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Half Dome Trail

HARD 1504 reviews
#2 of 246 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
4 days ago

Got on the mist trail at 6:00 AM and completed the hike at 9:15 PM. I hear different estimates of the distance but my GPS said 19 miles. It was worth it but take more water than you need and pack in the calories. I’ve run a marathon before and even though its been a while I feel like I’m in reasonable shape. With that said I had to take multiple breaks on the last ascent up sub dome. It’s a very hard hike but absolutely worth it.

hiking
14 days ago

We were able to complete this the day before the snow storms came rolling in (Nov 25) . Amazing hike and we were glad we had our harness and prussicks!

hiking
muddy
15 days ago

One of the best hikes I've accomplished thus far. Great incline and the views are incredible.

19 days ago

I had been talking about hiking Half Dome for years, so I was pretty excited to finally check this trek off my list! We camped at Housekeeping Camp and left our site around 4:30am. We went up the Mist Trail in the dark. Saw a bunch of glowing eyes that was just a raccoon mama and her babies, I also saw a really creepy looking spider crawling up the steps. In my opinion, I think the hardest part of this hike was not the cables, it’s the Subdome. It’s steep, uneven, and exposed. It gets a little technical, but just keep going. Once you make it over subdome then the real adventure begins!! I’d recommend wearing gloves because the cables can be hard on your hands. We made it to the cables around 10:30 and it was already a little crowded. If it’s crowded then be very patient. I rested at the planks while I waited for the next section to open up. I thought the cables were fun, and I almost didn’t want to get off of them! On the way down the cables, someone coming up was freaking out and refused to move. This held up the line and we were stuck, clinging onto the cables for about 30 minutes until we talked this girl back down. This hike isn’t for everyone I guess. Once off the cables we took the JMT back down because well, knees... Made it Pizza Patio by 7 . (I got engaged on top of half dome and we had cell service, so we spend a couple of hours at the top calling friends and family and soaking it all in).

hiking
1 month ago

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1 month ago

Incredible hike. The trails are all relatively well maintained and there's no particularly difficult terrain (well, until the sub/dome), so the difficulty really comes down to level of fitness. The better shape you're in the more enjoyable this hike will be. Beautiful views no matter what time of year, but it would have been nice to see the falls in the spring. Went slightly before sunrise on a weekday morning with cables down, saw more bears on the ascent than people and had the whole (err half) dome to myself for an hour. This is really the only viable way for a chance at total solitude on the dome, highly recommend. Make sure to bring the appropriate harness setup and/or your climbing shoes (provided you have some technical rock climbing skills and are comfortable unroped on polished granite slab) or you'll be stuck at the base. I didn't really see the need for gloves, but better to bring them than not as YMMV. Whether you decide to go to the top or not, the journey is worth the effort.

hiking
1 month ago

We hiked in late October and cables were down, so we only made it up to Sub Dome. The day we went it was incredibly windy, cold and snowing at the top (glad I had gloves and a wind breaker). It took us 7.5 hours to complete the hike and we clocked in at 25km. Still glad we did this hike without the cables, as there is beautiful scenery with the waterfalls and sequoia trees.

hiking
1 month ago

An awesome hike whose exposure at the cables will have your heart racing for more than one reason. One tip to make it easier and beat some of the of the cables crowd: spend the night in the Little Yosemite Valley backcountry campground the night before.

hiking
scramble
snow
1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

This trail was awesome, did it on 10/18/19. Got up and down in about 8.5 hours - however, I only went to the bottom of the cables, as they were down and I was not comfortable doing them without a harness. Probably could have gotten up fine but was more concerned with coming back down, in case of slippage. There were quite a few people going up the cables though, almost all of which had harnesses with them. Regardless, the trail was beautiful, challenging (particularly subdome, with the elevation). Highly recommend the trail.

hiking
1 month ago

Hiked Half Dome Cables with permits the last weekend cables were up on Oct. 12, 2019. Started trail with headlamps at 5am got back to car at 3pm. Make stair climbing sets with a weighted pack part of your training because the stairs up to Vernal Falls and the climb up subdome is harder than the cables. Also make weight training with arms part of your training. I’ve been a rock climber over 25 years and the arm strength needed to pull up the cables includes strong forearms and shoulders. For the cables: Wear thick gloves, wear a harness with a sling attached to your harness belt and a large carabiner attached to the sling for clipping to cables. Keep in mind that you may have to get out of the way for descending climbers. Being clipped in allows you to hang out in safety. Descend backwards on one side like you are rappelling with one hand over the other keep clipping with your large caribiner as you descend again hikers climbing up need to get by you. You are safer clipped in. Overall, I was shocked at the lack of safety by others. No harnesses used around me, tennis shoes and Tevas are not safe shoes for the hike or the cables. My Oboz hiking shoes handled the trail and cables perfectly. If you are gassed by the time you get to the cables then don’t climb the cables. Several people turned around due to dried blood stains on the rock. Spooked some people. For those that like to rock climb hire a Yosemite guide to take you up the Southside. They’ll place gear for you. And you can beat the crowds and still get to the top.

