Yosemite NP – Hike to Half Dome Diving Board


What? : Half Dome Diving Board, One of Ansel Adams Yosemite Pictures, Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, was taken from this exact location.

From this location, right in front of the face of Half Dome and 3000 ft above the valley below you can witness the mighty of this granite mountain, enjoy the grand vista of the valley and surrounding mountains.

The view from the Diving Board is remarkable and unique.

Aside from Half Dome’s massive northwest face you can see from here many of the park famous attraction points: North Dome, Mount Watkins, Tenaya Canyon and waterfall, Mount Hoffmann, Glacier Point, the Royal Arches, Yosemite Falls, Eagle Peak and El Capitan.

Warning - This strenuous hike is not for everyone.

It does not have official marked trail, it involves with navigations skills, and it includes steep mountain climb and crossing difficult terrain.

From Curry Village in Yosemite Valley this hike was almost 15 miles with 4500 ft of elevation gain, a full long day of hiking and having fun in the nature.


Where? : The view point is located in front of the base of Half Dome, west of Little Yosemite Valley. The trail start is from John Muir Trail, 0.7 miles east of the junction with Mist Trail at the top of Nevada falls.

Google Map Link


When? : This hike is recommended at late spring early summer months when the snow at this elevation already melted. At summer and when it hot it will be difficult to climb the last section of this hike.


Due note 1: I’m writing this section not to discourage you from doing this hike. This is not a simple hike and if you fall during the hike over the boulders or the steep sections you could get seriously hurt yourself.


Due note 2: This is strenuous hike.

Although not long, the last section of this trail right after Lost Lake to the viewpoint is only 0.7 mile long but has ~1400 ft elevation gain. You will need to find your way up in unmarked trail, steep, steady climb overhanging cliffs and bushwalking in dense vegetation.

This is not a hike for everyone, but it can be done.


Due note 3: You do not need climbing abilities or ropes and the hike is not expose (at least not the route I took).


Due note 4: After doing this hike alone I do recommend hiking here with other hikers, carry with you a GPS communication device for case of emergency.


Due note 5: On top of the distance and elevation gain aspects, you need to understand that this is unmarked trail, you will need to navigate it.

The first trail section up to Lost Lake is easy and clear but from there it is practically hiking with no trail at all. The “trail” cairns are “everywhere”, and you need to come prepared with the trail information and a good GPS software that will help you to find the right path uphill.


Due note 6: As always in wilderness bring enough water with you for a full day hike. During spring an early summer, you can find water in the creek, but this can get dry at the hot summer.


Due note 7: Do not do “foolish things” on the edge of the cliff, from here this is 3000 ft free fall to the valley below.


Due note 8: I considered myself as a very experience navigator with more than 35 years of top-level navigation experience I almost never use GPS for actual navigation, mainly more for confirmation that I’m correct. At this hike I needed the help of a GPS software to tune my progress, stay on track, and find the correct rout.


Due note 9: There are few other possible alternate routes that can lead to Diving Board. One of them is named the “climber’s rout”. This trail is crossing the cliff edge of Half Dome, following a cracks and small ledges in the face of the rock. This trail is much higher than the one I chose to take. I found it to be too much expose for me, especially when I’m hiking alone. Falling here can cause major trauma if not fatality. On the other hand, the trail I took is not simple and may have some tough sections but if you are careful, it is much safer that the climber’s rout.


Due note 10: This is a long full-day hike. Start as early as you can and make sure you can hike back at dark. Take with you GPS communication device, headlamp and warm cloth, enough water (you may find water sources on your way at spring months, but you need water filter), and enough food.

Always think that you may need to spend the night in the field.

I carried with me 2 cameras and a large telephoto lens; I did not regret it. I’m using this lens for many of my landscape photos and when I saw the bear the 600 mm zoom gave me excellent close-ups pictures.


Due note 11: You can sleep in this area but for that you do need an overnight wilderness permit.


