Everything You Need to Know About Half Dome

Hiking up Half Dome in Yosemite National Park is an iconic and challenging adventure that attracts outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. Rising nearly 5,000 feet above Yosemite Valley, Half Dome is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the park, with its distinctive shape resembling a massive granite dome sliced in half.

The Trailhead: Happy Isles

The hike to Half Dome typically begins at the Happy Isles trailhead, located in Yosemite Valley. This trailhead is accessible by shuttle bus from various points within the park, making it convenient for visitors staying in Yosemite Valley or surrounding areas.

The Mist Trail and Nevada Fall

The first leg of the journey takes hikers along the Mist Trail, a picturesque path that follows the Merced River and passes by two breathtaking waterfalls: Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall. The Mist Trail is named for the refreshing mist created by the crashing water, which provides a welcome respite on hot summer days but can make the trail slippery and treacherous.

The Sub Dome

After passing Nevada Fall, hikers continue on to the Sub Dome, a rocky outcrop that serves as a precursor to the main ascent up Half Dome. The Sub Dome features a series of steep switchbacks and granite steps, offering stunning views of the surrounding wilderness as hikers gain elevation.

The Cable Route

The most exhilarating—and daunting—part of the hike is the final push up the Cable Route, a steep and exposed section of granite that ascends the sheer face of Half Dome. To assist hikers in this ascent, metal cables are installed along the route, allowing climbers to pull themselves up using handrails while stepping on wooden planks secured to the rock.

Permits and Safety Precautions

Due to its popularity and the limited capacity of the Cable Route, hiking Half Dome requires a permit obtained through a lottery system. Permits are in high demand and must be secured well in advance, typically several months before the desired hiking date. Additionally, hikers should be prepared for the strenuous nature of the hike and take appropriate safety precautions, including wearing sturdy footwear, carrying ample water and snacks, and being mindful of changing weather conditions.

The Summit and Views

Reaching the summit of Half Dome is a triumphant moment for hikers, who are rewarded with panoramic views of Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, and the High Sierra beyond. From this vantage point, the scale and grandeur of Yosemite’s wilderness are on full display, with granite cliffs, lush forests, and alpine meadows stretching as far as the eye can see.

Descending and Reflection

After taking in the awe-inspiring vistas from the summit, hikers carefully make their way back down the Cable Route and retrace their steps along the trail back to the Happy Isles trailhead. Descending Half Dome can be just as challenging as the ascent, requiring concentration and sure footing as hikers navigate the steep terrain.

Conclusion: A Test of Strength and Endurance

Hiking up Half Dome is not for the faint of heart, but for those willing to take on the challenge, it offers an unforgettable adventure and the chance to experience one of the most iconic landmarks in Yosemite National Park. From the thundering waterfalls of the Mist Trail to the sheer granite cliffs of the Cable Route, every step of the journey is a testament to the beauty and power of nature. And for those who reach the summit, the views are a fitting reward for their perseverance and determination. Join us on one of our guided tours up Half Dome for the best possible way to experience this epic monolith!