Yosemite NP – Half Dome Hike


What? :

Half Dome is the most famous Yosemite icon and climbing to it top is probably the most rewording hike in Yosemite National Park and one of the best hike in the US.

Rising 5,000 feet above Yosemite Valley (8,800-foot above sea level), surrounded from all direction by deep canyons and valleys, Half Dome top provides amazing 360-degree view of Yosemite Park landscape.


If you are hiking this trail in one day, starting from Yosemite Valley than this is a 16-20-miles out and back hike (hike length depend on the exact rout you are taking).

During your hike you will ascend 4,800-6,200 feet of elevation.

The one-day hike is considered to be a strenuous hike that probably should not be attempted by inexperienced or unprepared hikers.


When Half Dome cables are up, special permits are required to hike Half Dome, you can obtain them through a lottery system (see permit section below).


This hike was something I wanted to do for years, but because I “hate” permit lottery it did not happen.

Although being in good shape and doing many long and challenging hikes I suffered from shoulder issue that prevent me to climb the cable section, now when I’m OK with my arm I can attempt the hike.


One day early June 2023 I saw that the cables are still down, and you do not need a permit + not a lot of snow left on subdome, it was a window of opportunity to climb Half Dome and I decided to go.

I took day off from work, a day before I drove from San Francisco Bay area to Yosemite arriving at the park at 11pm. I spend few hours’ sleeping in my car, wake up at 3:30 am, drove to the parking lot and start to hike at 4.

After the 12 hours hike, I drove 4.5 hours back home, overall, this was 28 hours door to door.


I hiked many one-day and long backpacking hikes in Yosemite, climbing Half Dome is at the top of my list.



Where? :

The official hike starts at Yosemite Valley where Mist Trail start, just near the Happy Isles Shuttle stop (shuttle stop #16) and the bridge crossing the Merced River.

If you are not using the shuttle (start your hike early in the morning) you will probably want to park your car at Yosemite Valley Trailhead Parking (additional 0.6 mile, one way, to your hike) or at the large parking lot near Curry Village (additional 1 mile, one way, to your hike).

Google Map Link



When? :

Most people hike Half Dome during the summer months, when the weather is warm and sunny, and you have long days.

Offseason bring additional challenges related to safety, weather, and trail conditions (rain / snow / lightning storms).

My recommendation is to try and hike this trail early or late in the season where you have more chance to get permit or off-season when the cable are down. When the cable our down it can be late spring (when snow is cleared, and the temperatures are not too cold) or late fall before the rain and snow.


Pro summer visit:

·         Long daylight for the hike.

·         Warm temperatures.

·         Less clouds during most of the day so visibility is probably good.

·         Cables and wooden rails are in place, no need to use “complex” safety anchors knot when climbing (Even when cables are up, I recommend having harness and some protection in place).

·         If any help needed there are Park Rangers nearby.


Con summer visit:

·         During late summer there are afternoon thunderstorms; you do not want to be at the top of Half Dome when there are lightnings.

·         Summer wildfires can cover the air with smoke and limit visibility.

·         300 people climbing the cable section in few hours window can lead to a long line of people waiting on the cables and slow climb, everything will take more time.

·         Cowed on the dome.




Additional Yosemite National Park blogs:


Due note 1: Most hikers will need 10 to 12 hours to hike to Half Dome and back. I took a long rest at the top of Half Dome and use the longer route bypassing mist trail and Vernal Falls through JMT and Clark Point. This was a total of 20.5 miles and 6,200 ft of ascending and descending, car-to-car it took me 12 hours.

From Curry Village to subdome and start ascending the cables it took me 5 hours of constant walking uphill.


Due note 2: It's smart to start walking around sunrise or even earlier. I started hiking at 4 am to make sure I will be at the top of Half Dome early morning because there was weather forecast of clouds, rain, and thunderstorms at around 11am.


Due note 3: Check for sunrise and sunset times before you hike and bring a head flashlight in case you will need to hike back down after dark.


Due note 4: The trail is well marked, in good conditions, and easy to follow but you should come prepared and have a map with you.


Due note 5: Some cell phones have coverage from Half Dome and from some locations on the trail. Do not count on that, download in advance your map, carry a paper map. As always with me, I highly recommend having satellite communication and emergency device.


