There are so many epic hikes in The United States, but none can compare to the enormity of hiking Half Dome at Yosemite National Park in Northern California. As you hike Half Dome, you’ll sweat, you’ll get wet, and there is no doubt that you’ll want to take off your hiking boots and throw in the towel. But it will all be worth it when you see the sunrise over the grandeur of the granite dome and you feel the pure elation as you summit the cables, drenched in sweat and victory. So lace up your hiking boots and let’s hit Americas best trail at Yosemite National Park.

Know Before You Go

  • How to Get Around: You will need a cars to get around Yosemite National Park as many of the trails are spread out. You’ll have to pay a $20-25 fee/car to enter the park. There is an inter-Yosemite bus that can take you from trailhead to trailhead.
  • Best Time to Go: End of May / Beginning of June. Make sure to check that the cables have been put up (usually after Memorial Day). Try to visit on a weekday and not a weekend.
  • How to Get There: The closest airport to Yosemite National Park is Merced Airport, which is about 2 hours from the park.

What to Pack

What to pack for Yosemite

This is the food & camera gear we brought for our hike up Half Dome

Hiking Gear for Yosemite

When to Go

The best time to hike Half Dome is right after Memorial Day after the rangers have secured the cables to the mountain. It’s best to avoid holidays and weekends during the summer months, when the park gets extremely crowded. We hiked Half Dome on a Tuesday in early June and the trail was not crowded at all.

While there are only a limited number of permits granted each day, you should still leave early in the morning, between 4:30 am and 5 am to beat the crowds.

**Check the Yosemite Website to see if the cables are up. 

If they aren’t then you can NOT climb Half Dome – unless you’re an expert climber.

Where to Stay

Yosemite National Park is absolutely ginormous and it is pertinent that you acquire proper accommodations while staying in the area. If you’re hiking Half Dome, you’ll definitely want to stay in Yosemite Valley at either the Ahwanee, Half Dome Village, or preferably — Little Yosemite Valley.

Make reservations at the Yosemite WebsiteIf they’re full try here

Little Yosemite Valley requires a wilderness permit, but not a campground reservation. Wilderness permits, like Half Dome permits, are drawn in a lottery. There is a wilderness permit office in Yosemite Valley. 40% of permits are handed out at the last minute and 60% are acquired ahead of time. If you’re lucky enough to acquire a permit, you’ll be 3.5 miles from the summit of Half Dome.

If you weren’t able to acquire a wilderness permit, there are still a few options for you. The Ahwahnee is the nicest hotel in Yosemite, but it charges upwards of $500/night for rooms. The other option is Half Dome Village (where we stayed), which is about 1 mile from the trailhead. Half Dome Village has cabins and tents with double beds or single beds, a bar, restaurant, and grocery store. *Note: If you can’t get a reservation on your first try, call and check online every single day. Reservations open up constantly as people cancel their reservations.

Yosemite Half Dome Village

Our cabin for 3 nights – Bear locker is in front.

half dome

Pondering.. should we hike that?

What to Expect

Half Dome is an intense, 14-18+ mile hike (depending on the trail) that climbs nearly 5,000 vertical feet. This hike is not for the faint of heart. It requires stamina, endurance, and guts. There are a few important things you’ll need to know prior to hiking:

  • In order to hike Half Dome, you need to have a special permit that allows you to scale the metal cables. These permits cost $12.50 if you apply online and they’re distributed via a lottery. There are no guarantees of getting a permit.
  • Don’t pack a full Camelbak of water. Save some weight on your back and only fill it with 1-1.5 L of water *as long as you have a UV water bottle + filter to fill up with along the way. We recommend filling up your water after Nevada Falls. This is the last place with fresh water.
  • The trail is cold and WET! Make sure to bring a rain jacket if you’re taking the Mist Trail up to Nevada Falls. The waterfalls are so aggressive that it feels like someone is spraying you with a hose. *Also make sure to bring layers so that you can change into dry clothes afterwards.
  • Fuel your morning hike with canned coffee. No need to waste time trying to find coffee in the morning! Just grab this at 4:30 am and hit the trail.
  • Pack gardening gloves to protect your hands on the cables. This is extremely important.
  • This hike takes 10-14 hours depending on your fitness level. It took us 10 hours. Make sure to allow extra time.
  • Tell someone of your whereabouts prior to getting on the trail. Alert them as soon as you’re back safely at camp.
  • Do not hike this in the rain. The cables are extremely treacherous.
  • Do not climb Half Dome if you see a storm rolling in. Hikers have died from lightning strikes.
  • There are various trails that alter the incline and length of the hike. We chose to take the Mist Trail on the way up and the John Muir on the way down.
half dome

At the base of “The Cables”

Climbing Half Dome

Climbing the Mini Dome – It was steep!

half dome

For more information on Yosemite National Park, watch our video below: