Half Dome hike overview

We’ve picked up several new reader to the blog so it’s worthwhile to rise some old topics to the top. If you’ve nto done the hike before, here are some musings on what it’s all about.

The often published distance for the Half Dome hike is about 17 miles. Of course, this all depends on where your starting point is and which route you take. The “zero” marker for my trips is the logical start of the trail, next to the Merced River at Happy Isles. I go from the trailhead, to the Vernal Fall Bridge, up the Mist Trail, between Liberty Cap and Nevada Fall, through Little Yosemite Valley, then on to Half Dome. The return is via Nevada Fall and the John Muir Trail. Total distance is 15.5 miles this way, and not the 17 miles mentioned above. This route allows you to view Nevada Fall up close in the morning and saves your knees from the pounding going down the Mist Trail at the end of the day when you are most tired. The well-published path resembles a counterclockwise “question mark,” leading from Happy Isles and behind the backside of Half Dome. You will learn the meaning of the word “switchback” as you will encounter mega-dozens of these turns.

The actual apex of Half Dome is only 2 miles from Happy Isles – as the crow flies. You will ascend nearly a mile as you continue on the path. It is well marked and you will just follow the crowd. About 400 peopleare “permitted” (literally) to do this hike daily! Do not cut across trails (that would speed erosion) and do not litter (there are no trashcans along the way).  There are four  well maintained trail toilets on the hike.  Practice the “Leave no Trace” principles of hiking. Begin your hike by 6 am. The goal is to be at the cables by 11 am. Arrive much later and you may  be greeted by a line, slowly going up the cables. It is much easier if you can go at your pace versus standing and waiting hundreds of feet up. Bring a flashlight in case your hike takes longer than you hoped. Be very careful and take the warnings seriously. You can get hurt, so assume responsibility for your own safety. If you have any trepidation, don’t proceed. Enjoy this freedom as you enjoy Yosemite and admire its status as a “World Heritage site.”


Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Everybody’s talking about Revolution, Evolution, Mastication, Flagellation, Regulations, Integrations, Meditations, United Nations, Congratulations. All we are saying is give peace a chance.” – John Lennon 

*MrHalfDome™ – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com

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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One Response to Half Dome hike overview

  1. Maureen L says:

    The Valley shuttle bus runs 7 am to 10 pm, so I am walking from the east end of Curry Village to Happy Isles at the start of my Half Dome hike. I figure that’s about a mile more, maybe a bit less.

    there are bathrooms with water consuming flush toilets at the Happy Isle shuttle stop and after you cross the footbridge at the top of Vernal Fall. there are classy solar composting toilets a bit past the top of Vernal Fall, at the top of where the switchbacks come up the gully alongside Nevada Fall, and at the backpackers camp at Little Yosemite Valley. this means you’ll probably need to do some off the trail waste disposal on the middle part of your hike, where the Leave No Trace (pack out toilet paper!) part comes in. take care of everything before you head up subdome!

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