nice and enthusiastic hikers. Had an amazing day! Can’t believe we hiked half dome!!!! We won our permits unexpectedly for the last day that the cables were up. Pretty lucky!

2 months ago

Awesome hike and definitely a bucket list item. Did it October 6th, took under 11 hours, absolutely gorgeous day and the views are killer as always. Took Mist trail up and John Muir trail back- though the JMT is longer by a mile the grade is much easier on the knees going down.
- while Mist trail is hard especially between Vernal and Nevada Falls, in my opinion Sub-Dome is the hardest part. It lasts forever or so it feels and the cables look easier in comparison.
- second time doing it, not sure I'll do it again but that's what I said 6 years ago so we'll see.

hiking
2 months ago

Okay, so I would definitely recommend training for this intensely. I only did one or two trails that were nowhere near this incline and it took me forever to do this. I am actually pretty apologetic to my friends for adding on extra time, but I didn't want to get injured, and I already fell coming down (no injuries other than a bruised ankle of the tiniest degree.) We started at the closest campground parking lot and walked to Half Dome through Vernal Falls and Nevada and the Valley.

The whole trip took us 16 hours! We started at 4 AM and took a lot of breaks, spent two hours at the top of the Dome, maybe 40 minutes climbing to Subdome, 20-30 minutes climbing the cables, and took even more breaks coming back down because it was worse and really difficult. Our 18.4 mile hike ended at about 7:35 PM! (48-60F weather)

I took 7L of water, which was excessive and probably why I slowed my friend group down a lot. I can get altitude sickness, so I was prepared to drink and pee a lot on the way, but my friends each drank 1.5L when they ran empty and they took 5L each. We hiked the last day the cables were up 10/9/18.

I saw people going down the cables two different ways. Do whatever works best for you. My friend had to go backwards down the cables, because her knees are bad and she had brace on one. She felt that it was easier to lean into the mountain and look down at her legs for the next purchase of rock while she was grabbing onto one side of the rope. However, I felt that I had more control facing outwards just like walking downstairs. Both of my hands were on both cables and I clenched and unclenched my fists to lower myself down with my legs and let gravity help as I got to each wood block at the stanchions. My backpack was still quite heavy from water, and I felt better balanced that way.


I recommend:

5-6L of water unless you have a filtration system to get water at the last water area before the Dome

BRIGHT Headlamp - I got a cheap one with the highest reviews on Amazon for $26

Hiking poles - They saved me coming down. I didn't order early enough on Amazon, but my Amazon ones were $25. I had to buy Black Diamond for like $100. They aren't for everyone, but I almost slipped on the rock stairs coming down the last few miles over 10 times and they helped. My arms, back, and chest are sore, but at least I didn't break anything.

Hiking shoes with treads - Oboz. I bought them new and didn't even have to break them in; I saw someone going up the cables in skater shoes and feared for his life. He couldn't even stand after 5 stancions and I told him he should go back down.

Gloves - You need ones for the cables. Some people use those thick garden gloves form Home Depot, cheaper than rock climbing gloves. Please don't leave them at subdome "for people to use." The rangers ask us not to. If you want to give your gloves away, just ask people you pass going backwards if they want some. My friend did and a stranger gratefully accepted.

Snacks - Clif Gels/Gu/Honey Stingers. Salt tabs, electrolyte tabs, a bottle of gatorade if you don't have that to sip on during the trip. (You nee to have equal water and electrolyte intake. Do not just bring all gatorade. You will dehydrate faster.) Make sure to bring a protein and carb filled snack for every hour. You WILL NOT make it without this.

Pickle Juice - THE BRAND not just the stuff in the pickle jar - I recommend this for cramps. It saved me and my friends. Maybe 2-3 small bottles for each person. They are really cheap and they work wonders. Drink before the hike to prevent cramps, but honestly, they can take cramps away during an onset too within a few minutes.

Layers of clothing - check the weather, but my feather down vest was a great help, along with my sun shaded hat to protect the back of my neck

Hand Warmers - trust me, this rocked for the beginning and end of my hike

Harness + gigantic caribiner - I saw several people have this and it made me wish I had this for peace of mind. Safety net going up and down, but you need to figure out if your gloves are easy enough to use with them while you hook and unhook each time you meet a stanchion pole WHILE you hold/balance your body.

Phone, Go Pro, external battery - some people get signal (I didn't), but your camera is so worth this view. Sometimes phones will die rather quickly on this hike, so have a backup battery. Pictures to remember the feeling of triumph!

