Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hiking Yosemite's Half Dome [Photo Essay]

Often reading about a hiking trail doesn't give you enough information. Honestly, how difficult is it to hike up Half Dome inside Yosemite National Park? Take a look at our trek and decide for yourself.

View of Half Dome from Clouds Rest peak in Yosemite National Park

Heading up to Clouds Rest from the Sunrise Lakes Trailhead off Tioga Road, you get panoramic views of this glacially polished granite dome. Its rear profile resembles a hawk perched above Yosemite Valley.

Lightning strikes, falling from the cables and other risks

Warning signs at the base of Half Dome are ignored by hikers too intent on making it to the summit despite inclement weather. Fatalities from lightning strikes or slipping off the cables have happened.

Half Dome cables, which are put up seasonally each summer

To safely ascend the cables bolted into the rock, leather gloves and climbing shoes or hiking boots with good traction help. So does upper body strength, as you'll be pulling yourself up to the top of the cables, not pushing off the rock with your legs.

Walking on the top of Half Dome on a summer weekday before 10 a.m.

Is it worth the effort of getting up early enough to beat the crowds to the top? Yes. Fewer people on the cables before 9 a.m. makes it quicker, easier and safer for you to ascend and descend the cables. You'll need to get a hiking permit in advance.

View of Yosemite Valley from the summit of Half Dome

At the summit, stop to catch your breath, let your cramped arm muscles loosen, and gaze down at evergreen trees and meadows beside the Merced River, which meanders through Yosemite Valley

Safely back down the cables, thanks to climbing rope and clips

We finished our 20-mile overnight hike in Yosemite Valley, descending from Half Dome and over the wooden bridge above Nevada Fall. Take the John Muir Trail if you're already knock-kneed, or drop down the steeper Mist Trail beside Vernal Fall.

Have you climbed Yosemite's Half Dome? Was it worth it? Would you do it again? Have any other tips for novices? Leave us a comment below!

Related links:
Catching the Firefall in Yosemite Valley
Winter's Last Lucky Call in Yosemite
Yosemite's Half Dome Through the Back Door

Photos: Yosemite National Park (Michael Connolly Jr. & Sara Benson)


  1. My wife and I hiked it 7/2/12 and it was incredible. I would do it again tomorrow. We went up the Mist and down the JMT. If you read "One Best Hike" by Rick Deutsch it has pretty much everything you need to know to prepare. Cannot stress enough to have enough water or a filter. Also watch for rattlesnakes. We saw 2 on the way down in the middle of the trail. I am still buzzing from it and looking for another adventure.

  2. ADVENTURE! AMERICA! :D plus you guys are insanely triumphant at the end there

  3. Thanks for sharing your trip, Anthony! Rich Deutsch is a fellow Wilderness Press hiking guidebook author like myself (Top Trails Maui), and I'm happy to give him a shout-out on my blog. Your point about having enough water and bringing a way to filter water to refill your bottles along the way is an important one.