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Half Dome Trail

HARD 1416 reviews
#2 of 244 trails in

Half Dome Trail is a 14.8 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Yosemite Valley, California that features a waterfall and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking, rock climbing, and nature trips and is best used from April until October.

Distance: 14.8 miles Elevation Gain: 5,164 feet Route Type: Out & Back

hiking

nature trips

rock climbing

forest

partially paved

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. A permit is required for this hike, see below. 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. 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, recreation.gov or call the Yosemite Park Ranger Station.

hiking
rocky
scramble
2 hours ago

Great experience no question, truly majestic views. But this is a challenging “hike” due to the altitude (8,800+ at the top) and duration, we took 11 hours round trip which they say is average but felt slow to us! Still a great challenge and sense of accomplishment when you hit the parking lot! They definitely enforce the permit requirements, we saw several groups turned around because they did not have permits.

hiking
rocky
scramble
1 day ago

Best hike of my life. Train steps before you go. Mist trail up, John Muir back. Trail is a mile level walk from Curry Village. Clocked 17.9 miles on the trail and 2 more back and forth to Curry village. This trail is a bucket list item for all hikers. Cable were not bad, have good rubber gloves. Subdome is probably the toughest, you run out of steps eventually and have to traverse a steep slope with nothing to catch you if you slip.

hiking
2 days ago

Incredible experience! We started the trail at 5:00am and didn’t get back to our car until 4:00pm. Headlamps are a must for the first few hours but overall it was absolutely breath taking the entire time. The cables are more challenging mentally than physically but I would 100% recommend rubber gloves!

hiking
2 days ago

first backpacking trip ended with this hike. stunning and terrifying. one of.the greatest things Ive ever done.

hiking
scramble
4 days ago

hiking
4 days ago

one of the most beautiful hikes of my life!

hiking
scramble
4 days ago

Terrifying and beautiful. The cables look steeper than they feel. We had a party of 5 and 3 of us thought sub-dome was harder mentally than the cables. The scariest part for me was the people who are inconsiderate and move too quickly or hop on the outside of the cables, not caring that their risk taking impacts others. One person kept lifting up on the cables as he moved up. The poles will AND DID come out. We took Mist trail up and John Muir down to avoid the tall steps along the waterfalls. Bring 4 L water, warm gloves and rubber gloves (for the cables), hydration, sunscreen, windbreaker, sunglasses, plus your food and such.

hiking
4 days ago

Anyone with unused permits for this weekend or next, please email me at sundersrini@gmail.com. Thanks.

hiking
5 days ago

Great trail! Definitely recommend the gloves. Trail is actually longer than this says closer to 17 miles.

hiking
rocky
5 days ago

Fun trail, my wife and I hiked this late September and the weather was perfect. This will take you 10-12 hours so it’s recommended to start slightly before sunrise to make it back before dark. The cables looked intimating from the bottom but were not that bad once you were on them. Just be careful and take things slow.

hiking
5 days ago

I did Half Dome back in June. I trained for it and was glad I did: made the ascent and descent more enjoyable than anything and really loved this experience. So worth all the work to get it set up and make it on those cables. A memory I will cherish.

hiking
5 days ago

What an amazing journey. This hike will be something I will remember for the rest of my life. When I completed this hike I said “I want to leave a confidence inspiring review.” I live at sea level on the east cost. I am 22 years old and hiked alongside my girlfriend (22) and her mother (51). We started at around 5:30am and finished right before 7pm. Around 13 hours in total. Make sure to catch an early start to avoid hiking back in the dark. Bring a headlamp. The October weather for this hike made the trek absolutely perfect. Now, the hike to the summit for myself wasn’t nearly as hard and I anticipated. Given I am 22 and ran track in high school so I have a better aerobic capacity than some. The aggressive elevation gain with thin air posed as the biggest challenge for my girlfriend’s mother, as she really put an emphasis on her breathing. As for my girlfriend the biggest challenge for her was the heights/exposure while ascending sub dome and the rails. If you are mentally prepared for this hike, that’s a huge part of the battle. We had 0 training preparation for this hike. We had intermediary breaks along the way, no longer than a couple minutes at a time, and a few 5-10 minute breathers to eat and drink. As you climb the stairs and seemingly endless switchbacks, the high altitude air may pose as the greatest obstacle. Be mindful with your breathing, taking deep breaths, and pushing out air with your lips on the exhale. Make sure you bring at least a gallon of water per person, and plenty of snacks and some sandwiches even. The rails to the summit aren’t that bad! (If you’re not afraid of heights). I’m a climber so heights don’t bother me as much as maybe others, so take that with a grain of salt. If you wear gloves with good grip which is a vital necessity and even use a harness with a sling/carabiner combo for peace of mind. It was mostly upper body on the way up, and on the way down the grip from my hiking boots along with my gloves made the descent rather easy. Be prepared to encounter traffic on the rails. On the way down it took over an hour because someone was frozen in fear. You will most likely make some friends and have fun conversations in the mean time. The trip back down for the first half isn’t that bad, although once you pass little Yosemite Valley, and start the steeper descent the hike begins to take a real toll on your legs. The “Lifestraw Flex” filtering system is cheap and was a super handy thing to have when I ran out of water on the descent, passing the Merced by Little Yosemite Valley. All in all if you’re a novice hiker in relativity to a journey of this magnitude, be prepared for the hardest hike of your life, and you may be potentially pleasantly surprised with the difficulty. It’s LONG, but the amazing views and scenery will help keep you pre occupied for the duration of this trip. The sense of accomplishment is worth every second of this hike! Enjoy and be safe!

