It might be the most recognized rock formation on Earth and its thelogo of one biggest outdoor brandson earth.
Towering nearly 5,000 feet above the Yosemite Valley floor at an altitude of 8,839 feet, Half Dome is in a class of its own when it comes to attracting outdoor enthusiasts and photographers.
Ive had the joy, exhaustion, and pleasure to have conquered Half Dome twice in my short time on earth. And both times, Ive been fortunate enough to watch the sunrise from the wonderful slab of granite overlooking the valley.
Before you get to experience this terrific hike, you have to first jump through a few hoops first. This includes, securing a permit, getting to the valley, packing, hiking up, and beating the cables. Well break it all down here so you dont have anything to worry about when you wake up to summit the Dome.
You cannot hike the cables without a permit
Applications go live for the lotteryon March 1 and end March 31.
They give out 225 to hikers and 75 to backpackers each day. They also give out 50 permits a day during the season for those who either dont plan ahead or do not get it in the preseason lottery.
If you plan to do a sunrise hike, you can
hike with either the day of or the prior day. (Its a slight loophole and just say that you started on the day of the permit.)
As youd assume, weekends will be more sought after than weekdays. In 2013, over half of applicants got weekends while only 31% got weekends.
Fresno: Its about a two hour drive into the valley floor
Los Angeles: Get ready for a haul. Its about five and a half hours from the city of Angels
San Francisco: Weather conditions may give you alternative routes but expect a four-hour long journey.
Reno: In winter, Tioga Pass is closed so you have to go way out of your way but in the summer, this is a four-and-a-half our drive.
You can do Half Dome Village (formerly known as Camp Curry, RIP), The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly Ahwahnee, RIP), Yosemite Valley Lodge, Big Trees Lodge (formerly Wawona Hotel, RIP), all the campgrounds, and the Housekeeping Camp.
Youll want to do these months and months in advance (especially the camping) if you hope to snag a spot.
Tuolumne Meadows: This is a really nice spot to stay outside of the valley. Heads up, youre up around 8,000 feet which means regardless of the time of year, itll be chilly at night. If youre planning to go hiking up in the Meadow area, this is the spot to be. Or you could camp. Thats an option too.
Bass Lake: Theres plenty of lodging options around Bass Lake which is about 50-minute drive to the valley floor.
Fish Camp: A small lodging town has options for hotels if you want to be closer to the entrance but not as close as Tanaya.
Tenaya Lodge: This is the nicest spot outside of the park and only three miles from the Yosemite entrance.
Clouds Rest to the left and Half Dome to the right. Taken at Olmstead Point in YNP.
Half Dome is not easy. Its 16 miles round trip and youre gaining over 5,100 feet of elevation gain. In other words, you better get off the couch at least two months before doing this or else youll be struggling. No one wants to be a struggling straggler.
Depending on when you go and where you live, theres nothing better than getting out and hiking in the outdoors. But if you live somewhere flat or uber hot during the summer, the stair stepper and treadmill will work.
I wont get on my high horse and pretend to tell you how to train but if you can do a couple 8-10 mile hikes beforehand that include steps, youll be fine. (The way down is pretty simple and youll cruise after leaving the cables.)
If youre already active (gym 5+ days a week,) youll be able to do this relatively easily but still leave the gym and get outside once in a while.
The weather will determine what you will need to wear but chances are high youll be starting right around sunrise so a long sleeve shirt is probably needed. Id also suggest bringing a separate shirt to change into on the top so then youre not in a soaking wet shirt all day.
In addition to the clothes (Ill leave the specifics up to you), youll want to bring: A hat, sunglasses, sunblock, heavy duty gloves for the chains, and hiking boots. You could also bring some water shoes if youd want to soak your feet in the stream on the way down and hiking poles if that will help you out. Remember, while this hike has a ton of prestige, its only a day hike. Theres not a ton you need to bring.
Now were cookingalmost literally. This is the part that we all like to talk about. What to bring to keep our energy high and bellies full.
Lots and lots of water. When I hiked for sunrise, I brought a gallon of water and two 32oz Gatorades. However, be aware that I did the entire uphill in the dark with no sun. That played a huge role in not sweating as much.
The food is much more subjective. First, get the salts, as youll be losing them in your sweat. This can include beef jerky, chips, and nuts. Second, protein. Usually, this can be lunch meat/sandwiches/PB&J. Third, but most importantly, carbs. Basically, eat anything you want. Trail mix is a great hiking food (hopefully this isnt breaking news to anyone reading this) along with crackers and well, whatever looks good to you in the store that isnt going to weigh you down. Also fruit. Eat your fruit people!
