Hike Half Dome via the Mist Trail

Mist Trail

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.

Pack List

  • Three liters of water
  • Sunscreen
  • Pocket knife
  • Snacks
  • Hiking shoes
  • Swimsuit
  • Headlight
  • Gloves
  • Camera
  • Phone
  • Half Dome permit
Show More
RT Distance 14.2 Miles
Elevation Gain 4800 Feet
Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Bathrooms
Forest
River
Scenic
Waterfall

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Bucket list hike that's no joke.

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.

Beautiful Trail but Very Crowded and Wet

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!

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.


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