LOCATION: Yosemite National Park, California

California is home to some of the most iconic parks between its coasts, deserts, forests, and mountains, but Yosemite National Park is its most recognizable and beautiful, especially under the façade of Half Dome. Even entering the valley under the granite giants, Half Dome is the most striking with its sheer face and looming above the others. The view from the bottom is something, but the gorgeous hike and the final vista from the top are the things that stay with you.

The Long Way Up

Half Dome is not your easy Sunday stroll! The trail is over 17 miles with an elevation gain of more than 4,700 feet. I went with a group of 19 friends and we met several weekends before to go on some other hikes to practice for the big one in Yosemite. 

It takes about 10-12 hours round trip, so I recommend starting really early in the morning. Our group started at 6:00am. We took a lot of breaks to eat and stopped to capture Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls before reaching the base of the dome and the cables.

What to Pack

You will need to bring solid and comfortable hiking boots and gloves (super important when climbing the cables). Bring a jacket for the wind at the top of the dome and for hiking back in the later hours. Pack sunscreen and sunglasses, because trail frequently leads into the sun. Be sure to bring a day’s worth of water and snacks, like protein bars, fruits, etc. You will need the fuel to reach the peak!

Lottery System

You will need to get a permit to ascend the subdome steps and Half Dome Cables. Permits are distributed through lottery system. You must apply in advance. Every year, the application period for this lottery is from March 1 through March 31. 225 permits are available each day, and you can request up to six permits per application. If you get there without a permit, it’s likely that a ranger will turn you away at or near the subdome. While you can hike up to the base of the subdome without a permit, I really recommend going all the way to the top! 

Apply here: Half Dome Permits for Day Hikers

How to Ascend

To ascend the final dome, I brought via-ferrata gear. I have a bit of a fear of heights but with this I felt totally secure. The set comes with a harness and two cables with carabiners. Heights are not my favorite part, but I could not say no to summiting Half Dome, so this was essential and comfortable for me. Not many people do it this way, but it’s hard to see why not.

At the Summit

To be honest, my initial plan was to stop at the subdome, which is already a huge accomplishment due to the intensity of the hike and my fear of heights. But after getting this far and seeing my friends climb to the top, I had to summit Half Dome!

At the top, the views of the valley are so impressive and beautiful, we got the sensation of being on top of the world! We saw down the Yosemite Valley, carved out by glaciers over centuries, and looked out to the High Sierra rising and falling into the horizon. I felt quite small when looking at the grandiosity of California nature and having hiked all that way gave me such a rewarding feeling.

One of my friends brought champagne as a surprise for everyone. Such a great idea, and Yes.. the occasion well deserve commemoration! Everyone had so much fun. Hiking Half dome with friends definitely made the whole experience even more unforgettable. We spent a good amount of time walking around up there. The surface is surprisingly flat and quite vast (I don’t know why but for some reason I was imagining that I would be at the top of a narrow pick), taking photos in every direction, and soaking up the vistas. Just keep in mind that you still need to hike back though. So, allow for plenty of daylight for your ascent and journey back.

Yosemite National Park should be on the bucket list for anyone. Half Dome is the main draw, and while the ascent is a little difficult the panorama of the valley and the High Sierra is worth the trek. Pack smart, bring friends, and maybe stow a little champagne. You will never forget the vista or your time here.

Hope you like the post! Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments. ♥


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