Youll want a solid daypack (anything other than a normal backpack that youd take to school) that has a belt strap to keep some of the weight off your shoulders. You probably dont need anything bigger than an 18-20L.
This is no joke. This is difficult. Do not underestimate it. Also,
gopast subdome when the weather could turn bad.
Enjoy it. It might be hard but the scenery is brilliant and youre out in mother nature. Dont forget to smile, laugh, and have a great time with friends.
Plan to spend 10 to 12 hours on this hike.
This part of the hike will be crowded. The first 3.5 miles or so are on the Mist Trail, taking you next to and then over Vernal and Nevada Falls. Most people stop at Vernal, so, after that, the majority of the tourists will be behind you and the trail will clear up in a major way. On your final ascent next to Vernal Falls, the steps will be slippery. Take your time as there will be a lot of people coming up and down. Also, be prepared to get damp.
For the next mile to a mile and a half, its flat letting you catch your breath and prepare for the upcoming summit push. This is the area where most of the backpackers stay, in Little Yosemite Valley.
Now, youre back into a forest, giving you a break from the sun, though youll hardly not notice as youre huffing and puffing through switchback after switchback. This part is 1.5 miles long. Once you get out of the forest, you still have to conquer the steps. This is where my quads started to die on each step up. I would not object if someone said this was the hardest part of the hike. Once youve made it to subdome, you meander forward towards Half Dome. It should be pretty easy to spot. From the end of the forest to the cables is less than half a mile.
Depending on the time of day and your hiking time, take a few moments to relax and catch your breath. However, if looking at the cables and the way up will freak you out, Id say KEEEEEP GOOOIINNG (another skylake inside joke, sorry folks).
The cables are unique. Going up the 400 foot granite slope, there are wooden slabs every 10 feet give or take. This is provides a place to momentarily break and rest your sea legs. At the beginning, youll be able to walk with little issue but as you keep going up, your arms will become a very valuable asset.
There are some points where you will be at a 70% or more grade and its a full on upper body workout.
Remember, take your time. If youre going up in the middle of the day, youll likely be passing people on the cables. Dont freak out. Do it calmly and safely (think one person high one person lowone person left the other right. Whatever it is, talk it out and make sure both people are on the same page. If not, this is a place where if you fall, you die.
Probably the steepest part of the cables.
You. Made. It! Yell to the heavens. High-five your friends or anyone near you. If youre a crazy person and hauled a bottle of champagne up, open that baby up!
Plan to be up here for a good 45 minutes to an hour while you take photos, eat, change clothes that are probably soaking wet, or even nap. Dont forget to stretch either, you still have eight miles to go.
This is the only section of the downhill Ill go into detail on. Some say *raises hand* that this might be worse than going up. There are two schools of thought going down: Facing out and looking back at the rock. I chose to look at the rock because yours truly isnt the biggest fan of heights especially 400 foot heights where death awaits on either side. This is where the gloves come in real handy as youll want to slide the gloves down the chains instead of taking your hands off of it. The wooden slabs help, especially if you start to slip (please have good grip shoes).
Looking down. Dont lose your lunch.
You can bypass Nevada Falls on the way down (and on the way up I guess) by going on the John Muir Trail. This is a slightly longer but less steep option and it takes you away from the crowds. It also provides a real nice view of Nevada falls. I did this my second time simply to try something new and it was nice. Its all a personal choice at this point.
Dont forget the group photo by the sign!
Go grub. Hydrate up. Put your feet up. Relax. Sleep.
Youve just completed one of the most well known hikes in the world and youll forever have the memory to prove it. Hopefully, your next day in the park is a quiet one maybe youll float the Merced River and you let your body recover.
Again, congrats on conquering Half Dome!
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
You can follow along for the journey onFacebookandInstagramor shoot me any questions and comments about places to go. And dont forget to sign up to get notified when new blogs come out. Click the Follow Me button at the bottom right and enter your email address.
Great article and tips! The best place to stay outside the Valley is in a vacation home rental inside the park, to avoid the long lines in the park. Much better than staying outside the park. The three neighborhoods are Foresta, Yosemite West and Wawona. A simple internet search will help you book direct with one of the many friendly owners offering their home for rent.
Great pointers Holly! Thanks for adding that in. I completely forgot to talk about AirBnBs (but figure people know all about it) haha
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