fun!

hiking
7 days ago

my first ever big hike. I embraced the suck and did it in one day with no training. took me 12 hours and it was not exactly fun. super rewarding though, gorgeous views, once in a lifetime hike for sure. Dont worry about the cables to much, it's the sub dome that will drain you.

hiking
7 days ago

awesome hike start early .bring plenty of water. liigh protein/fat snacks..pace yourself for the 8 miles of steady uphill to cables. watch your map or path .GPS works pretty much entire trail. you can easily trek off to side hikes to falls that are one way you'd have double back. I didnt see trail blazes just worn paths.. the sub dome rock scrable has limited trail markings..basically go up....I saw many squirrels that's about it... if bears were around they stayed away no sign of scat . have permit ready by print out or your digital recipient. celebrate the feeling back in your legs by resting before cables. dont stare at them if you are hesitating for non dare devil types your brain doesnt register a proper reson over risk.. it will just think wtf? so just glove up and start. hand over hand right side would really speed up the whole process. but some freak out and middle of the road it expect some standing time chilln. by that time you got it and its amazing . the top is cool celebration of accomplishment. but remember down sounds easy but alot of down is gonna hurt like a bitch so dont hang too long if day hiking... going down cables light grip hand under hand backwards like a repell motion is easier on body. watch the grippy garden gloves .I saw someones slip off. I'd make sure those puppies fit velcro or strap .they are for show you will need them to work and stay on... your feet grip is not as important as the hands and upper body. I think of all the state park saftey regulations around the country and cant believe they let just anyone do this . just be prepared and it will be the simplest hardest hike of your life.im 48 hiked solo early fall steady pace let everyone pretty much go by me and hiked it in 11 hours. legs sore for a day .altitude gave me minor headache mostly from asthma related. but I'd do it again !

recorded Half Dome Trail

hiking
8 days ago

In. Sane. 1000% worth it. Leave early.

hiking
8 days ago

Going to the half dome is THE hike to do in Yosemite. Doing it one shot from happy island and return is a difficult hike. If you are not trained you will hurt yourself for a couple of days and can put yourself in danger for the cables. If you are trained it’s just a difficult day hike. Doing it in one day is way to rushy. I recommend 100% to camp at little yosemite campground at least one night (we did 2 nights). Yes you have to carry you stuff but the place is amazing and then it’s split the hike in 2 making both of them moderate. You’ll be able to enjoy the shared fireplaces and the beach up there for the maximum joy you can have. To go up: get the JOHN MUIR TRAIL it will be less crowded, less tiring even if you’ll walk an extra mile. The stop at Nevada fall is the best break and the view is stunning (you don’t have that when taking Mist trail: it’s only brutal). To go down: get the MIST TRAIL, like that you’ll have the loop done and will be able to enjoy both view without the pain to break your knees on the infinite-20-inches-stairs. If it’s dry, no problem. If it’s wet, that’s the most dangerous part of the hike (way above the cables which are just stressful). The cables: keep cool and do not panic. Do not make a too big break at the bottom of dome: do it while your muscles are still warm. Don’t look down if you are afraid. The effort worth it more than anything else. Gloves can be nice but no worries if you don’t have some: i didn’t nor my girl and we were just fine.

hiking
9 days ago

Completed this daunting adventure yesterday. As an experienced hiker, I can categorize this as one of my toughest. It’s grueling but worth it for the beauty and wildlife along the way and obvious thrill of the cables and summiting. I echo most others in terms of preparation: Good footwear, plenty of snacks and water, FULL hand gloves w rubber grips!!!!! And be sure to have a battery pack because you will take tons of photos and videos. Finally, do not underestimate the challenge of the cables. This phase w challenge you mentally and physically. Stay focused and be safe. It was about 50-50 between people with carabiners and those without. Enjoy!

