Half Dome Trail – Yosemite National Park

Half Dome Trail Yosemite National ParkHiking up Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

The Half Dome Trail in Yosemite National Park is one of the longest day hikes in the park.  It is probably the most dangerous as well.  The 14 to 16 mile round trip hike is not for the out of shape or unprepared.  It passes alongside both Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls as well as providing spectacular views of Liberty Cap, Half Dome and panoramic views of the High Sierra and Yosemite Valley.  The trail ascends 4,800 feet.

Because of the length of the hike, it is best to start at sunrise or before.  Most hikers take between 10 and 12 hours to complete it.  Every hiker should have a flashlight or headlamp in case of getting stuck on the trail after sunset.

The National Park Service has the following recommendations for this trail:

  • Wear Boots: Do not bring tennis shoes, flip flops or sandals for this hike.
  • Gloves: These are only necessary if you are going up the cables (see below)
  • Trash: There are no trash receptacles on the trail.  Pack it in, Pack it out.
  • Water: The following amounts are only guidelines:
    • 1 Gallon for the entire hike up to the Half Dome.
    • 2 Quarts if hiking to the top of Nevada Fall
    • 1 Quart if hiking to the top of Vernal Fall
  • All water retrieved from the Merced river must be filtered and treated.
  • Toilets: there are flush toilets at Vernal Fall Footbridge (less than a mile in).  Composting toilets are near Emerald Pool, near the top of Nevada Fall and in Little Yosemite Valley.

Half Dome Hike - CablesThe hardest, most dangerous part of the trail are the cables.  These are two hand height cables with wooden “steps” going up the side of Half Dome.  The distance is 400 feet to the top and the angle is between 45 and 55 degrees.  Not for the faint of heart nor for anyone that is afraid of heights. (The line going up the rock face in the picture to the right are the cables with people climbing up them)

Tips for the Cable Climb:

  • Take your time and be patient with other climbers.
  • Allow other climbers to pass when possible.
  • Remain on the inside of the cables.

Do not Climb if:

  • Storm clouds are around.
  • The ground is wet.
  • The cables have been taken down.

This year, half dome ascent permits were required during peak times.  Make sure to check in with the park management for complete details and requirements.

Source/Picture: National Park Service

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