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National Parks Hall of Fame: Best Dayhike

Beat the crowds by tackling this classic dayhike by moonlight.
november 09 nat parks half dome don geyer 445x260Half 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,

1 Comment

  1. jbearden41

    Permits are now required for Half Dome, even for day hikes. They started requiring them several years ago, after a couple of fatalities caused by people trying to get around the crowds on the cables. Each person in the party gets a separate permit for the cables, and when we did this in 2010, there were rangers on the trail just before the cables making sure everyone had a permit (I’m not sure they’d be there in the middle of the night, but if this gets to be a popular thing, you never know…). Just to be safe, it’s probably better to ask beforehand, so you don’t hike uphill for 8 miles and have to turn around 1/2 mile short of the summit.

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