No other landmark in Yosemite is as well recognized and beloved as Half Dome, the steely granite monolith towering 4,347 feet above Yosemite Valley. Geologist Josiah Whitney declared it “inaccessible” in 1870 but was proven wrong only five years later when a climber succeeded in scaling the back of the dome to the summit. Since then, the route has become so popular—and crowded—that the National Park Service was forced to establish a permit lottery in 2011 to keep numbers at a manageable 50,000 or so per year. Though many want to try it, the steep 16-mile hike—including the last 400 feet via cables—is for neither the faint of heart nor weak of limb. If that sounds too challenging, know that there are several spectacular views of Half Dome that require only short hikes or no walking at all. Hike a short distance to Cook’s Meadow in the valley, take a bus to Glacier Point, or drive to Olmsted Lookout or the Tunnel View overlook on Highway 41.
By Deb Hopewell, AFAR Contributor
Climbing the Cables at Half Dome
Climbing Half Dome in Yosemite is something everyone should do at least once. It's a major commitment and takes several hours over almost a mile climb, but the views of the valley are unparalleled. One of the most intimidating parts is the last climb up the rock shoulder using the cables. In the past there was no limit to the number of people allowed -- and often there was a line on each of the two cables (one line climbing up and one line climbing down, which is much harder, in my opinion). Now the park issues permits to limit the number of people each day. Be sure to call early to get your permit and pack lots of food and water for the hike. And bring your own gloves for the final climb up the cables.
By Laura Simkins, AFAR Staff
Climbing Half Dome
Climbing Half Dome is one of the most memorable and for me, one of the most scariest experiences I've done. When I went, we hiked about 8 miles through the valley to get to the base, passing two waterfalls and gorgeous scenery along the way. I believe you need a permit now, but we just walked up to the base, grabbed a pair of gloves, and used only some wooden planks and cables to climb up the face of a rock. The view from the top, overlooking all of Yosemite, was definitely worth every shaking nerve I had in my body!
An visual and a natural national icon, the Half Dome in Yosemite is one of those sights that commands respect. It is such a gorgeous natural landscape that keeps people who visit in awe. I know that I could never get tired of it. One day though, I will hike half dome. If you are interested in hiking half dome, you need to register prior to hiking and be prepared for a roughly 7-8 hr hike!
By Ted Nghiem
Happy Isles, Yosemite Valley, CA 95389, USA