Half Dome via the Mist Trail

Yosemite Valley, California

4.8/5
based on 12 reviews

Details

Distance

15.94 miles

Elevation Gain

4800 ft

Route Type

Out-and-Back

Description

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).

Be sure to arrive early early in the morning to beat the crowds or if you want to break up the hike, first-come, first served campsites are available at Little Yosemite Valley Campground - make sure to check out the details in that adventure and obtain a wilderness permit. Even if you are just day hiking, you'll still need a day hike permit.

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 Falls. After Nevada Falls 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. You can bring your own gloves for gripping the cables for the final ascent, but there is also a large pile of gloves you can pick from at the base of the cables. Once you reach Half Dome and finish your climb, take a moment to take it all in. You can even check your cell phone or make a phone call on top of Half Dome, there is decent service. 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 are essential so you can beat any crowds on the trail and get as high as possible before the heat settles in.

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Features

Photography
Hiking
Bathrooms
Forest
River
Scenic
Waterfall

Reviews

My friend and I spontaneously entered for the lottery late spring, AND WE GOT IT! We rushed to pack everything hopped in the van and drove all day to get there from North Idaho. We got about 5 hrs of sleep and started our hike at 5am. Let me be honest with you... you will be exhausted from the never ending miles of literal stairs and the nearly 5000ft of elevation gain BUT once you get to the base of the sub dome... more stairs.. your adrenaline will spike and you won’t even think of the stairs cause you’ll be distracted by the incredible views on the way up and the excitement of climbing the cables. We tracked 19 miles round trip but some trails were one way because of covid so that added some miles but worth it to see things we wouldn’t of seen otherwise. This is a hike you have to do at least once. I got to the top and said, I don’t think I need to do this ever again. Coming back down, my friend and I were jogging down the trail... mainly cause our feet were killing us. But once we got back I decided I definitely want to do it again. Actually tried to get in 2 months later when I took another trip there but unfortunately didn’t get in. There’s always next time!

I hike a lot, I'm in shape, and this hike still kicked my ass. Nearly a mile of elevation gain and 14 miles round trip is serious. That being said, the reward is incredible - I still feel like it's one of my biggest outdoor accomplishments. We hiked it in a day from the Mist Trailhead. Make sure you bring at least a gallon of water per person, if not more, and plenty of high calorie snacks/food to keep you energized throughout the day. There is a ranger posted at the foot of the "stairs" so don't even think about going without a permit. We started at 5am and got back at 7pm, and spent about an hour at the top of Half Dome. The views up there are unreal but if you're day hiking it like we did, the light for photographs is quite harsh and I didn't get many good photos from the top. You could be crazy and start hiking around midnight to arrive in time for sunrise, but hiking in the dark is not advised unless you're very experienced. We used gloves (brought our own, used some $5 work gloves with rubber grip) but didn't clip in. It was definitely a bit on the scary side but as long as you're careful, focused, and take your time, you'll be fine. Absolutely unreal hike. Best advice I can give: WEAR GOOD HIKING BOOTS. I saw so many people in sneakers and even sandals that were having a real hard time on the smooth granite. If it started raining at all, they'd be toast.

With all the rainfall and snowmelt, Vernal and Nevada Falls are both really flowing. This makes for beautiful views but also means that you will get completely soaked while hiking past Vernal Falls. If you still want to go this route, make sure to bring a change of socks, clothing and ideally something to cover your pack. An alternative is to take the John Muir trail which adds about 1 mile to your trip each way but will allow you to see both waterfalls without getting soaked. This trail is also one of the most popular in the whole park which means huge crowds of people so its best to get an early start!

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.

By far this is the best trail in Yosemite! If you want to experience the highlights of Yosemite get the permit and hike to the top of Half Dome!

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!

It's strenuous, it's long and it can be crowded...but hot damn it's worth it!!! Bring plenty of water and snacks. And a camera.

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.

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Nearby

Vernal & Nevada Falls via Happy Isles

Thru-Hike the John Muir Trail

Little Yosemite Valley Campsite and Half Dome

Snow Creek Trail

Hike the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls in Yosemite NP

Hike to Yosemite's Mirror Lake