Due note 6: Pack light: this hike involved with a lot of climbing, every pound in your backpack do matter. Take with you what you need and only what you need. This is a day hike, you can filter water on your way, no need to take too much food, take clothing layers and safety equipment.


Due note 7: Black bears are part of Yosemite's Wilderness, but they rarely attack people. Always keep your food within arm's reach; never leave it unattended. If you see a bear, act immediately to scare it away: make as much noise as possible by yelling and disengage slowly.

Be careful of rattle snakes.


Due note 8: Little Yosemite Valley is the mid-hike location where hikers can split the hike into two days and camp here for the night. You must have a separate wilderness permit to camp here overnight.



My thoughts:

This hike was in my bucket list for many years, I finally made it.

Doing this 20.5-mile-long hike with overall 6,200 ft elevation climbing was demanding but it was worth it.

The view from the top of Half Dome is amazing, you feel like you are on top of the world, in the middle of Yosemite where the entire park is all around you.

You can see the high Sierra mountains, Cloud Rest, Glacier Point, El Capitan, and the valley below you.

The weather at the morning hours was good with clear visibility. As weather forecast predict, at some point cloud start to progress from the west and cover the valley below with a thick clod layer that bloc all visibility, I than decided to start my long hike down.

I hiked this trail off session where the cable were still down, I did not need a permit and I had all the safety equipment and know-how climbing the cables, so I felt safe.




The Hike:


You must visit Yosemite National Park website and check latest conditions about this hike and other park conditions like road closer, weather, water level, fire, and smoke.


You need to check if at your plan hiking day, the Half Dome cable descend to the top of the dome need a permit or not.

When the cable are down, this call off season, you can hike from subdome up to Half Dome using the cables that are on the rock, see my safety and how to climb sections below.


Look at this link on Half Dome as a Day Hike:



This is a link to my Half Dome Alltrails hike:




Permits to hike to the top of Half Dome are required seven days per week, 24 hours a day, when the cables are up.

The cables are normally up the Friday before the last Monday in May (Memorial Day) and the last day to use the cables is the day after the second Monday in October.


When the cable are down you do not need any day permit to climb Half Dome.


A maximum of 300 hikers are allowed with permit each day on the Half Dome Trail beyond the base of the subdome.


From what I hear, there is a ranger that is checking permits either on Sub Dome or just below it. If you do not have one, you will be turned around.

Half Dome permit holders should bring a photo ID and the email confirmation indicating that the permit has been paid.


Permits for day hikers are distributed by lottery via Recreation.gov.


There are two ways to get a Half Dome permit:

Preseason lottery: The preseason lottery for Half Dome permits is open from February 1 to March 31 each year. Winners of the preseason lottery will be notified by email in mid-April.

Daily lottery: A limited number of Half Dome permits are also available through a daily lottery. The daily lottery opens at 7am Pacific Time every day that the cables are up.


You can apply for up to 7 different permit dates, and you can have up to 6 people in your group.


Look in the below link for permit statistics.

With so many people asking for permit the success rate is low. It is better to look for mid-week and not in the middle of the summer, looks like early session is the best time.



Link to the park permit page:



Two separate fees are collected, $10 to submit the application, and another $10 per person and is charged only when you receive a permit.


If you want to camp in Little Yosemite Valley or elsewhere on the way to Half Dome, you should apply for a wilderness permit:



You can call Yosemite Park for more information and question answering at: 209-372-0826




Do not take this climb lightly, come prepared with a good fitness level and safety equipment.

People die doing this hike, if this is falling from the cable section (last death was in 2019), strike by lightning (July 1985, lightning killed two people and injured three others), or on the way up.


Be smart and aware of yourself and be honest about your fitness level and health.

If you are afraid of heights, this is probably not the hike for you.

Accident occur when hikers push themselves past their limits and/or make a mistake that led to an accident.


You are the sole responsible of your safety.


If you plan to do this hike in one day you do need a good level of fitness and have some hiking experience. Climbing experience is not necessary.


Check in advance for weather conditions, clouds, rain, and thunderstorms with lightning (summer afternoon) are not the good conditions to do this hike. You do not want to be at the expose granite rock when there are lightnings.



Carry enough water with you for this long hike.

