Iconic Half Dome rises 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) above the floor of Yosemite Valley. Perhaps one of the most famous hikes in Yosemite National Park, Half Dome was once considered impossible to climb. Now hundreds of park visitors reach this magnificent granite formation’s summit each day, and countless more gaze at its towering face from below.
Spend any time at all in Yosemite, and you’re sure to catch a glimpse of postcard-perfect Half Dome. Sightseeing tours through the park—including full-day and multi-day trips from Fresno, San Francisco, and Los Angeles—offer plenty of views and photo ops of the park’s distinctive peak. For adventure travelers, climbing to the top is somewhat of a rite of passage: The intense round-trip hike is about 15 miles (24 kilometers) with a 4,800-foot (1,463-meter) elevation gain. A guided hike to the top is a full-day affair, and the spectacular panoramic views from the summit are well worth the effort.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Half Dome is a must-see for adventure travelers, outdoor enthusiasts, and photographers.
- Hiking Half Dome requires a permit, so be sure to apply well in advance.
- If hiking, wear sturdy and comfortable footwear suitable for walking over uneven surfaces, as well as sun protection, and bring gloves to ascend the metal cables that line the final stretch of the route.
- Along the trail, flush toilets are located at the Vernal Fall Footbridge, and composting toilets are available at Emerald Pool (above Vernal Fall), at the top of Nevada Fall, and in Little Yosemite Valley.
How to Get There
The top of Half Dome is accessible only via a strenuous round-trip hike. If you’re not hiking to the top (or don’t have a permit), take the park shuttle to Sentinel Bridge or drive up to Glacier Point for excellent views of the peak.
When to Get There
The cables that allow visitors to summit Half Dome usually go up just before Memorial Day and come down after Columbus Day, depending on the weather. Never attempt to ascend if you see storm clouds. If you’re in the park around sunset, make your way to Sentinel Bridge to see Half Dome illuminated by the setting sun.
The Infamous Half Dome Cables
One of the most notorious parts of the hike to the top of Half Dome is the last 400 feet (122 meters), where hikers are aided by two metal cables to summit the stone face without the need for rock-climbing equipment. The predecessor to today’s modern cables were laid by George Anderson, when he successfully reached the summit in 1875.