This unique hike to the top of Yosemite’s most distinctive visual feature, Half Dome, is rewarded with a spectacular view of the Yosemite valley below. Hiking the trail one encounters the mist and grandeur of two waterfalls. Almost at the top is a scramble up a granite edifice via steel cables. Bring gloves … its not for folks afraid of heights or unsure about their grip. There have been fatalities at Vernal Falls and at the steel cables. Due to the popularity of this hike, reservations are required.
In the spirit of the Day Hiker philosophy (come back to a hot shower, comfortable bed, and someone else’s cooking), book a room in one of the cabins or nearby hotel/lodges. Camping in the valley campgrounds is not worth the noise, smoke, and crowded conditions.
And, as all the extreme hikes described on this site, this trek is for the physically fit. Being a 17.0 mile round trip, a 6 AM start time is warranted. With a 4800 elevation gain, this qualifies as an “extreme hike.” But to do even more, hike on to Clouds Rest, after Half Dome and you can make it even a longer day.
Take the shuttle to Happy Isle stop #16. The first of two falls, Vernal Fall is 1.5 miles and 1000 feet climb. This is where you get wet from spray and mist. Great on a hot day as you climb the many stair-like granite rocks that can be slippery.
One hiker slipped, followed by two more who tried to catch the first. This is the second fatal river incident on the trail to Half Dome in 2011. The 200% snowpack makes for a larger than normal river flow, increasing the risk. Be careful!
After another 1.5 miles and 900 feet of switchbacks you come to the top of Nevada Falls with a spectacular view.
A walk up the Little Yosemite Valley is easy as the Merced River flows on your right. Turning left (straight ahead to Clouds Rest), then a couple miles of switchbacks and you come to the infamous cables. Pulling yourself up the cable is made much easier with trail running shoes and gloves.
Header image Half Dome Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0″ https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26414121