The trip to hike Half Dome in Yosemite, CA is one that every hiker should make at least once in their life. I tend to do it around every 3 years because I live in California and love the hike so much! You get to camp in the legendary Yosemite Valley, scale a granite face with cables, make friends with marmots, and take in views from over eight thousand feet above the valley. It’s definitely not your average day hike! It’s a challenging route but most hikers in great physical condition can do it. That being said, no one should take this hike lightly. You need to be prepared to make it the best experience it can be! Here are all my tips for the hike!
1. Make sure you have a permit for the hike! If you didn’t get it in the lottery, there’s a high chance you’ll get it if you sign up for the cancellation lottery two days before the date of the hike. That’s what I normally do.
2. Do all the Prep! Pack your daypacks with food and water the night before the hike, and lay out your hiking clothes. Have your hiking permit accessible. Make sure you bring enough food for a little celebration lunch at the summit. You’ll also need gloves for climbing the cables (they can injure your hands). There’s a pile of used gloves when you arrive at the cables, but it’s nice to bring your own. Study the map the night before your hike so that you know which trails to take.
3. Wake up around 4am and START THE HIKE BEFORE SUNRISE. Seriously! It gets very hot in the valley and you do not want to be hiking the steepest part of the route in the mid-day sun. You will get the hike up done much faster when you do the majority of it in the brisk morning air.
4. There are two stops with water faucets on the way up (but they are both within the first 1/3 of the hike). Make sure to hydrate (more than you think you do) at each stop and refill water bottles and camelbaks.
5. There is a steep section that might catch you off-guard! Be mentally prepared for it! It starts after you hike above treeline, and ends when you reach the cables. These granite switchbacks are killer if you don’t know they’re coming!
6. Bring a GoPro and mount it on your chest or head before you start climbing the cables! It’s a great way to remember the experience and keep your hands free for climbing.
7. When you reach the cables, don’t start your ascent until there is significant space between you and the people who started in front of you. It’s more exciting when you can keep moving, and it’s a real bummer if the person before you is slow and causing a line. (If you take my advice and leave at 4am, there shouldn’t be a line! If you leave later…there definitely will be).
8. Celebrate at the top! Enjoy the views and, if you’re brave enough, take a photo standing on the overhang! Spectate the overly-friendly marmots but watch out! The moment you turn around they will steal any food in/near your backpack. Definitely don’t feed them. I recommend taking about a 30 minute break at the summit, but not any longer or else you might finish the hike when it’s getting dark (never much fun cooking your camp dinner in the dark).
9. Take the mist trail on the way down. You probably used it on the way up when it was still relatively dark. Often the hike down is more painful on your joints, so its nice to cool off in the mist when you’re nearing the end of the hike.
10. You did it! Cook a huge dinner and break out the beer! I like to surprise friends with a dessert. Celebrate and recount the funny moments while sitting around a campfire.
Photos from my last trip are below!
The grassy meadows of Yosemite Valley.
View of Yosemite Valley from above eight thousand feet.
One of the many sneaky marmots.