Due note 12: I find that AllTrail hike map is taking you over the higher climber path that is exposed rock section and I do not recommend taking this path



Due note 13: Does not looks like that the official Yosemite National Park website provides any information about this hike.


Due note 14: Somehow unusual note.

For the one that may say that blogs like this are bad, revealing information about “secrete places” and ruin them because more people will visit here. People that think that such locations should remain unknown to other people…

This is not what I think.

If this hike is not for everyone and may be danger? so the answer is yes

You can fall off Half Dome and the NP do not think close it to people (people can even climb it when cables are down).

If more people will visit this place after reading this blog than the answer is yes, but that a good thing.

You may hike here, and you can’t say “I was the only one there” but this what nature is about, and I believe we need to share it as long we do not destroy it.

I do not think that more people hiking here will destroy or harm this place.


My thoughts: From the first time I saw the picture of the hanging cliff edge over Yosemite Valley I want to visit here. This was on my to-do list for some time, and I finally made it. I’m not in top-shape lately and this was hard for me to climb up the steep mountain. The last section of the hike, at hot day was a constant buttle, I had to take many rest-stops. The view from the cliff edge down to the valley below is breathtaking and on the other side looking up Half Dome cliff face from such close-up is unique perspective.

It always amazes me how I can be so close to hustle and bustle of Yosemite Valley and the busiest park hike (the Mist Trail and Vernal Falls) and here just few miles away, at the Diving Board, I’m all alone.

On top of the breath-taking viewpoint the encounter with the bear on the way back was not less than amazing, a dream come true



The Hike:

Overall length: I will start this detailed hike description from the junction of John Muir Trail with the top of Mist trail (where you can find new restroom cabin).

From the Trailhead to the Diving Board this is 2.5 miles hike (+additional 2.5 mile to hike back to this point), with 1700 ft elevation gain.

Overall, from the valley parking lot starting point near Curry Village this hike was almost 15 miles with almost 4500 ft of elevation gain.

I hiked slowly, enjoying the view, and doing many rest-stops along the way + additional 20 minutes spending with the bear, it took me almost 12 hours to hike this trail.

I will recommend the following: allow about 6 hours up, 4 hours down.

This is not about the distance; at the last hike section you will progress 0.7 mile, but you will need to climb ~1300 ft in a steep, bolder climbing and bushwalking sloop.


For a full description of Mist trail see the following blog:

Yosemite NP –Hiking Mist trail to Vernal Falls and Nevada Fall


From the junction of John Muir Trail with the top of Mist trail keep hiking east into the direction of Little Yosemite Valley.

At this first section the trail climbs moderately for 0.3 mile and then descend for another 0.2 mile.


Note: In this JMT section there is an unmarked trail on your left, I did not saw it, but in any case, do not take it.


After 0.5 mile from the starting point, you will reach a clear V trail junction. Left is John Muir Trail and right will lead you to Little Yosemite Valley, here, you will see the Merced River just near the trail.

Keep hiking left on John Muir Trail and walk slowly so you can find the unmarked trail you need to take on your left. At 0.7 miles from the starting point, you will see a faint indistinct trail taking left into the bushes and up the small ridge.


Here you need to take left on the "trail" leading into the bushes

Take left and try to find the trail, once you pass the first few hundred feet and the trail pass the small ridge it become a clear trail that marked with cairns.

At this section the trail is clear and easy to follow.


Note: If you did not find the trail, try to walk left (up) or right (down), and find it, the forest here is relatively open with a lot of fallen dead trees and without bushes.

The trail does not climb left or going into the lower elevation on your right, it is trying to keep the same level.


At this area I saw the bear when walking back from the viewpoint at the afternoon.


Hopefully by now you manage to find and follow the trail, after some time the trail starts to descend into a small creek. You can cross the stream on the large log.

