Perhaps one of the most famous hikes in Yosemite National Park, Half Dome was, like El Capitan, once considered impossible to climb. Now, thousands of park visitors reach the summit, but it still remains a challenge that requires knowledge and preparation. Half Dome rises 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) above the valley floor and 8,800 feet (2,682 meters) above sea level.
The hike, which takes between 10 and 12 hours round-trip, is strenuous, but the vistas are more than worth it. Hikers are treated to views of Vernal and Nevada Falls, Liberty Cap and panoramic expanses of Yosemite Valley and the High Sierra. In order to get those views, though, you’ll have to ascend the cables. These two metal cables will allow you to climb the last 400 feet to the summit without rock climbing equipment; if the views don’t take your breath away, the cable ascent just might.
Permits to hike to the top of Half Dome are required seven days per week when the cables are up; the cables usually go up the Friday before Memorial Day (the last Monday in May) and come down the day after Columbus Day (the second Monday in October). A maximum of 300 hikers are allowed each day on the Half Dome Trail beyond the base of the subdome and permits are distributed by lottery. Permits cost two separate fees: the first fee is charged per application ($4.50 online or $6.50 by phone); the second fee is $8 per person and is charged when you receive a permit.
Most people begin the hike from Happy Isles (shuttle stop #16), about a half-mile from the trailhead parking lot.