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Half Dome Trail

HARD 671 reviews
#2 of 175 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.

15.6 miles
5134 feet
Out & Back




rock climbing

trail running





wild flowers





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.

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

9 days 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.

10 days 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.

11 days 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.

17 days ago

One of the most amazing and challenging hikes!

21 days 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.

28 days 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.

1 month ago

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

1 month 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.

1 month ago

Great hike

1 month 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

2 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.

2 months ago

Bring extra socks.

2 months ago

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

2 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

2 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!

3 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.

3 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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3 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 :)

3 months ago

What can I say? It’s Half Dome. Incredible-a challenge physically, mentally and spiritually. Yes the cables definitely make this more then just a hike. In addition to gloves I also recommend a harness for added safety. Subdome is ‘no walk in the park’ especially when the granite stairs end and you have the scramble up the granite. The hike also offers two incredible waterfalls (Vernal and Nevada) and a nice flat part in little Yosemite Valley.

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