Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Half Dome Trail

The trail leading to Half Dome begins from the Happy Isles Trailhead. It follows the paved trail to the footbridge at the base of Mist Trail. Hikers should follow Mist Trail along the Merced River to Nevada Falls overlook. The details of this trek are available in the Mist Trail and Nevada Falls Trail descriptions. Above Nevada Falls follow the John Muir Trail past Liberty Cap, along the Merced River into Little Yosemite Valley. It is one mile along the John Muir Trail from Liberty Cap to a fork in the trail. The right fork leads to Little Yosemite backcountry camp. Follow the left side of the fork as it leads through Little Yosemite Valley. In another mile the John Muir Trail splits from the Half Dome Trail. The elevation at this point is 7,000 feet. It is two miles to Half Dome summit from this split in the trail. The first mile and a quarter consists of a well-shaded climb. Emerging from the trees the northeast face of Half Dome becomes visible. The elevation at this point is approximately 8,000 feet. (The summit of Half Dome is 8,842 feet.)

The trail continues to climb to the summit of a nearby dome. Granite stairs were carved along this ascent. They include many switchbacks on an exposed trail with lots of loose gravel. Beyond the stairs the trail traverses the dome then descends slightly to the shoulder of Half Dome where the cable climb begins. This climb leads hikers up a 30 percent grade of smooth granite.

There is a cable for individuals going up and one for folks going down. From late May through late October the cable is supported by wooden planks that bring create a bannister-like effect, bringing the cable to waist level. Afternoon thunderstorms are common in this mountainous region from late June through late August. This last portion of the climb should not be attempted if thunderheads loom in the area. A significant amount of exposure is involved in the last half mile of this climb and there is no shelter on the summit.


Directions from Arch Rock Entrance: Travel eastward into the Yosemite Valley, 11.5 miles to the Curry Village day-use area. Park your car and take the shuttle to stop number 16, Happy Isles. Head eastward along the paved path that leads along the northern bank of the Merced River.


Permits are required to hike to the top of Half Dome. They must be reserved in advance. For more information, visit nps.gov.