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Half Dome Hike

Yosemite National Park's iconic day hike, with stunning views over Yosemite Valley from the top of Half Dome.

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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length: 15.7 miles
Duration: Full day

Overview :  Half Dome is the signature landmark of Yosemite National Park. “Average” people can accomplish the approximately 16-mile, 12-hour hike... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Happy Isles

Regardless of where you are staying, you will need to get to the Happy Isles trailhead of the John Muir Trail to begin your Half Dome hike. It's just east of Curry Village. Bus stop #16 is close to the trailhead, but buses do not operate until 7 am – way too late for a successful hike (a 5:30 am start is highly recommended). Near the bus stop is a... More

2. Mileage Marker sign

Just past the gage station, turn left and head uphill. You will come to the large reddish mileage marker sign. This is the official start and end of your Half Dome hike. You will have to add all the walking you did from your bed to here for a complete mileage total. Turn on your GPS here. You are also at the beginning of the John Muir Trail, often... More

As you walk up the paved path you will get some good ups and downs to warm up. To your left you will a see large 1970’s era rockfall that at one time was the site of a trail to Sierra Point. It has long been closed and is not recommended. Rattlesnakes abound here and it is pretty rough scrambling. Sierra Point was the one spot that a person could ... More

4. Register Rock

As you leave the bridge and head up the JMT, after just a few minutes you will be faced with a decision. To continue straight and get wet from the mist off of Vernal Fall or stay dry and take the longer but dry JMT. The JMT turns right about 150 degrees and continues up to Clark Point and Nevada Fall. If you go straight and through a control gate ... More


317 foot Vernal Fall was named by the first whites when they arrived in the valley in 1851. It is a wide symmetric fall that is postcard perfect. Stay behind the rail and do not go near the water. In July 2005, a man climbed over the rail and stood in the water a mere 20 feet from the edge and went over to his death. In 2011, we had 200% snowpack ... More

6. Silver Apron Bridge

Under this wooden bridge, the Merced flows down a long smooth narrow chute and into the Emerald Pool. It is reminiscent of a water slide. The bridge provides a view of the water rushing down the chute. Despite graphic warning signs, people sometimes unwisely go for a swim which results in calls to Yosemite Search and Rescue. The water is very cold... More

7. Junction of Mist Trail and John Muir Trail

The upper Mist Trail continues the theme of man-carved granite steps. If the lower Mist Trail didn’t spread your group out, these steps will. Hiking poles come in handy to help propel you up the steep incline. The early years saw the trail cut into “zig-zags” to accommodate horses, but today it is frequented only by humans. Pack animals now go up ... More

8. Little Yosemite Valley

Little Yosemite Valley (LYV) was once a thriving summer village for the Indians in the area. Named by the first whites to see it (the Mariposa Battalion), this valley extends towards Merced Lake. The 2,000-foot-high walls sculpted by glaciers resemble the majesty of the main Yosemite Valley. You will be on the level trail for only about a mile so ... More

9. Junction of John Muir & Half Dome trails

As you head up the switchbacks, keep your eyes open for a metal trail sign pointing the way to Half Dome in 2 miles. The main trail splits to the right and continues as the JMT. To the left is the Half Dome trail. Should you go right, you will head towards Cloud’s Rest.

When you are ascending this forested area, you may be lucky enough to see... More

10. The Little Spring

The switchbacks will seem to go on forever, so rest and drink before you are thirsty. Nibble as you go. Pay close attention to this POI. I will show you a little known water source. Some guidebooks refer to a spring that lies off to the right a couple hundred yards. Don’t bother trying to find it. You will soon walk within a mere feet of a... More

11. Base of Sub Dome

About a half of a mile beyond the Little Spring, you will get a glimpse of Sub Dome with the backside of Half Dome looming above it. The trees get thinner and the views open up. You will know you are near the base of Sub Dome when a large flat area appears and several downed trees provide a nice resting place. Many people kick back and rest in the... More

12. The Base of the Cables

When you finally arrive at the top of Sub Dome, you come face-to-face with the infamous cables. Photos do little to convey the task that lies ahead. You should have a total trip estimated time and turn around if you are beyond your half-way time. From here it can take you a long time to get up and back down the cables, depending on the crowd. You ... More

13. Climbing the Cables

This is where you will find out if you trained hard enough. Although there is often a pile of old discarded gloves near the start of the cables, they are junk. Good thing you brought your own. Focus on the immediate 10-feet in front of you. Stay to the right side; the route is over 90-years old and is worn smooth. It’s a 2-way system with people... More


Over the years, Half Dome has been called Tissiack, South Dome, Cleft Rock and the Rock of Ages. Half Dome covers about 17 football fields in acreage, so find a quiet spot away from the crowds and imagine what it was like for George Anderson or John Muir. When you are ready to explore, the curved western dome reveals wildflowers and rock... More

15. Nevada Fall

On your way home, if you are running out of time to get back to the valley safely, then use the Mist Trail. It is a bit over a mile shorter. The Mist Trail will be a challenge for your knees but it will save you a lot of time. It may be wet so use caution. I assume you want to see something new, so continue along the JMT to the Nevada Fall... More

16. The Ice Wall or Rock Cut

The cliff area with water seeping out of it is has been called both the Ice Wall and the Rock Cut. When the trail was built, dynamite was used to blast the path out of the rock. In decades past, people could use ice axes and climb the ice flow during winter. This is no longer permitted. Hike along the cliff and look back at Nevada Fall for a... More

17. Clark Point

Not too long after leaving the Ice Wall you will rapidly descend and soon approach a trail split at Clark Point. The trail to the right loops back to the area of La Casa Nevada between Vernal and Nevada Fall. This route would make for a real long day.

Clark Point was named for Galen Clark. When he was 39 he caught tuberculosis and moved to the... More

18. Mileage Marker Sign

Congratulations! You have officially completed the Half Dome hike in one day. It normally takes hikers 10 to 12 hours to do. You have covered about 15 1/2 miles. Had you gone the JMT both ways, it would be closer to 17. You can now head back to your tent or hotel room. I suggest you do some slow stretching of your quads, calves and hamstrings.... More

19. Videos

Hi! Mr Half Dome here. A guy who has a passion for this hunk of granite. I have put together some nice videos to add to your experience. They will only be viewable when you are connected to the internet and they come to you via YouTube, so you need a smart phone or wifi access. Cell coverage is poor in the south shadow of Half Dome and wifi is... More