If you are in very good shape and willing to spend a long day hiking, the difficult trek to the top of Half Dome may be for ... More
Top of Half Dome Hike
If you are in very good shape and willing to spend a long day hiking, the difficult trek to the top of Half Dome may be for you. It is considered extremely strenuous, with an elevation gain of almost 5,000 feet. Start at Happy Isle Shuttle Stop Number 16 and work your way through the crowds visiting Vernal Falls, and begin a series of switchbacks to the top. The trail rises and falls a fair amount until you get close to Nevada Falls and from there the trail continues to Half Dome. Be warned, however, that the last 200 yards up the back of the dome require you to use steel cable handrails as you scramble up. Roughly 600 people make this trek every day in the summer, but it is not easy. Be sure to bring water, and wear a hat as well as comfortable walking shoes or boots. The trail may be closed in winter. Since this hike can take up to 12 hours to complete, it is recommended that you start early in the morning. For your safety it is best to complete this hike before dark. Check website for more information.
My family wanted to go to Yosemite and hike Half Dome. I'm 48 and my hiking days of that magnitude were over ( so I thought ) ! At 49 My wife was determined to make the summit realizing she may never get the chance again. My son 21,the mountain goat, and my daughter 17, the athlete, would be a shoe in to make it to the top. So I just couldn't let them go without dad being there for the photo on top. Being an old mountain hiker from back in the day ( Mt. Marcy 5,344 ft Highest Pt. in New York), I thought I'd have at it. I was in ok shape but fighting the spare tire and love handles as well as gone through two knee surgeries, the last only 3 months before ! So I say to you folks thinking about hiking half dome, DO IT ! Research everything you can get your hands on about Yosemite and Half Dome. Books, online video's, etc. There is an informative paperback by Rick Deutsch "One Best Hike, Yosemite's Half Dome", that will help get you up to speed with hiking equipment and what to expect. Good hiking boots and socks are a key. I also recommend a good walking stick. Fluids are BIG. I carried in most of what I drank and shared with those who didn't have enough!!!! There are a couple of spots you can fill your bottles. The trail is popular so you'll meet alot of folks along the way. It's a 10-12 hour hike so leave at or before dawn. Bring energy food. Trail mix, energy bars, pb&J, etc. Eat a good pasta meal the day night before. CARBS ! Take your time and enjoy the views of spectacular waterfalls and Mountains.
It is a physical hike! There are parts where it's steep as well as parts where it levels off and you get a break. Rest when you have to. Take pictures. take your time go at your pace. It is worth it . The view at the top is MAGNIFICENT. I'll never forget being at the top of Half Dome with my family . The Photo is in our living room and everytime I look at it I feel real good..... HAPPY TRAILS
Before I went on this hike I read everything I could about it. I hiked a mixed group of 9 toward Half Dome. 3 ended up staying in the Meadow area just below the Sub Dome. 1 stayed on the Saddle and 5 of us made it to the top!! Everyone was sore and happy. Living in Florida I rarely get to hike at all let alone at that elevation. About 2/3 up the cables I was exhausted but I pushed through it and I'm glad I did. Coming down the cables was a breeze it was the endless switchbacks on the way back that totally fatigued my knees. I was so happy to see the paved walkway at the end of the hike that I practically ran the rest on the way. If your careful you can do this hike. We had some in our group that were afraid of heights that made it to the top. A little webbing and carabiners was all they needed to feel confident. Just think Everest is only 21,000 ft higher than Half Dome!!
I am 44, my partner 56. We are hikers, but never anything like this! I was terrified when we finally made it to the cables, but didn't give up and we made it! We were so proud and happy, and the view was extraordinary! Then we had to go back down. My knee gave out and it took us a total of 12 hours. We underestimated the heat in late July. The sun was directly overhead on the way back and we ran out of water. Regardless, DO IT!!!! I will never forget it, and have a great story!
This hike will be etched in my memory for as long as I live. I went for my senior trip and we were really unaware of what exactly the hike was going to entail. I played sports through high school but this was difficult. IT IS possible though. I loved the way you had to be pushed and there were plenty of people from our group that gave up but that's no fun, right? Once I got to the top, it was breath taking. Just to look down and see how far you've came to get to this place. Amazing. By the end of the hike, I was so happy to see the van that came to pick us up I litterally collapsed into my seat. Blisters and extremely sore muscles, it was a life changing experience to have as an 18 year old on your senior trip while most of your other classmates are at a beach getting plastered.
When you reach the cables Half Dome's going to intimidate everything and then some out of you. Just keep a positive mentality and dont give up. If the views not worth it the sense of accomplishment is. Although this a dangerous climb, it dosent necessarily mean your going to fall to your death while climbing. Is it Possible? Yes! As a person who has climbed half dome both with the cables up and not up, i can say that fear is good when climbing this beast. Fear helps you to make your every movement safe and precise. Half Dome is a beautiful experience, just out of this world. Dont let your fear drive you away instead use it to help you reach the top!
Things to bring…
Water: 5 liters were what I needed. I’m in good shape but a big water drinker. If I left later than 7AM I might have needed more. If I could have found that spring at 6.2 miles in I would have needed to carry less water but no luck there. I bought a 3 liter Camelback with the backpack that carries it for the trip and was very happy with the purchase.
Food: All I needed was a pound of trail mix (I brought 2 ½; whoops!) and some fruit. I also brought a meat sandwich but beef jerky would have been just as good.
Hat: wear a hat that blocks the sun from your head. Personally I wore a big floppy hat that lacked style points but scored points for comfort & functionality.
