Half Dome

  • Big Hikes rating: ★★★★★
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Summit: 8836 ft / 2693 m
  • Distance: 14 miles / 22.4 km
  • Elevation gain: 4800 ft / 1463 m
  • Time: 8 – 12 hours

Image of Half Dome in the snow from valley floor

This hike is closed in Winter

Always read and follow the parks Half Dome guidelines and safety precautions before hiking. Half Dome can be very dangerous!

Towering over Yosemite Valley you can't visit without staring up in awe at Half Dome. It's a beast of a day hike at 14 miles / 22.4 km. After an initially stunning start hiking past Vernal and Nevada Fall there are some uninteresting middle sections to be slogged, but the anticipation of the summit will get you through. The climax is well worth it.

You need a permit to use Half Dome's cables so don't set out without one, as it is impossible to get to the summit without using the cables and all your hard work will be unrewarded. Read more about the Half Dome cables and application process on the official parks website. Also the cables are taken down in winter.

Descending the Half Dome cables

Starting off in the valley you pass Vernal and Nevada Fall which are park highlights for good reason. There are lots of steps on this section and make it the most strenuous part of the hike.

The next section is a pretty uninteresting uphill slog as you skirt around Half Dome, consisting mostly of tree covered switchbacks with not a lot to look at.

The views start to get a lot better as you approach Half Dome's infamous cables. Gloves and patience are strongly recommended for the cables. With lots of people coming up and down at the same time it can take more than 30 minutes to navigate last 400 ft / 120 m to the summit.

The views from the summit are unreal, well worth the effort. It can get quiet busy on the top as people seem to gather together but quieter spots can be found. The summit is like a moonscape with both smooth and crumbling rock so make make sure to be careful and take your time walking around.

Best lunch Spot: Find a quiet spot at the summit.

Highlight: Standing on Half Dome's 'Diving Board'.

Half Dome's 'diving board' at the summit

Trail Map

Big Hikes Yosemite trail map or Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Point and Glacier Point
Click map for larger version

Half Dome Trail Head

The trail head is located at Happy Isles, Valley Shuttle stop 16. Trailhead parking is available approximately 0.5 miles / 0.8 km away.

Half Dome Variations

At the beginning or end it is possible to do a mix of the Mist Trail and John Muir Trail.