Alternative Route to get back from Half Dome in light of recent Yosemite Rockfall

Small boulders block the JMT below Clark Point

Last Saturday morning, 2 rockfalls occurred on the Lower Mist Trail. No one was hurt. By most measures they were small but it will take the park a few weeks to get the debris out of the way. Geologists feel that the recent heavy rain loosened the soil and gravity took over to let the boulders slide. The area that is closed is the John Muir Trail below the Panorama Trail and on the switchbacks above Clark Point. This graphic shows the area in question.

Graphic showing the impacted area at Yosemite

Most Half Dome hikers go up the Mist Trail and return via the JMT in order to save their knees. The 29 switchbacks are way easier and safer than going down the wet lower Mist Trail. One work around, rather than going down the Upper Mist Trail (by Nevada Fall) and then past Vernal Fall, is to go the JMT west of the Nevada Fall footbridge, and continue to Clark Point. At this spot, go right towards Nevada Fall and that spur trail will intersect with the path to the Emerald Pool and above Vernal. That’s the only way to get down. At least you skip the hard gully to the west of Liberty Cap. Use poles to steady you down the Mist Trail.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Up the Down Staircase” – 1967 film starring Sandy Dennis 

MrHalfDome™ – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com

One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome

About Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch

Mr Half Dome. Has written the only half dome hiking guide, One Best Hike: Yosemite's Half Dome. Has hiked it 31 times to day. Lives in San Jose, CA Available for presentations. Carpe Diem Experience, LLC
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2 Responses to Alternative Route to get back from Half Dome in light of recent Yosemite Rockfall

  1. Maureen L says:

    thanks very much for this info, and the very nice amended Valley hiking map. triple thanks, in fact.

    just to be clear, the rock fall is on the John Muir Trail, not the Mist Trail. (you say it right, but not in your opening sentence.)

    going up the Mist Trail, then the gully up to Nevada Falls is a great hike up. but then, as you say, coming down from either Nevada Fall or the full Half Dome Trip, I like to come down the JMT to Clark Point and continue on the JMT until it meets the Mist Trail a few hundred yards above the bridge at with the Vernal Fall views.

    I’ve never gone down the Mist Trail beside Vernal Fall, and never plan to do it, but now it looks like I’m stuck if I want to go to Nevada Fall on my trip next week. the two-way traffic scares me, not just because of the trail, but because of the humans who don’t look out enough for each other.

    I wonder if they’ll have this stretch of the JMT cleared by the time I do Half Dome in late June.

    it’s very difficult to find this on the nps.gov/yose web site.

    no alerts like those for road closure are flagged on the main page.

    under current conditions and then trails and wilderness,
    we have stuff that hasn’t been updated since last fall.
    (the JMT section from Clark Point to Nevada Fall is NOT closed indefinitely–that’s the usual winter closure info, not
    this rockfall.)

    I realize they have a sequester situation, but given how early some folks start on their long hikes, how do they expect folks to plan well?

    here’s what the Park says if you search with exactly the right keywords:

    Rockfall Closes Portion of John Muir Trail

    Due to a rockfall Saturday May 11, the John Muir Trail is currently closed from the junction with the Mist Trail (just above Vernal Fall footbridge) to Clark Point. The John Muir Trail remains open between Clark Point and Nevada Fall and can be accessed from the Mist Trail.

    • I agree – you are correct. If you look at the photo, it seems unless they have yellow tape blocking the fall at each end, you could easily scramble over the talus. If not, you have no choice but to go Vernal down. The only info is that they will have it cleared “in a few weeks.” That does seem reasonable – so maybe the second week in June.

      I’m sure they are undermanned thus the lack of info. Rec.gov screwed up again…my confirmation sez the refund of cancelled permits is $5. (knotty $8).

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