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Backpacker Magazine – November 2009

National Parks Hall of Fame: Best Dayhike

Beat the crowds by tackling this classic dayhike by moonlight.

by: Jim Gorman

Half Dome, Yosemite, CA (Don Geyer)
Half Dome, Yosemite, CA (Don Geyer)

Half Dome, Yosemite, CA

Yes, the most world's most iconic hunk of glacier-carved granite attracts a crowd–a bottleneck at the infamous cables can cause an hour's wait on busy days–but don't let that dissuade you. Just do this dayhike at night. The luminous quality of Sierra granite that John Muir praised by day makes headlamps moot during a full moon. Navigating by natural glow, your senses will be fully awake. You'll hear and feel the thunder of Vernal Falls as never before, as well as key into the sounds of the night. At 16.5 miles round-trip, the hike entails eight to 12 hours of strenuous hiking. A midnight start positions strong hikers to reach the summit in time for sunrise. Pack a stove to greet the rising sun with a well-deserved cup of coffee. On the descent, choose the John Muir Trail over the Mist Trail; it's longer but easier on the knees.

Season The cables are up from the weekend before Memorial Day until the day after Columbus Day. During summer 2010, the moon will be full June 26 and July 26. Pack a pair of gloves with grip.
Permits None for dayhikes
Map Tom Harrison Maps Half Dome ($10,
Contact (209) 372-0740,

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AZ Hiker
Nov 07, 2013

How does a hiker stay found without using a compass or map? By reading "Felix the Sugar Glider: Be Safe. Hike Smart." (Amazon). This book uses a fun approach to staying found on or off the trail. And for anyone wanting to know how to use a compass, this book makes learning how to use a compass easy. Before you hit the trail, be sure to calibrate your compass to the declination of where you will be hiking. Go to: A compass doesn't need satellites, a signal, or batteries and works in all types of weather but you need to know how to use it. Learn how to orient yourself using a compass, a compass and a map, a map and no compass, no compass and no map. Look for it on Amazon, "Felix the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart". The ability to know your way and know where you are is something we all need in any survival situation not just while hiking. Learn to stay found day or night by using a compass and paying attention to your surroundings. Learn what to pack for a day-hike, trail ethics, what to do if you get lost, how to get rescued, and survival packing (for the car and for the trail) just in case you end up unexpectedly spending the night outdoors.

AZ Hiker
May 25, 2012

And don't forget to read Felix! the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart (Amazon). Learn essential hiking skills, trail ethics, and how to navigate your way with and without a map or compass. A fast, easy read that could maybe save your life and will definitely make your hike more safe and enjoyable!

Nov 11, 2011

Permits required every day now.

Jun 02, 2011

Update: Permits are now required at all times! See the link above.

Aug 22, 2010

Permits are required for the weekends, during the summer season for Half Dome.

Jarod Fleming
Jul 05, 2010

Permits now required on Holidays and weekends.


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