The only treated water on the trail is available (summer only) at a drinking fountain at the Vernal Fall Footbridge (less than a mile from the trailhead). Last point for water fill up from Merced River is available near Little Yosemite Valley, halfway up. You must treat Merced River water by using iodine or using a giardia-rated water filter.


Especially during the offseason be prepared for cool temperatures and rain showers. During early season you can find snow on your way up, make sure you have the right gear for snow/ice conditions.


The top of Half Dome is about 8,000 above sea level so for most people there will not be any altitude sickness.


To avoid heat exhaustion or dehydration, drink plenty of water, eat light snacks along the hike, and take regular rest breaks in the shade.


Try not to fall of the Half Dome cliff to the valley below, this is going to be a long 4,000 ft freefall ending with an immediate stop of your body heating the rocks, do not try this 😊



Safety for climbing the cable sections when the cable are down (off season):


Important Note:

this is not a full explanation on safety, you are the only one responsible for your safety.

You must know what you are doing, miss handling and lack of safety procedures may lead to falling, this will cause you major harm and even death.


When the cable are down: If you or another group member do not have any of experience and you are reading the next section to learn for the first time about such activities, you are probably not ready for this hike.



I use the following system to anchor myself to the cables:

·       Good hiking shoes

·       Climbing harness that fit my size.

·       Two anchors, each made of: Sling + Locking Carabiners + Prusik Cord

·       Good pair of gloves.

·       Spare Carabiners + Prusik Cord


When walking on the cable you can use only one system to secure me to the cable.

I use two anchors’ systems to safely pass the sections where one cable ends, and you need to move to the next one.

First, I anchor myself to the next cable and only then I unhook myself from the first one. With that procedure I was always secure to the cable.


I use the simple but effective Prusik knot to secure myself to the cable.

It is easy to implement and when you are climbing up its slide along with your hands, but if you fall it will get stuck under load.




When the cable are down, I saw people that are climbing and connecting themselves to the cable only with Carabiners. This is extremely dangerous, it almost climbing without any safety.

In case of misshapen, you will fall down the cable section until you will get stop by the end of the cable, this can be long and brutal fall.

If nothing happen, you feal safe but if you are falling, you will be in great danger.

Take the extra cushion and use the Prusik knot.


I saw people using climbing helmets, this can be good additional protection.

I felt confidence and safe enough with my safety system, so I did not bring helmet with me.



Climbing when the cable are up:

I learned that when the cable are up most of the people just use gloves without any other safety equipment.

This is not only about you, but there are also other people on the cable, and they can make a mistake that will affect your safety.

I’m experience hiker, in shape, and with some climbing and rappelling experience and I think that the 100 dollar of safety gear is a must have for this hike, even when the cable are up.

You probably do not need to use the Prusik knot but only use the Carabiners to connect to the cables. Pass them over each metal bar is not so difficult thing to do.



The Hike:

I start my hike at exactly 4 am in the morning from Curry Village Parking lot.


After 1 mile I reach Mist trail head and start walking up the paved path that works its way to the direction of Vernal Falls. From the trailhead, it is just 1.5 miles to the top of Vernal falls, but it is steep.


In my hike, June 2023 Vernal falls where overflowing. Because I did not want to get completely wet with mist, I took the longer way up.

After passing the wooden bridge I took the trail to the right into the JMT trail, bypassing Vernal falls from above.

This is a longer and with more climbing, but I preferred to do so and not getting completely wet early in the morning.



After 3.6 mile from the parking lot, I reach Clark Point.

From here you have a nice view of the back of Half Dome, Mt Broderick and Liberty Cap as well as Nevada Falls.


From here the JMT trail up to Nevada falls was close because of waterfalls flooding the trail and I had to walk down to Silver Apron wooden bridge.




If you are hiking through Mist Trail to Vernal falls, as most hikers do, you will need to climb the steep stone steps that lead to Vernal Fall level, keep walking, and reach the trail junction and the wooden bridge above Vernal Falls.



From the wooden bridge the trail is crossing the Merced River and after a short walk you will reach the base of Nevada Falls.

When I visit here the Nevada waterfall flow was so strong and all the valley below it was wet like it is under heavy rain.


After short section in the woods the trail heading to the left side of the waterfall and start to climb the steep cliff with a long series of switchbacks.