2 months ago

Scary, long but totally amazing!!!!

hiking
2 months ago

Half Dome is worth doing. I work out 2/3 days a week and didn't get in as many prep hikes as I had planned. I mainly walked my dogs 2 times a week for 3 miles at a time for about a month. I wish I had prepped properly. BUT I would still do this hike even though I am not as fit as I would like to have been. I went October 5th. Weather was great and the path was not overly crowded. We started at 8am because it rained the day before and we wanted to be sure the dome would be dry when we got there. In hindsight I would have gone up at 6am as originally planned. Total time took 14 hours from happy isles. The shortest version of this hike is up and down the vernal route which is over 16 miles round trip, not sure why all trails says this hike is 14 miles. If you get stuck in the dark coming down and went up the mist trail take the mist trail, it's better to go out the way you returned. It would be too much work to take muir trail out in the dark if you aren't familiar with the route. There were people on the mist trail in the dark and they got confused on the trail down between Nevada falls down to Vernal falls. Don't just follow people on the way out they may get you off track. Pay attention to the trail and don't veer off just because others do and you should be fine. If you plan to take the mist trail down poles will help you a lot. I took 3 liters of water which was a good amount I had a water filter just in case, but didn't need it. In the summer a filter might be a good idea so you can lighten your load. Pack light!!! You will be happy you did. Must haves head lamp, painkillers, bandaids, shoes with grip, gloves that cover your fingers and have good grip, and good snacks. Have patience and take breaks you need on the way up, it is the hike of perpetual almost there. I hated going up Vernal but going down Nevada sucked as well because the steps down slope a bit which isn't the best for your balance. The steps on the subdome can be frustrating but once you finish the subdome the cables don't seem so bad. Just take your time going up the cables and yes facing half dome going down the cables is the best way to go down. Be nice to your fellow hikers we're all in this together.

2 months ago

Amazing and intimidating till you do it.
Beautiful scenery and terrain !!
Definitely need to train 8 weeks before..
Once a week hike and once a week stepper at the gym .
MAKE. SURE TO CARRY THREE OR MORE LITERS OF WATER.
Wouldn’t have done it without amazing group of friends.

2 months ago

Cables looked intimidating but it was a fun hike. I agree sub dome is the hardest part of hike. I used the gloves that was recommended and it worked out perfect

hiking
2 months ago

GREAT hike! I did this hike on 9/25, and started at about 2:00PM. Although EVERYONE will tell you to start super dooper early, this was a GREAT time to start. The cables were VERY uncrowded by the time I got up there. And I got to see the sunset from the summit. If you aren’t a morning person, I would DEFINITELY recommend a later start. There are a few other tips you might consider:

- Carry a water filter. Many people will tell you to bring a gallon (or more) of water. But why tire yourself out with all this weight? Small water filters are cheap and work well. And reliable water is available up to Little Yosemite Valley.

- Don’t fear the cables. With everything everyone says, it is easy get carried away. Seriously, they aren’t bad at all.

- Don’t forget your phone. Yes, there actually IS phone service on much of the hike. I got 4G LTE with Verizon at Little Yosemite Valley. Just make sure you have a way to keep it charged, such as a power bank.

- Carry a flashlight or headlamp. Whether you start early or late, you will likely be doing at least SOME hiking in the dark. A headlamp is better in case you end up ascending or descending the cables in the dark.

- Unless you want to make an extended backpacking trip, it is not worth backpacking just to make the hike ‘easier’. Backpacking may split the hike into two days. But it also means having to carry your gear up to (and down from) Little Yosemite Valley.

2 months ago

I’ll be hiking tomorrow morning by myself, looking for some fellow hikers doing half dome Sunday! 909 843 5500 text me!

hiking
2 months ago

This was a fantastic hike. Definitely for experienced hikers.

We did this hike in place of our sister Chanel who was killed in a car accident four months ago to the day. She was very adventurous and loved hiking and climbing mountains. We did not plan on taking this hike and went in last minute. She would have been able to do it in a breeze. We just took lots of breaks.

2 months ago

Awesome hike, beautiful views! Things to bring, water (water purification kit), food to fuel the hike, leather gloves, carabiner and strap, headlamp, decent hiking shoes and an adventurous spirit!

hiking
2 months ago

Hardest trail ever, took the shortest way up and down. WOW!! Legs were kill me afterwards.

2 months ago

very fun trail. there are beautiful views coupled with excellent exercise.

hiking
2 months ago

Hiked half dome on Saturday after drawing 48 hour permits. We arrived late Friday so hit he trail at 7. The lower portion to Nevada falls was busy but not crowded, good time of year to hike! The hike from Nevada Falls to Sub dome was my favorite. Sub Dome was SO difficult for me, granite switch backs straight up the end of sub dome. Once up sub dome the cables felt easy! I agree with past comments-good grip on shoes and gloves. There were several people sliding down the cables in tennis shoes. Everyone was really nice, encouraging, and communicated really well on the cables! I Loved this hike, although it ended up being 20 miles from the half dome village tents. Hike JMT back down, misty in the dark because we left so late. Headlamps were a good choice! Have an easy dinner ready, you won’t be in the mood to cook!

3 months ago

Great Hike, though very long and difficult! Amazing views of Vernal and Nevada falls, the half dome of course and other landmarks if Yosemite. We started 4:30 AM with the mist trail, which was very challenging. Came back through John Muir Trail, which is longer and has lots of switchbacks. The sub Dome is a very challenging part. The Cables required lots of hand and legs work. be sure to bring gloves with rubber side, for good grip. I had to stop and sit few times going up the cables, I got dizzy and weak. I had to regain my forces every few feet, in the mid section of the cables. Worth the effort! Amazing view from the top. Make sure you take at least 1.5 Gallon of water per person, and good snacks. Enjoy!

3 months ago

It’s the best!! Night hike is amazing.

hiking
3 months ago

Bucket list hike. Plan to hike in the dark early to avoid the crowds. You’ll be so much more relaxed on the cables with less people.

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