Hiking Half Dome in 2020

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Distance: 17 miles (22.7 km) round-trip

Starts at: Mist Trail

Elevation: 8,842 ft (2,695 m)

Difficulty: Strenuous

Time: 10-14 hours

Begin at: Happy Isles via the Mist Trail

Towering nearly 5,000 feet above Yosemite Valley and 8,800 feet above sea level, Half Dome is a Yosemite icon and monumental trail for even the most seasoned hikers. Since George G. Anderson first ascended the granite dome in 1875, countless Yosemite visitors have continued to conquer the daunting climb. With the correct preparation and attention to safety, hikers in good physical condition can expect an unforgettable adventure into the Yosemite wilderness. A Scenic Wonders cabin is an ideal and convenient launching pad for hiking Half Dome.

How Long is the Hike?

It takes most people 10 to 14 hours to hike to the summit of Half Dome and back. If you plan on hiking during the day, plan to leave before or at sunrise. The journey begins on the Mist Trail along the Merced River and passes picturesque Vernal and Nevada falls before entering Little Yosemite Valley, where some camp overnight to break up the journey.

The final push (and most famous part of the experience) is the 400-foot climb to the summit using bolted cables. The cables allow hikers to reach the summit without rock climbing equipment. Since 1919, only a small number of people have fallen and died using the cables, though injuries resulting from irresponsible behavior are not uncommon.

At the top awaits an endless panorama of Yosemite Valley and the High Sierra.

Do I Need a Permit to Hike Half Dome?

Permits are required to access the Half Dome cables and summit. To ensure a manageable amount of people are on the trail and that weather conditions are safe, permits are distributed through two lottery processes:

  • The preseason lottery application is available throughout March, with results announced in mid April. 2019 permits will grant access from Fri, May 24, 2019 to Tue, Oct 15, 2019.
  • A smaller number of permits are available every day the cables are in place (roughly from Columbus Day to Memorial Day). You may apply via a two day in advance via the same link above.


What should I bring?

  • Water (at least 4-5 liters)
  • Snacks
  • Sturdy hiking boots
  • Flashlight
  • Sunscreen
  • Gloves for cables
  • Layered clothing, including a waterproof jacket in case of rain
  • Toilet paper
    • There are only three places to use a bathroom throughout the hike (Vernal Falls footbridge, the top of Nevada Falls, Little Yosemite Valley). Plan on relieving yourself outside.
  • Trash bag
  • Topographic map

When is it unsafe to hike Half Dome?

  • Storm clouds are present in the area
    After rainy weather, when the cables and rock are wet and dangerously slippery
    The cables are removed for the winter. Check NPS’s conditions update for the most up-to-date information



If you’re planning to go hiking to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite this year, consider making your reservations with Yosemite’s Scenic Wonders. We offer Yosemite reservations just 20 minutes away from the Half Dome trail. Give us a call at 1-888-YOSEMITE (1-888-967-3648) to learn more.

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