The view here open-up and you can see the Nevada waterfall from below.


After 5.2 miles of hiking and climbing from the parking lot, you will reach the top of Nevada fall climb and a trail junction with restrooms. Here the trail leading right will take you to Nevada falls.

For our hike you should turn left in the direction of Little Yosemite and Half Dome.


The next section although still climbing but it is a lot less steep and after about a mile you will reach the entrance of Little Yosemite Valley where you will see the Merced River just near the trail on your right.


This is the last point that you can fill up with water.

If you are filling your bottles with river water, make sure you are using filter system or iodine.


From this point the trail to Half Dome take the left fork and get away from the river. This is a flat section but after a short walk you will reach the point that the trail start to climb left out of Little Yosemite Valley. This will be 6.5 miles from your starting point at Curry Village Parking lot.


The trail start climbing the mountain sloops that are covered with a large, impressive trees.

When I hiked here, I saw a team of park trail maintainers working and cleaning the trail from huge fallen trees.


The trail climbing up, start gradually but soon it get steeper and after walking up for 1.3 mile you will reach a clear marked trail junction.


Heading right (straight) will take you to the direction of Cloud Rest, in this trail junction you need to turn left in the direction of Half Dome.


From this trail junction additional 1.5 mile of relatively easy climbing will lead you to the base of subdome climb. Along this section of the climb, you can see far up above you the climb to Half Dome, it still look so high above and far away.


You are almost at the end of your climb and after a long 9.2-mile walk from your starting point.

Here you start a very steep section climbing the exposed subdome rock.



Important Tip:

Go and do your bathroom needs before starting the Sub Dome climb. There's nowhere to hide after that point.



In this section of the hike, you climb about 500 feet in elevation in less a quarter of a mile.

This section has many rocks stairs zig zagging the granite face and towards the top, there is no stairs, just rock sloops.

Make a stop, take a rest, and look back, the landscape has opened without any trees, and you can see Cloud Rest above you.


After additional climbing you will reach the base of the Half Dome cliff and the cable system, you are almost there !


Up to the sabdome base of the cables it took me exactly 5 hours of almost constant walking and 9.8 miles of hiking (I took the longer hike up).


When I did this hike, during June 7th, 2023, there was still snow patches on the ground in some sections of subdome climb and unlike most years the cable were still down (no need for any permit).


When I was here at 9am there where only few other hikers getting ready to climb the cable.


I rest for short time and put the harness and safety gear.

Then I start to climb the cables.




When the cable are up there are steel poles that lifting the 2 parallel cables up to your hip level. The metal bars are located roughly six feet apart from each other, a wooden plank is use as steps.

The wooden planks help you stabilize yourself and take a rest.



Few tips while on the cables (when they are up or down):

·       When the cable are up do not forget to bring your printed permit and photo ID of group leader.

·       Reach the cable climb as early in the morning as you can. Later the day it can be crowded and pack with all other permit holder hikers. I understand that during the season most hikers arrives between 9am to noon.

·       Take your time and be patient with slower hikers, allow faster hikers to pass you (only when it is possible and when it is safe).

·       When the cable are up always remained on the inside between the cables.

·       Bring hiking shoes with good ankle support and good traction, tall shoes are less recommended because ankle flexibility is needed. I used my regular hiking shoes.

·       Bring good working gloves so you can hold firmly the cables.

·       I learned that some hikers are using climbing harness and carabiners also when the cable are up. I fully agree, there is no such thing over safety. It provide additional confidence and it is easy to walk with the harness and moving carabiner over every metal bar is simple and easy.

·       I use the Locking Carabiners + Prusik knot system and it worked fine. I used it both when climbing up and when going down.

·       Overall, the rock angle is very steep, and looking down give the impression of standing wall, you need to firmly hold the cable and climb up.

·       Take as many rests stops as needed, nothing to harry for, do it slow and do it safe.


No matter if they are up or down the 100-foot-long cables are anchored into the granite and there is some overlap between the cables.

When you climb the cable when they are down on the rock there are about 5-7 points where you will need to switch cables.

Do not get lazy and careless, use the second anchor to connect to the next cable before disconnecting from the first cable.

When I climb the cables, I was the only one on the way up and I let myself to have a short rest in the middle and enjoy the view.

