Yosemite’s Half Dome hike combines its most iconic attraction and most prestigious hike.
Half Dome’s uniquely identifiable face stands proudly over the eastern end of Yosemite Valley. The trail to Half Dome from Yosemite Valley is an extremely steep and strenuous hike covering over 14-16 miles. Hikers gain 4,800 feet of elevation along the trail that passes highlights such as Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall, before reaching the cables on Half Dome’s steep granite domes. Steel cable handrails and wooden planks are set up along the dome to assist hikers to the summit in the summer months. The cables are removed every October, and replaced in late May.
Preparation is important for a hike of this magnitude. Understand your limits, take enough water, and plan appropriately. Several Half Dome hikers are rescued each year due to unpreparedness, and the most common first aid response issues are related to dehydration. If you have one, it is also a good idea to take a filtration water bottle or iodine tablets in case you need to replenish your water along the trail.
Permits to hike to the top of Half Dome are required seven days per week while the cables are installed. This protects the wilderness character of the trail, reduces crowding, and increases safety. Prior to the permit system, hikers sometimes lined up to wait an hour or more in the hot sun just to get on the cables.
Day hikers can now enter a lottery to win some of the 300 permits available for Half Dome each day. There is a preseason lottery from March 1 – 31 (Eastern time). If you apply for the preseason lottery you will be notified about the results in mid-April. For those of us who prefer a more spontaneous trip, there is also a daily lottery. Enter the lottery two days before your intended hiking date, and get a notification late that evening about the results. So, if you wanted to hike on a Saturday, you would apply on Thursday, and know by Thursday night whether you should pack and prepare for your trip.
Reservations for the permits can be made online at www.recreation.gov or by calling (877) 444-6777.
To learn more about the Half Dome hike please visit www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/halfdome.htm
Looking for Half Dome trail maps to prep you for your hike?
Official NPS trail head map
Topographic maps by sector of Yosemite National Park