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Half Dome Trail

HARD 484 reviews
#2 of 155 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).

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4 days ago

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5 days ago

Incredible hike, sweeping views of the valley. The best part are the cables! Do not be afraid, they are quite sturdy and people are very friendly along the way if you are unsure of your grip.

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6 days ago

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7 days ago

OVERALL RATING: FREAKIN LIT

We started from about a mile above Glacier Peak severely unprepared. This hike was a test for sure... halfway thru had me wondering why I died my hair pink hiker.. tbh switchbacks got me too hot!! My boy collins could barely make it halfway to the dome before shot gunning some river water like they do nattys back in community college.. no filter!!

We're a couple of soft granola hikers from the PNW who still think the mariners have a chance of making the playoffs even if we haven't been .500 at the all-star break since the early 2000s. My mans were not ready for those cables.. make sure to bring gloves and really think before making the trek up. Had my boy troy more on edge than being stuck in an elevator while XO tour lif3 was being performed live just outside. Dude would've started pulling his hair out if he had any to pull.

Last thing to keep in mind... wyld life. Foreal. Doesn't matter how long your legs are.. NO ONE IS SAFE. You may be the one always Tryna instigate but trust me you do not want to instigate with a grizzly-looking, brown, Californian black bear! One moment ur chillin behind a rock and then next moment ur ditching ur cold and moldy subway sandwich from breakfast.

This park is beautiful and well kept. Throw some respecc on it and appreciate what it has to offer while you're there. TRUST ME there are no tinder matches to be made so at the end of the day.. crack a cold one with your boys and enjoy the stars. You'll never catch a view like that one. Bring plenty of water and food and posi vibes if you're trying to survive on this hike.

- Hike Squad

hiking
7 days ago

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7 days ago

I've done this hike plenty of times and it enjoy more and more with each hike. In the old days, you didn't need a permit to hike the main dome...so make sure to plan well in advance if you want to give it a shot.

hiking
8 days ago

By far my favorite hike story to tell. Took us all day, however we did manage to sneak a nap in at the Sub Dome! Our plan was to take John Muir up and Mist Trail down, however we managed to miss the turn off on the way back, so we took the long way back. The cables weren't as bad as I was thinking. Definitely a challenge. Going down on the cables was worse than going up. Of course, don't do what we did and not prepare for this hike...get in shape! Haha. That was our fault but all the more fun to tell. I would love to say I would do this again, but I doubt I will! Check this off the bucket list.

hiking
8 days ago

20 plus miles, 15 hours. Left at midnight but took the wrong trail. (the horse trail on the other side of the river) Extra 4 miles so we missed sunrise at sub dome. Still an amazing hike in the dark with 86% full moon. Took Jon Muir instead of the mist trail to avoid getting wet and cold. Got on top of the world by 8:30am. Avoided the crowds and the heat! Most amazing experience ever!!! Downhill was much harder.

hiking
8 days ago

Absolutely worth the hike, it's a once in a lifetime experience. I recommend starting off as early as possible; it's cooler and less crowded at the falls and at the ropes. On the way up take the Mist Trail but on way back down go down the Winter Trail by Clarks Point. In the afternoon, going down the Mist trail dodging the touristy crowd can be a pain.

9 days ago

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12 days ago

This is the best hike I have ever done! I went there with cables down, with no permit, before season. Amaaazing!