From the base to the top, you’ll climb a total of 400 feet, and this will take you about 20 minutes to reach the top of the cables.


After reaching the end of the cables, the rock angle start to level, I walked to the top of the dome, I made it !


The top of the dome itself is surprisingly very big so you can find place to rest without overcrowding. When I was there, less than 10 other hikes where on the dome with me.


The view from the top is amazing !


You feel like you are on the top of the world, in the middle of Yosemite where the entire park is all around you.


You can see the high Sierra mountains for all 3 directions, Cloud Rest above you and Tenaya Canyon below it. Glacier Point on the other side of the Valley, and El Capitan far away to the west at the entrance to Yosemite Valle.


You can walk to the edge of the cliff and look down 4,000 ft below you to Yosemite Valley.

You can see Mirror Lake just below you, Snow Creek Trail, and the waterfall on the other side of the canyon, as well as North Dome.


The “classical” Instagram “I did it” picture is taken from the top of the dome looking west where you are standing on the tip of the rock overhanging the valley, 4,000 ft straight below you.


What a view !

The pictures can’t tell or share the experience.



After almost an hour of resting and enjoying the view a thick layer of cloud start approaching the valley from the west.

They move fast and after few minutes they cover the valley and Glacier Point. They kept moving in and covered both sides of Half Dome below me.

The clouds start to connect on the section between Half Dome and Cloud Rest.


This was the signal for me to go down.



The hike down:

I went to the top of the cables, connect myself to the cables and went down implementing the same system and process as going up.

For me descending backwards was easier, just holding the cable and walking backward.

Going down is much easer and faster, I had to switch safety anchors every cable-end, but it was fast.

After short time I was back at subdome.


When I was in subdome the clouds start to cover the landscape, so I quickly took my harness off, put it into my backpack and start my descent down into the cloud.


I tried to be carful not to walk too fast at the steep rocky section of subdome, it will be a shame to fall and injure myself now.


After reaching the end of the steps at the base of subdome I was surrounded with the clouds.

When I reach this point, it was around noon and I saw few other groups going up the trail, not sure if they can see anything with all the clouds.


From base of subdome it was relatively long but easy downhill walk to Little Yosemite Valley.

I kept walking, passing the valley and hiking down to the trail junction with the restrooms.


This time I want to see Nevada Falls from the top.


From the trail junction (where you have restrooms) it is a very short walk to the wooden bridge and the top of Nevada Falls. There is a rock ledge on the right side of the waterfall where you can look down on the waterfall and the valley below.

All the mountains were completely covered by the clouds so I can’t see any of the nice view from this point.


Unlike the upper section of the Half Dome trail where I saw only few other hikers, at this section of the hike, at mid-day, you will see many other hikers.

The Mist Trail hike to Vernal and Nevada waterfalls is one of Yosemite’s most popular hiking trails.

See my blog:

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


After taking few waterfall pictures I walk back to the trail junction and from there start walking down the steep rocky section alongside Nevada falls.


For many people going down the steps is not less challenging compared to walking up, combined with your accumulated fatigue this is especially load the knees.


When I visit here Mist Trail was open to hikers in one direction only, going up, so I can’t use it to hike down.


After passing the lower Nevada section I cross the wooden bridge and from there climb up to Clark Point, midway up there is a nice viewing point of Vernal falls upper section.

The climb to Clark Point was longer than I remember it from that morning, looks like I was already tired.


From Clark Point, I start the long descend.

After what looks like endless switchbacks in the deep forest I reach the Mist Trail wooden bridge, from here I knew that I only have short steep section down back to the park main road and shuttle stop 16.


From the road it was only one mile to Curry Village Parking lot.


After exactly 12 hours, 20.5 miles, with more than 6,200 ft of total ascending I finish my hike.

I did many hikes, longer and more challenging, but this was one of the most rewarding accomplishments I had.

I’m sure I will remember this hike to Half Dome for long time.


Just before leaving the parking lot, my good deed of the day was helping someone that forget the car-light on to jumpstart his car.


From here I drove 4.5 hours back home near San Francisco.



This was one of my most memorable Yosemite hikes, challenging but rewording.

I cleared out one of my long-lasting bucket-list hike, now to my next challenge.



Additional Pictures: