Yosemite National Parks North Dome experience is a great introduction to high country hiking in Yosemite. Possibly the only hike on any Yosemite list that is predominately downhill most of the way there, but all uphill on the way back over all there is about 2000 feet of elevation change in this hike.. North Dome is most often visited from Hwy 120 as a the 5 mile heavily forested and shady trip to North Dome provides a great turn out for parking and an easy trail to follow for the first 4 miles of your journey.

Along the way to North Dome and a face to face experience with Half dome, visitors can see lush meadows, wildlife, large old growth trees, Indian Arch and scenic overlooks. On my past visit to North dome me and my friend arrived early and were surprised at how easy this trail was for a five mile hike in Yosemite. We took in the sights along the way, climbing up the short trail to Indian Arch (A don’t miss feature if hiking this trail) enjoyed the scenic awe value of seeing Half Dome up close from across the canyon and enjoyed just as much the view of Yosemite valley to the west of the dome.

The trail starts at Porcupine Creek Trailhead off Tioga Pass. Wind through mixed-conifer forest for 0.7 miles (1 km) on a paved path, and cross Porcupine Creek. At each of several trail junctions (Snow Creek, Yosemite falls), follow the signs toward North Dome. The trail passes through a small grassy meadow and descends along a ridge. Near the end of the hike, descend steep rock steps to the base of North Dome. On the return trip you can take a short detour on a side trail, 0.3 mile (0.5 km) to an unusual natural arch, Indian Rock. Be sure to take plenty of water as this trail is very exposed at parts and there is not much available along the way.

Since this hike is located off Tioga Pass, the only/best time to hike it is late May-early October while the road is open.

North Dome, similar to the Mt. Watkins hike becomes a hot, Granite rock in the afternoon with little to know sun relief, but the winds that come up form the canyon floor, help keep visitors in a good mood. That is until they start the climb back up.

North Dome is a bit of a cruel hike for first time visitors. It beacons you down the granite slope to the end , so you can get the best views, and see Half Dome at its closest point. What you don’t quite realize however is the strenuous yet gradual back up the dome to the trail which in the heat of the day, tends to Zap just about anyone. Water is a definite must, and there is little to no water on this trail by mid summer.

Alternatively visitors can access north Dome from Yosemite Falls cross country hike which is a grueling 15.1 mile out and back from the valley floor or they can try and tackle Snow Creek canyon and the climb into Snow creek, which most would say is even steeper and more of a grueling climb. Although I will say Snow creek canyon is quite a surprising nice area to hike, including a sneaky little waterfall and great creek environment.

The North Dome Experience is part of our top 10 hikes off Tioga Pass.



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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