Half Dome | Yosemite National Park, CA, USA, 2006

imgp4131Distance :  16.5 miles (26.5 km)

Avg.Time :  10 – 12 hours

Start / Finish :

  • Happy Isles Trailhead, Yosemite Valley.
  • The Park’s shuttle bus system provides regular services to many of Yosemite’s more popular areas. Happy Isles is stop #16.
  • Yosemite National Park is about 3-4 hours drive from San Francisco.
  • Public transport is available from various parts of California. See the National Parks Service website for details.

Season :  Mid-May to mid-October

Maps / Info :

  • Beginning in 2011, permits are now required to hike to the summit of Half Dome. See the National Parks Service website for details. Note, you can still hike to the base of the summit without a permit.


  • The 1:62,500 USGS Yosemite quadrangle covers the hike. It is more than sufficient for navigation purposes. If you are looking for more detail, try the 1:24,000 Yosemite Falls & Half Dome quadrangles.
  • There are no reliable water sources above Little Yosemite Valley. Note that any water taken from the Merced river should be purified.


Route / Conditions :

  • The trail is well marked and easy to follow from start to finish.
  • From Happy Valley to the summit of Half Dome entails an altitude gain of more than 4800 feet. Carrying a light pack will definitely help your cause.


  • Between Vernal Falls bridge and the top of Nevada Falls there are two alternative routes. I recommend taking the Mist Trail on the outward journey and the John Muir Trail on the return.
  • The final 400 feet to the summit are navigated by means of steel cables and wooden cross-boards. Gloves can be obtained at the base of the climb.
  • Outside of hiking season, the boards and the poles are removed, and the cables lie flat. Unless you have a good head for heights and reasonably good climbing skills, attempting the summit at these times is not recommended. That being said, if you do meet the aforementioned criteria, you will avoid the crowds and probably have the place all to yourself.

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Sleeping :

  • The nearest campground to the trailhead is Upper Pines.
  • If you would prefer to do the hike over two days, you can overnight at the “walk-in” campground of Little Yosemite Valley (permit needed), situated approximately 5.5km  from the summit of Half Dome.

Overview :

  • The High Sierra of California is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Thundering waterfalls, majestic granite  peaks, glacial carved valleys and magnificent conifer forests.
  • To avoid the crowds, try hiking very early or very late in the season.




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