Yosemite Sightseeing Attraction
Easily dominating Yosemite Valley’s craggy peaks with is signature shape, Half Dome is surely one of the most unforgettable things you will see should you choose to visit this majestic landscape. Measuring in at an imposing 4,737 feet above the valley floor, this is probably one of the most iconic sites in all of Yosemite National Park; its distinctive sheer rock face has been featured in countless postcards, posters, commercials, and artistic photographs and has come to stand for the characteristically majestic beauty of Yosemite Park itself. This is an absolute must-see for any visitor to the park but it would indeed be very hard to miss – Half Dome’s granite face is one of the easiest to spot in the whole park!
Although many think that this rock is literally half of what was once a full dome (as the name “Half Dome” would indicate), this theory is not entirely true. Two to three million years ago when a Sherwin Age glacier moved through the Sierra Nevada mountains and carved out the Yosemite Valley we know today, Half Dome was probably only about 20 percent bigger than it is right now. Taking a look at the back half of the dome, it is more or less as vertical as the front side except at its very top, leading scientists to believe that abrasion from the slow-moving glacier only shaved off a small amount of the formation’s valley side. However there is also one theory as to how this erosion happened. Some scientists theorize that as the glacier moved through the Sierra Nevada mountain range and created the Yosemite Valley, the glacier left small drops of water in cracks on the front of Half Dome’s face, which then froze and expanded, eventually causing the front of the rock to sheet off into its characteristic vertical face.
Half Dome’s formidable shape and size make it an extremely popular attraction to serious mountain climbers from around the country and the world. Although many naturalists in the late 19th century believed its summit to be entirely inaccessible by foot, there are now multiple ways to conquer this California icon. For the most adventurous and experienced visitors, more than ten rock climbing paths snake up the front of Half Dome’s vertical face. In fact, the first time this face was climbed fully in 1957, it was the first Grade VI climb in the United States – that’s quite a feat! As such, these must not be attempted by the recreational climber, however , as they are very challenging to even the most experienced outdoorsman.
For a less extreme but just as exciting way to summit Half Dome, there are several full-day hikes one can take up to the top. Although these are in no way relaxing or easy routes, they make a manageable yet challenging adventure for the hiking connoisseur. Multiple trails converge in a final 400-foot ascent of the dome itself, which is aided by a path
of metal cables suspended on small poles to make handrails. These are necessary because the verticality of the hike is so steep. Although this is a strenuous route that takes about 12 hours total, it is not uncommon for more than 1,000 visitors to see this famous peak on an average summer day! The National Park Service emphasizes that this hike is not for the faint of heart, so make sure you are properly conditioned before you attempt this climb.
If Half Dome’s shape looks curiously familiar to you, then that means it probably is. The famous rock is featured in many motifs and works of art. Next time you find some spare change, look through and see if you recognize its distinctive form on the California quarter; it sits in the background with famed western naturalist and Yosemite-lover John Muir in the foreground. It is also said that Half Dome was used as inspiration for the logo of international outdoor gear supplier The North Face. The work of nature photographer Ansel Adams also frequently features Half Dome. Intending to contrast the rich yet austere beauty of the California wilderness, Adams’ black and white photograph collections often feature the spectacular Half Dome and other famous rock features of the Yosemite Valley. Be sure to check out some of his work before you come to visit Yosemite’s Half Dome!