This 14.2-mile trek to Half Dome—under the guiding light of a full moon—gains more than 4,000 feet of elevation. Make sure to turn off your headlamp and marvel at the starry skies.
From Happy Isles campground, turn right on the paved path and cross Vernal Falls Bridge. Pass Illilouette Falls Vista, where Yosemite, Illilouette, Vernal, and Nevada Falls can be seen simultaneously. Merge onto the 3-mile Mist Trail and watch your footing on the trail’s sometimes-slick granite (raingear will come in handy by the waterfalls on this trip).
Keep left at the Y-junction after Vernal Falls and continue along the Merced River. Once you reach the Y-junction at Yosemite Valley, turn left up the John Muir Trail. After about 2 miles, bear left onto Half Dome Trail. From here, grab giant cables to climb the last stretch up Half Dome to (if you’ve timed it right) a once-in-a-lifetime sunrise view.
-Mapped by Kip Evans
PERMITS: Starting in May 2010, the park will require a Day Use Permit to hike the cables on Half Dome. A maximum of 400 permits will be issued each day (300 of these permits are available to dayhikers). For details, go to http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/hdpermits.htm
MORE INFO: Yosemite National Park, (209) 372-020; nps.gov/yose/