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Half Dome – Yosemite

May 1, 2013

The Dome and The Valley

Last October, a few friends of mine decided to take a road trip down the west coast to California, which two of us thought was a perfect excuse to finally hike Half Dome. Half Dome is a 16 mi (25 km) out and back hike with about 4800 feet (~1450m) of elevation gain in Yosemite National Park. The trail itself is well marked and straight forward, though you can decide between taking the John Muir Trail and the Mist Trail for part of it. The John Muir option is longer, but less steep. A Park Ranger convinced us to take the Mist Trail up and the John Muir back. It’s not necessary, but if you are a map nerd like me, you can pick up a National Geographic Map of the Park.


The most infamous part of the trail is THE CABLES, which take you up to the summit of the dome. There are plenty of videos of ascents/descents of the cables which I avoided watching because I have a reasonable fear of heights and didn’t want to psych myself out. It is very steep, requires a reasonable amount of arm strength, but doable. I recommend bringing a pair of gloves. If you are particularly scared of heights, you can hook into the cables with climbing gear. I went without as I didn’t think of it and I don’t have any climbing gear anyway, but if I were to do it again, I would probably invest in some carabiners and rope for peace of mind.

Up? The Cables

The Cables are generally open late May to mid-October, but can open late or shut down early depending on weather conditions. We chose to do the hike the last week The Cables were up and were rewarded with beautiful weather and few hikers.

Permits are required to hike the upper portion (the dome) of Half Dome. These can be difficult to come by in the peak season (mid-June to August and long weekends) as only 300 hikers are allowed on the dome per day. 250 of these are distributed in a preseason lottery, which is held in the month of March. Otherwise you must apply two days before you wish to hike. Either way, you must go HERE to apply for permits. As I didn’t plan ahead, this meant applying the day before I left San Francisco to drive to Yosemite and not knowing if I would be able to hike until the morning we left. Fear not though, if you can’t get a permit there are still plenty of beautiful hikes in the park, though none as iconic as Half Dome.

So Half Dome, difficult, moderately terrifying, but worth it!



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