Keep hiking at the short uphill, the tail level in an open section and soon you will cross another small stream, this stream drains the Lost Lake.

Both streams can be dry during summer and fall.


After short walk you will reach to the east section of the Lost Lake, actually, this is more like a large winter pound than a lake.

Enjoy the view of Half Dome back, towering over the lake.

Here the trail follows the lake direction in the gap between the lake on your right and the rocks on your left. You can’t miss it.

Once you reach the far side of the lake, this is 0.85 mile away from the start of you off-trail section (the place you exit John Muir Trail).


Note: Up until now it was relatively easy to follow and to find the trail. From this point there is no trail, and you need to pay attention and find the right directions.


After the lake the “trail” keeps heading west for few hundred feet until you will reach a turn to the right. At this point the main visible trail turn right into the base of Half Dome, this is a climber hike, you need to keep walking straight.

Here you need to keep going straight to the saddle and not turn right


Note: Make sure you are not turning right into the direction of Half Dome.


From this “junction” you will not have any clear trail and you will need to follow your GPS and the “trail” cairns. A short climb in the forest will lead you to the top of the saddle.


From here starts the tricky section to navigate of this hike. You are walking here on rocks with almost no sand so no footprints to follow.

Additional problem that I notice is that, practically, you can find cairns “everywhere”, almost no matter where you will walk you will see some.


From here the steep mountain side train is covered with large rocks surfaces, large boulders and a lot of small trees and dense bushes.


High-level description of this section: You need to go down into the deep canyon where you are trying to stay on the right side, need to go down but not to go too deep to the left. Keep heading at the same direction and soon you will start climbing up on the steep slope.


As you can see my GPS tracks, I did lose the “trail” several times and even on my way back I manage to lose it. You always need to see you are going in the right direction.

At first after the saddle, you will go to the right side, to an edge of a flat rock plate, after crossing this section you will go down over many large boulders.

After additional boulder crossing going down you will start to climb up, you should reach a steep narrow slot clearly climbing upward on rocks.

Note: This is a good indication you are on the right track.


Keep hiking west, this section climbs constantly on the right side of the cliff.


At some point the trail turns to the right, here you will be in a much denser forest, loose slopes with heavy underbrush. When I hiked here, in early May, in a middle of a creek there was water dripping on the rocks in some places.


The trail keeps climbing in extreme steepness constantly up the slope covered with heavy bushes.

At this point try to stay in the “middle” of the creek, it is not so much about finding the trail or navigate but rather fight the uphill slope inside the bushes.

Keep climbing up another 500 ft, it is not about the distance but about the climb, soon after you will reach an open section where you can start to see upward.

The next section is much more expose to the sun, trees were hit by a fire few years back, and you will have to cross a lot of low bushy vegetation. Here I lost the “trail” and I had to bushwalking my way in the vegetation and over and across many dead trees.


I found that if I’m taking my route up to the left side there are a lot less bushes.

Eventually I manage to find the way up the mountain slope, cross the last section of forest (no bushes in this last section) and climb all the way to the Diving Board.

This was a hard climb and I had to take many stops to rest.


The Diving Board:

Finally, I got all the way up to the Diving Board point.


It took me 5:30 hours to hike up to here, I carry with me relatively heavy bag for one day hike, and I did many stops to rest and also to take pictures along the way.


I took my backpack off, drink some water, look, and admire Half Dome towering above me.


After short rest I walk to the edge.

Here, I lay down on the flat rock angled surface and pop my head peeking over the cliff edge…

I found myself looking 3000 ft directly down to mirror lake, AMAZING VIEW !


The Rock at this location, on the west side of Half Dome is projects out in front of the face of Half Dome.

At this location Ansel Adams decided it is the perfect vista from which to capture Half Dome’s sheer face, the photograph he made here called “Monolith, the Face of Half Dome”.


Although the Half Dome view is indeed impressive, I find it that the view looking at opposite direction is more unique. This is the picture that once I saw it I told myself that I want to be here.