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

this is a great challenge for anyone willing to climb stairs like it's their job. there's a nice flat part in the little Yosemite Valley area, but otherwise this hike is all uphill. take breaks as needed and breathe like you're dyin'. the views from the top are stellar. cables were a bit crowded, but free from ice.

hiking
1 month ago

We Hiked this today and made it up to the cables, but didnt scale to the top because the cables are officially down for the season and didnt have proper harness Equipment. Trail was fairly busy, but nothing like when cables are up. I have made it up the cables in past years and if I had to give my personal appraisal of difficulty of sections, I would rank in the following with first being most difficult. 1) Subdome,(Numerous steps, exposed,7500ft, 7 miles into Trail) 2)Trailhead to Vernal(Mist Trail)(Steadily ascending while getting warmed up) 3)Cables, 4)Little Yosemite to Sub dome(Steadily up,5 Miles into hike) 5)Vernal to top of Nevada. Just my opinion after making the climb 4 times.

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

We started at 5:30 am in the dark and summited at 11:00. We took maybe 30-45 of breaks along the way, spent 45 minutes on top of half dome and got down and back to the car at 4:45 pm. We did the hike in October, when there were extreme temperature fluctuations between morning and mid day. So we carried a lot of layers. The trail is definitely hard. I disagree with comments that Vernal falls to Nevada falls is harder than the hike up to Vernal. The hike up to Vernal felt harder than the hike up to Nevada. Neither are easy, but Nevada felt easier than Vernal. The one mile flat is then a welcome break. Then you enter the forest which is a long stint of switchbacks (it feels a bit interminable, but is really pretty). After leaving the forest you are almost at subdome. The stairs up subdome felt easy to me, because I was comparing them to Vernal falls. They are not ‘easy’ but they aren’t as long. So it’s over pretty fast. Then you are at the cables on your way to the top. And the rest is history. As everyone said, be prepared for a long day. It was less crowded in October so we had the trail up practically to ourselves with the 5:30 am start. Coming down was a bit more crowded. Overall one of the more memorable hikes I’ve done!

hiking
scramble
1 month ago

If you read enough reviews, you’ll start to see a couple of main pointers/warnings emerge. My husband and I did this in about 8.5 hours, and had an extremely positive and rewarding experience. Here are my top recommendations: 1. Leave extremely early (wear headlamps for hiking in the dark) so you are up and down Half Dome before the crowds come. 2. Bring gloves with good grip for the cables, and pack them out. 3. Bring LOTS of water and lots of snacks. 4. Start working on your upper body strength - it is true that your arms, back, and chest do most of the work on the way up. 5. The sub dome is sketchy in its own right. Eventually the steep and slippery stairs disappear, and you just need to scramble towards the top. 6. If you clip onto the cables (which I recommend) do so with actual climbing gear: harness and Via Ferrata. 7. Go down facing the rock, as if descending a ladder. 8. Return to the trailhead via the JMT. It is slightly longer, but worth it to avoid the million stairs and tourists on the Mist Trail after you’ve already been up and down Half Dome. Be aware that the boards and poles holding the cables are not completely attached to the granite. They will move and wiggle which was a little off putting at first. As I said, I also recommend clipping onto the cables with appropriate gear. We only encountered about 5 other people on the cables thanks to our early start, but 2 of the five made me so nervous with their lack of technique/fitness that I was glad to have the harness. Even if you are fit and confident (I am) you never know what other people may do. If you do clip on, make sure you are using appropriate gear. Failure to do so puts you in a riskier situation than no gear at all. Finally, it is super intimidating when you first reach the top of the sub dome and see the cables that seem to rise straight vertically. Don’t be deterred - it’s tough but totally doable and totally worth it.

hiking
1 month ago

Epic! Cables are down. 18.4 miles on all trails.

hiking
2 months ago

We got started on the Mist trail at 5:30am. Between 4 to 5:30am seems to be the most common start time. Lots of stairs along Nevada and Vernal Falls. Poles are a must on this trail to save your joints. We got to sub dome and half dome about 9:00ish, only few people were on the chains. Definitely brought and used our climbing harness and clipped in. Can’t account for others actions, so always good to be proactive. Beautiful 360 views at the summit. The climb down do expect more of a traffic jam. We opted to turn facing the rock down climbed for better traction on our shoes. Plus it’s less scary when you don’t have to look down. Opted for the John Muir Trail on the way down, less stairs and people. Total time for the hike for my wife and I was just over 8-hours, averaging 20 to 30-min per mile with 30 min spent on top of half dome, a 10 min snack break before sub dome and short breaks here and there. Enjoy a fantastic hike and be safe!

hiking
2 months ago

Amazing....get to the cables early to beat the crowd, and have half dome to yourself!

hiking
rocky
scramble
2 months 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
2 months 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 months 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 months ago

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

hiking
scramble
2 months ago

hiking
2 months ago

one of the most beautiful hikes of my life!

hiking
scramble
2 months 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
2 months ago

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

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