Half Dome Day Hike from Yosemite Valley
The 14- to 16-mile round-trip hike to Half Dome is not for you if you’re out of shape or unprepared. You will be gaining elevation (for a total of 4,800 feet) most of your way to the top of Half Dome. Most would say the reward is worth the effort. Along the way, you’ll see outstanding views of Vernal and Nevada Falls, Liberty Cap, Half Dome, and–from the shoulder and summit–panoramic views of Yosemite Valley and the High Sierra. Most hikers take 10 to 12 hours to hike to Half Dome and back; some take longer. If you plan on hiking during the day, it’s smart to leave around sunrise (or earlier) and then have a non-negotiable turn-around time. For instance, if you haven’t reached the top of Half Dome by 3:30 pm, you will turn around. Check for sunrise and sunset times before you hike. Regardless, each person should carry a flashlight or headlamp with good batteries (hikers commonly struggle down the trail after dark because they don’t have a flashlight). Although the trail is well marked, you should be prepared with a good topographic map and compass and know how to use them.
Hikes ascending the Half Dome Cables
Half Dome Cables- The most famous–or infamous–part of the hike is the ascent up the cables. The two metal cables allow hikers to climb the last 400 feet to the summit without rock climbing equipment. Since 1919, relatively few people have fallen and died on the cables. However, injuries are not uncommon for those acting irresponsibly.
The Half Dome cables usually go back up the Friday before Memorial Day (conditions permitting) and come down the day after Columbus Day.Tips while using the cables: Take your time and be patient with slower hikers, allow faster hikers to pass you (when possible), Remain on the inside of the cables, do not attempt the ascent if: Storm clouds are in the area, the ground is wet (the cables and rock become very slick when wet; most accidents on the cables occur during wet conditions). The cables are down for the winter (typically, from the day after Columbus Day until Memorial Day weekend) (check conditions update for status and any available updates).
Preparation: Footwear- Bring well broken-in boots with good ankle support and good traction. Some of the most common injuries Half Dome hikers suffer are blisters and ankle injuries; good footwear is the best way to prevent these problems.
Gloves: Many people find gloves helpful on the cables. However, if you bring your gloves up, pack them out. Hundreds of pounds of rotting gloves otherwise accumulate.
Trash: There is no trash service on trails. While hiking in Yosemite, be sure to pack out all trash. When possible, you can help park rangers by picking up trash that you encounter on the trail. Bearproof trash cans are available at trailheads.
Water: One of the easiest ways to ensure a safe, enjoyable hike is to be sure to have plenty of water. Weather conditions and personal preference affect the amount of water you need, but suggested minimum amounts per person are:
1 gallon (4 liters) if hiking to the top of Half Dome
2 quarts (2 liters) if hiking only to the top of Nevada Fall
1 quart (1 liter) if hiking only to the top of Vernal Fall
The only treated water on the trail is available (summer only) at a drinking fountain at the Vernal Fall Footbridge (less than a mile from the trailhead). Merced River water is available up to Little Yosemite Valley; however, you should treat this water by boiling, using iodine, or using a giardia-rated water filter. Drinking untreated river water may cause significant illness.
Altitude Sickness – A few visitors each summer have problems with altitude sickness. Symptoms may include severe headache and/or nausea. The only way to relieve altitude sickness is to descend immediately. Other environmental illnesses include heat exhaustion, dehydration, and hyponatremia (low electrolyte levels). In addition to drinking plenty of water, be sure to eat, and to take regular rest breaks in the shade.