hiking
rocky
10 days ago

Hiked this trail several years ago as my first "big hike". We did the Mist Trail as ascent and the John Muir trail as a less-intense/more gradual descent. Near one of the falls, was a mama bear fishing behind a boulder. We found ourselves on the trail in between mom and her cubs! So, we continued hiking and eventually mom (false) charged us up the trail, away from the cubs. It was an exhilarating experience to say the least.

hiking
rocky
10 days ago

If you think you're in shape enough for this hike, train more! If you think you can handle heights, just wait! Definitely the most mentally and physically strenuous hike I've ever tackled but oh my, is it worth it. When you get up there you feel on top of the world. Top suggestions: collapsible hiking poles, gloves, knee braces, enough water and snacks, ibuprofen and make sure you've trained with a lot of box jumps/stairs because that's about 10 miles of this hike. Worth every ounce of sweat!

hiking
13 days ago

best hike I've ever done. will want gloves for the cables for sure.

hiking
rocky
13 days ago

I read the comments on Alltrails before going to Half Dome and I got the best tips, thanks so much for sharing your experiences! It was definitely a hard hike that took me over 12hrs and I started walking to the trail around 6 am from the parking lot close to Upper Pines Campground to Misty Trail & John Muir trail. My partner and I brought around 7L of water (3.5 L each) and lots of snacks and it was good enough for us. Bring thick gloves to do the hike from the subdome to the top with your permit printed out and a jacket, it was pretty windy on the top at this time of the year (end of September) and it was very cold even though it was sunny. There's an area in the trail where you can leave your backpack behind, I highly recommend to leave it if you feel tired at that point (before entering the subdome trail), but never leave any food behind. I saw trash that people were leaving behind, please bring a trash bag with you and leave no trace. And bring headlights just in case if you come back in the dark. Overall, it was an amazing experience!

hiking
14 days ago

Hiked this on 9/30/19. I knew this would be a tough one but turned out to be even more difficult than anticipated. The altitude starts hitting you after you leave Little Yosemite Valley. Sub Dome had some giant stairs that will test your determination before you hit the cables. Then it’s literally straight up from there. I highly recommend investing in a harness/via feratta kit to go up the cables. Was shocked most people didn’t have one. Made me feel 1000% more safe and secure if an accident were to have occurred. All that said, the views at the top are breathtaking and the sense of accomplishment is well worth the effort. If you weren’t able to get a permit in the lottery you can wait at the base of sub dome and tag along with someone else’s permit that had a group member back out. The rangers are cool with it. Also, bring a water filter so you don’t have to carry a ridiculous amount with you. Last place to fill up before the top is Little Yosemite Valley. Go for it!

hiking
14 days ago

Views totally make up for the difficult hike. Breathtaking sight at the top. Try to get there early to avoid crowds at the wires.

hiking
rocky
scramble
14 days ago

My wife and I did the hike on Wednesday the 25th. Started at exactly 5:30 a m from the trailhead parking lot (the parking lot across from the camping area where the road is closed except to buses). Decided to take the App suggested route up the Mist Trail past the lower and upper Vernal falls rather than the longer initial section of the John Muir trail. stairs are pretty brutal going up but up and down it's almost three miles shorter I think. sun came up as we were approaching the upper falls in the valley was beautiful. plenty of shade except for right across the floor of the valley by the Merced River. there are a couple places where you can easily get down to the river to filter water if you want to reduce weight. I brought a total of 3 ltrs for both my wife and I and we were out by the time we got back down to the Merced River. I probably should have taken 3 1/2 to 4 but it wasn't too bad. the rangers were checking permits at the base of subdome when we arrived at 9:45 (I am 50 and my wife is 48 and we are in decent shape). The recline up subdome is steep but the path is well marked with fairly uniform steps for the first three quarters of the way, Pinter's a fairly steep but easy free scramble to the top. I believe we got to the cables at 11:05. When you get up to the cables, the cable ascent is steeper than any of the pictures and videos can represent. I kept having the recurring thought that I could not believe just anybody could try this and that I was a little surprised that more people didn't get hurt or killed. The cables were a little crowded. More people going up than down at that point. Cables up and down definitely work the shoulders. We used soft leather gloves so the cables would slide when we reduced tension. Definitely took more grip pressure to hold on but made it fairly easy to have a controlled slide on the way down. on the off chance I ever do this again I might bring rubber face scrubs for the ascent and the leather gloves for the descent. Down was easier than going up and a little bit more scary. the return hike drug on and on. From the top of Vernal falls down to the stairs it was nearly difficult going down then it was going up. Uneven rocks and gravel made traction very treacherous. 11 hours and 8 minutes door to door.

hiking
rocky
scramble
14 days ago

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