You can see the razor-sharp cliff edge leading your eye into the Yosemite grand vista landscape as more unique.


From this unique and unusual viewpoint, you can see many Yosemite Valley sections and the surrounding mountains.

Far to the west you can see the valley entrance and El Capitan towering above, you can see Yosemite waterfall higher section from the side, mirror lake and Tanya valley just below you, and North Dome on the other side. You can clearly see the switchback of Snow Creek Trail climbing up the north mountains and snow Creek waterfalls cascades to the right of the trail. Far to the right, at the end of Tanya Valley you can see the water rushing off the high cliffs. At the northeast, you can see the snowy cap of Mt Hoffmann.

On the other side of the view point you can see Glacier Point viewing deck, to the left you can see Illilouette Creek and the canyon featuring the impressive waterfalls. Above them you can see the mountains covered with snow in the south section of Yosemite Park.

From this point you can’t see the Merced Canyon or the Liberty Cap, they are hidden by the Half Dome.


At the day I hiked here there where a group of 6 rock climbers that climb Half Dome from this side of the mountain.

It was impressive to see how they manage to find hold and crack in the steep shear rock surface, finding their way up the mountain.


I stayed at the viewing point for almost an hour, just relaxing and enjoying the view.

When I started to get organize for my hike back down, I saw 2 hikes arriving here, they were the only other hikes I saw in this trail section that day.


My way back down:


I start my hike back down, although much easier and faster than the seep way up, but still I had to find a good trail in between the dense bushes and be careful not to fall.

When going downward it is easier to see the “trail cairns”, or at list some trace of previous hikers.

After passing the bush section I got into the steep rocky section inside a forest with heavy underbrush. Here I had to be careful not to lose my foot grip, I was tired from the long day hike, and I tried not to do mistakes.

I hiked all the way down to the creek with all the large boulders and climb back up to the saddle section, and back to Lost Lake.


I pass Lost Lake, the 2 small creeks and headed back in the direction of JMT, I had less than a mile to reach the trail.


The Bear saw me first.

He moved from the tree he was standing on, I heard something and saw his movement on the side of the trail.

He was around 40 ft away, we both stood without any movement looking at each other.

My heart rate jumped, and I became fully alert, thinking what to do…

After short mutual examination he decided that I’m not a threat to him. The bear lower his head and keep on looking for food in the tree bark.

After few more seconds I moved slowly backward to a safe distance and only then I allow myself to use my camera.

The bear continues looking for food in the forest, peeling tree barks and eating grass. By now I relaxed and even manage to take out of my backpack my 150-600 lens and take good pictures of the bear.

I watch the bear for around 20 minutes until he went deeper into the forest.

I decided not to follow the bear and give him his space.


It was a “dream come true”, spending time with a bear in the wilderness.


Note: I was taking the pictures from far, safe, and non-disturbing distance (>100ft). I manage to get such close-up pictures because I carry with me my 600mm zoom + my camera is Canon 90D with crop sensor, this kit provides very good zoom capabilities.

My blog with more bear pictures


After this hike highlight, I keep walking and after a short time I arrived back to John Muir Trail.

I turned right heading to Nevada falls.

Overall, this hike from and back to Nevada Falls is 5 mile long but with all the steep climbing it looks like a lot longer.


For full MistTrail and Nevada Falls description follow the link to my blog.



It was an amazing day hike, starting down in the valley, hiking Mist Trail, Vernal and Nevada waterfalls, climbing and reaching Diving Board viewpoint and spending quality time with a bear made it just a perfect day in Yosemite.




As I was looking for more information about this hike, I was surprised to see how few links I discovered and most of them are dated many years back (not that the trail or the rock changed so much in those years 😊).


This is probably the best website I manage to find on this hike:



Another website describing a different route:



Another website



Another Message-List link with additional information:



Probably the best YouTube link describing the hike: