The Half Dome Experience

Hiking Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

This iconic symbol of the National Park system, Half Dome stands out in the Sierra and has become one of the most sought after experiences in California. Easily the most recognizable landmark in all of Yosemite, Half Dome is a granite dome formation at the eastern end of the Yosemite Valley. Its sheer face gives it the appearance of being a large rock that’s been cut in half – hence the name Half Dome. Spectacular to see in person, Half Dome rises 4,737 feet above the floor of Yosemite Valley at an elevation of 8,844 feet above sea level. 

Half Dome is the 7th tallest peak in the Valley

Half Dome’s crest rises more than 4,737 feet (1,444 meters) above the valley floor at an elevation of 8,844 feet (2694 meters) above sea level. For comparison, the highest point in Yosemite Valley is Tenaya Peak with an elevation of 10,301 feet (3140 meters). At 13,114 feet (3,997 meters) Mount Lyell is the highest point in the whole of Yosemite National Park.

Ascending Half Dome

Hiking to Half dome is often considered only half the challenge. The approach to Half Dome is steep and difficult. The last 400 vertical feet (130 meters) up the eastern slope are so sheer that Yosemite staff have installed cables for you to cling to as you pull yourself up. Without the cables or serious mountaineering gear, the ascent would be impossible. Most hikers to Half dome approach from the valley floor on JMT or through the Mist trail on their way up to the base of Half Dome. The Ultimate Round trip day hike of Yosemite is just over 16 miles round trip and will take the average hiker nearly 10 hours to complete. Even with this strenuous trek in there way, travelers and hikers from around the world have made this one of the must see/do events on their bucket list. Permits are required to climb half dome cables no matter which trail you choose to use to get to the base. climbing season for the cables is typically late May till October depending on snow pack and weather concerns each year. Half Dome trail Map

A permit is required to hike Half Dome when the cables are up

If you plan to hike Half Dome, you must have a permit. For day hikers, permits are available by lottery in March, with a limited number available two days in advance. Backpackers, including those who want to camp in Little Yosemite Valley, should request a Half Dome permit with their wilderness permit.

A maximum of 300 hikers are allowed (about 225 day hikers and 75 backpackers) each day on the Half Dome Trail beyond the base of the subdome.

Permits for day hikers are distributed by lottery via Recreation.gov, with one preseason lottery having an application period in March and and daily lotteries during the hiking season. Backpackers—including those who plan to spend the night in Little Yosemite Valley—should apply for Half Dome permits with their wilderness permit rather than using the process described below.

Tips while using the cables:

  • Take your time and be patient with slower hikers
  • Allow faster hikers to pass you (when possible)
  • Remain on the inside of the cables

Do not attempt the ascent if:

  • Storm clouds are in the area
  • The ground is wet (the cables and rock become very slick when wet; most accidents on the cables occur during wet conditions)
  • The cables are down for the winter (typically, from the day after Columbus Day until Memorial Day weekend) (check conditions update for status and any available updates)
sierrarecmagazine

sierrarecmagazine

Publisher of Sierra Rec Magazine. An avid hiker and explorer of mountain lifestyle and adventure. I love to discover new trails, hike along rivers and hang a hammock along the shores of a mountain lake. I often great people on the trail and have found some of my favorite places from the advice of people I meet in the Wilderness. I love the sierra and just like sharing what I know.

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