A Guide to Hiking Yosemite’s Half Dome

A Guide to Hiking Yosemite’s Half Dome

Yosemite National Park is one of the most-visited outdoor destinations in the US, with endless ways for visitors to explore its majesty. One of the more popular attractions of Yosemite is Half Dome, an impressive rock formation that rises over 4,700 feet above the Yosemite Valley floor.

If the visage of the peak alone doesn’t deter you from climbing to its zenith, you are in for a very memorable day as you attempt to scale this behemoth. There are several factors that make Half Dome a territory only for experienced hikers, particularly those who have hiked areas that have a significant increase in elevation. Park Rangers are called upon frequently to rescue or aid those who underestimated the difficulty of Half Dome or overestimated their own ability. The good news is you can still enjoy Half Dome without attempting to reach the summit.

View of Half Dome from below

Hikers that are taking on Half Dome will want to prepare for any possible outdoor situation. Rangers advise that hikers should allow 12 hours for the full hike from bottom to top and back. Checking weather reports beforehand is crucial, as days that start out sunny and clear can be deceptive, bringing on clouds that can eventually form storm systems, posing a real threat to your safety and survival.

This strenuous and rewarding hike is going to require plenty of fuel, so be sure to bring along foods that will sustain you throughout the hike. This is not a grab-a-Power Bar-and-go situation. Foods that are balanced in protein, fat, and carbs will give you the optimum energy you need to maintain your strength.

Plan on bringing a gallon of water, which can be partitioned into four 1-liter containers. To save weight and space, try using soft-sided water pouches instead of bottles, which can be rolled down to practically nothing when empty. Even if you bring enough water, carrying a portable water filtration device is a very good idea. There are natural water sources along the Half Dome trail that will only be viable with a filter.

For your safety, do not attempt this hike in any footwear other than those that are designed for hiking and rugged terrain. There are many treacherous parts of this hike that will make sneakers or other street shoes completely impractical and potentially dangerous. Sunscreen, a hat, and clothing to protect your body from exposure is essential. Pack a headlamp so that you are not struggling through low or no visibility if you end the hike later than you anticipated.

Half Dome is one of our country’s most breathtaking natural landscapes, and with the proper preparation, planning, and realistic expectations, it will certainly be the experience of a lifetime!


Images via Johan.V.

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