Shoes: wear something that won’t abuse your feet.
Gloves: for the cables
Flashlight (if anyone in your party is slow enough that you might be around after dark)
Before you go…
Apply sunblock beforehand everywhere that will be exposed.
You want to avoid crowds and heat so avoid weekend says and start before 7:30AM (the earlier the better)
From to the Happy Isles shuttle stop #16 cross the little bridge over the creek.
I took the Mist trail up because it was shorter (steeper too) than the John Muir trail.
Once you step off the bridge veer down the dirt path to the right to catch the path toward Vernal Falls.
The bottom of Vernal Falls has a nice view, water faucets, & a bathroom.
From there the steps are tall and quite uneven to the top but I went at a quick pace to get it over with.
The top of Vernal Falls is worth your first break after that vertical climb or you might prefer the Emerald Pool 1/10th of a mile away. There is a bathroom in the vicinity of both.
Nevada Falls was bigger than Vernal and gave something to appreciate as you walk the stairs toward the top where you might want to take a break (yes there is another bathroom).
From Nevada things flatten out a bit.
A mile or so from the top of Nevada Falls is a Backpacker’s camp sign. Over to the right is the last bathroom on the trail. Also to the right is the Merced River (where I took a break and dangled my feet in on the way back).
After another half mile or so things get steep again and stay that way all the way to the Half Dome cables.
After 8 plus miles I was quite excited to see Half Dome from the top... completing something I had always meant to do.
Once on the cables, pass slower people safely inside the cables if you can (don’t be a fool who passes outside the cables) otherwise just hang out on the board under you until you have room to go up to the next board. Also keep in mind that your feet will slip as you walk up the surface of Half Dome so hold on with both hands.
Once on top, hang out and soak up the scenery. Walk around the top and appreciate the view from every angle because you’ve worked hard for that view.
On your way down your big decision is if you want to go down the steeper Mist Trail or the longer John Muir trail. They both dump you out at the same place.
After I got to the car I felt satisfied that I took a walk worth making… from the waterfalls, to the forest walk, to the view at the top of Yosemite. If I had a list of "things to do before I die" this would be one that I could now mark off.
Awesome hike but try to go on a weekday to avoid the traffic jams at the cables, my group had to wait almost one hour just to get to where the cables begin and then it was a complete mess up the cables as hundreds of people of all ability levels were moving at different paces going both up and down. The cables should be expanded for the sake of safety, perhaps with a second set going up so that each set can accomodate traffic moving solely in one direction (up OR down, not both). The traffic jam on the cables was forcing many to take extreme measure and climb up or scale down the outsides of the cables and this actually resulted in one man losing his grip while coming down and plummeting to his death while hundreds of people hung from the cables wathcing in complete horror. Several spectators vomited after witnessing this harrowing event. This hike is definately not for the feint of heart, it will push you to your physical max and test you courage when you reach the cables and the time comes to make the decision whether to go up or turn back. If you attempt this hike it is imperative you build up a strong aerobic base for the endurance you will need to get to the bottom of half dome and some weight training will serve you well on your way up the cables.
I would like to advise anyone who is making the trip that if you start the hike at Glacier Point, the views are better than when starting in the valley. The only draw-back I can see from starting at Glacier Point is that, at the end of the day, when you are hiking back toward Glacier Point, you have an uphill hike at the very end of the trip. (Being tired after hiking all day, that is a consideration) But the views are first rate and worth, at least a one-time trip from that point.
You must be in very good physical condition when making the trip so if you haven't trained or you aren't already on a physical routine, as part of your lifestyle, then I wouldn't attempt the trip in one day. Instead, bring a tent and camp over night. That would be a great experience as it is.
The views from the top of Half Dome are out-of-this-world and try to spend at least a half hour there. But remember, you still have a very long hike, back to the valley or Glacier Point so be mindful of the time.
This would be a perfect, bonding trip for a family and I'd recommend it to anyone who is either hiking with others or like me, who hiked it alone. Have a great trip and enjoy this grand hike.
You dont always have the best senery up to the top, but once you are aat the top it is one of the most incredible views you will ever see. All I can relly say bad is be for warned it is a hard 16miles round trip if you are not in shape. The overall expierience and views are worth it. As far as being prepared it is 7 to 12hrs depending on the shape you and your group are in so leave early. other than that make sure you bring a ton of water, camera and something to snack on. I always feel it is better to to have and not need then to need it and not have it so first might be a good thing to bring.
My boyfriend and I planned a casual weekend at Yosemite; I had never been and his last visit was when he was a kid. Neither one of us knew about Half Dome and neither of us hiked. At Glacier Point we found out about Half Dome and decided right then, we were going to do it. We had absolutey no sense in our heads to know what we were getting into. Needless to say, after 9 hours, we found ourselves at the top of Half Dome. We were then stranded in complete darkness in the forest. After seeing a black bear, screaming for help, and finally being rescued by the park ranger, we agreed that we would never do something as stupid as that again. We spent the night at the ranger's station and humbly got up at 6 the next morning to hike another 5 hours back to our car, which we were sure the bears had broken into since we were unable to get back the night before to store our food in bear-proof lockers. Today, the day after my trip, I can barely walk. I only wish I had known more going into this, but in all seriousness, it was a phenominal experience. I have yet to see a more majestic setting. The water falls are breathtaking and the scenic view from atop the Half Dome, especially at the time of sunset (which was when we were there), is absoutely gorgeous. Do it! But train and prepare yourself well in advance, unless you are a glutton for pain.
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