Hike Half Dome via the Mist Trail
Yosemite › Mist Trail
Added by Bijan Rafie-tari
This iconic Yosemite National Park hike departs from the Mist Trailhead in Yosemite Valley. You'll Pass Vernal Falls and Little Yosemite Valley Campground en route to summit Half Dome. Make sure you remember your permits for the cables (and your gloves).
If doing one of the most dangerous day hikes, a 5 hour hike in and 5 hour hike out with temperatures over 90 degrees, and mosquitos that will eat you alive if not wearing proper clothing makes you stoked, then this is for you!
Arrive early early in the morning or camp at the backpackers camp nearest to the Mist Trail trailhead.
Start at about 5:30-6:00am on the Mist Trail. About 5 minutes in you will start your ascent. Soon you will be high enough on the trail to see stunning views of Yosemite valley, waterfalls, and Half Dome.
As you hike along the Mist Trail you will come across two amazing water falls. At 1,000 feet (300 meters) you will reach the top of Vernal Falls and at about 1,900 feet (580 meters) you will be a the top of Nevada Fall. After the Nevada Fall you will start to make your climb towards Half Dome. After Vernal Falls you soon will come to a cross trail with bathrooms if you need to rest.
As you make your way closer to Half Dome, more people will start to show and you will know you are not lost. Once you reach Half Dome and finish your climb, take a moment to take it all in. If need you can check your cell phone or make a phone call, on top of Half Dome there is decent service.
HINT: bring your own gloves for your climb! Also when going downwards, I found it easier to go face down holding onto both right and left cables then letting myself slide down to each wooden step by releasing my grip just slightly and leaning backwards.
Checking wind conditions and starting early in the morning is essential so you can beat any crowds on the trail and getting you as high as possible before the heat settles in.
If you want to break up the hike, first-come, first served campsites are available at Little Yosemite Valley Campground.
- Gallon Of Water
- Pocket Knife
- Hiking Shoes
- Half Dome permit
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An alternative approach
I've been to the top of HD a couple of times and it's great. An alternative approach is to go to Glacier Point and take the Panorama Trail to the top of Nevada Falls. Then take the trail to the top of HD. It takes a little longer but it makes a nice alternative to just a straight out and back up the Mist Trail.
This hike should be a bucket list trip for any outdoor enthusiast. I'd recommend starting as early as possible; even a couple of hours before sunrise. You will beat the crowds and have some solitude at the top of Half Dome.
Cable system is unique (and crowded!)
Don't forget your day-use permit (from recreation.gov lottery) and your photo ID. Don't forget your patience... Many people of varying skill levels attempt this hike and it can be crowded/slow. The cables are a little nerve-wracking and the granite is slippery, but generally very safe and a cool experience. If you bring gloves, pack them out! Please don't leave them in a pile at the base of the cables. They are garbage and become infested with rodents, and then the rangers pack out pounds of gross gloves. Similarly, if you want gloves for the cables, bring your own and don't rely on a pile of gloves being available for use. Again, they're garbage and not provided for hikers. Thanks so much!
Get started Early
We started at 5 am.....were able to enjoy the beautiful falls etc... with no crowds on the ascent. Cables were not to congested. Views are just amazing. Cables were a blast! The descent there was a lot of congestion from the falls down! Took us 10 hours exactly with about 1 hour on summit 30 mins on sub dome and making our way through the tourists on the descent.
Go for sunrise!
We were on the trail at 1:20 AM and made it up about 30 min before sunrise at 5:40. The 2 hours of sleep before the hike sucked but other than that, I think this is the best way to tackled half dome. You'll be virtually alone on the trail the whole way up as opposed to the zoo of people for the majority of the hike if you go during daylight hours. Plus, hiking in the dark is pretty cool. We had no moon at all so the stars were unbelievable. Only about 20 people on the top, too. I did it last year during the day and the sunrise version is much more enjoyable in my opinion.
Make sure you get an early start on the trail. We hit the trailhead right around 5am. The earlier you can get to the base of the cables the better -- it can get crowded and slow down the process in that tight space. With that said, be patient and don't rush it, you'll make it to the top shortly. For the cables, I would bring gloves, but if you forget, there was a pile of used ones at the base to the cables.
This is a great hike with excellent scenery along the way and its a location that's known all over the world. I strongly recommend bringing snacks to eat on the way up, its a long hike and you'll be burning a lot of calories, and obviously you'll want to bring plenty of water or some kind of purification device so you can refill on water as you go. And get on the trail early! Getting up there before the crowd really makes this an even better experience.
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