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Yosemite National Park: Half Dome

Climb 4,800 feet on this classic 15.7-mile route to the top of the park’s most-iconic peak towering above the Valley floor.

Trip Tools

Go south from Happy Isles (4,035 ft.) along Merced River and wrap around Sierra Point; to the west, see tendrils of Illilouette Falls tumbling through a steep-walled gorge. Ahead, cross footbridge; sheets of whitewater flow over Vernal Falls. Take a right onto the John Muir Trail (JMT) and climb to Clark Point for view slight views back into Yosemite Valley and Half Dome’s south flank.

Stay with the JMT and cross a bridge over roaring Nevada Falls and look over to the bleached granite knob of Liberty Cap. Continue toward Little Yosemite Ranger Station and ahead, make a decision: either go left onto the JMT for Half Dome (4 hours) or go right to camp in Little Yosemite Valley (permit required) for an early start and a cherry-red sunrise tomorrow.

If continuing, take a left onto the Half Dome Trail at the 7,020-foot mark and head up tight switchbacks to the foot of the cables. When you reach the base of the cables, grab gloves and get in line for the cable-aided final climb over airy slabs. Warning: If thunderheads loom, abort and go back. Once you’ve crested the final cables, enjoy the summit where a non-stop 360° from Half Dome (8,836 ft.) to the Sierra crest opens up.

Check out El Capitan towering to the west across the Valley. Take hero shots and rest up before then backtracking to waypoint #6 for the return on the Mist Trail past Vernal Falls and Merced River. Close the loop at waypoint #3 and retrace to Happy Isles. -Mapped by Andrew Matranga

GUIDEBOOK AND MAP: The Complete Guidebook to Yosemite National Park, 6th Edition ($12.95,

CONDITIONS: For current conditions, go to

PERMIT: A permit is required to hike the cables on Half Dome. A maximum of 400 permits will be issued each day (300 are available to dayhikers). Overnight camping also requires a backcountry permit. For details, go to

MORE PARK INFO: Yosemite National Park, 209-372-020;
FREE TRIP PLANNERS Get news on vacation deals and lodging at

Lee Vining: Chevron
51557 Highway 395
Lee Vining, CA 93541

Groveland: Claim Jumper Outpost
17586 Highway 120
Groveland-Big Oak Flat, CA 95305

Mammoth Mountaineering Supply
3189 Main St.
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546

Mammoth Lakes: Vons
481 Old Mammoth Rd.
Mammoth Lakes, CA;

Mammoth Lakes: Angel’s Restaurant
20 Sierra Blvd.
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546

Curry Village: Degnan’s Deli
9015 Village Dr.
Curry Village, CA 95389

Groveland: Cafe Charlotte
18736 Main St.
Groveland, CA 95321

Lee Vining: Nicely’s Restaurant
Highway 395 and 4th St.
Lee Vining, CA 93541

To Trailhead

From SF, take I-580 E to I-205 to I-5 N. Take CA-120 E for 120 miles until entering park. Turn left onto El Portal Rd and go 9 miles until Happy Isle Loop Rd. In 1 mile, find day use trailhead parking on right side of road.

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