Scan your brain for the most iconic feature in all of the national park system and Half Dome inevitably comes to mind. To trek up the side of the granite beast is a life-list experience unto itself, but you can’t truly appreciate the 8,839-foot-tall chunk of stone unless you see it, free of crowds, in all hours. That’s why Snow Creek Camp, a flat, wooded, and granite site directly across from Half Dome, earns top billing. Leave the valley floor, linking the Mirror Lake and Snow Creek Trails and climbing 2,700 feet over 5.2 miles to see the granite cycle through the sunset palette as dusk settles. After that, the long-range views deep into Tenaya Canyon make it feel like the park is showing off. And boy is it.
Trailhead Mirror Lake; shuttle stop #17 Season Summer to fall Permit $5 per reservation plus $5/person; reserve up to 168 days in advance