Often reading about a hiking trail doesn't give you enough information. Honestly, how difficult is it to hike up Half Dome inside Yosemite National Park? Take a look at our trek and decide for yourself.
|View of Half Dome from Clouds Rest peak in Yosemite National Park|
Heading up to Clouds Rest from the Sunrise Lakes Trailhead off Tioga Road, you get panoramic views of this glacially polished granite dome. Its rear profile resembles a hawk perched above Yosemite Valley.
|Lightning strikes, falling from the cables and other risks|
Warning signs at the base of Half Dome are ignored by hikers too intent on making it to the summit despite inclement weather. Fatalities from lightning strikes or slipping off the cables have happened.
|Half Dome cables, which are put up seasonally each summer|
To safely ascend the cables bolted into the rock, leather gloves and climbing shoes or hiking boots with good traction help. So does upper body strength, as you'll be pulling yourself up to the top of the cables, not pushing off the rock with your legs.
|Walking on the top of Half Dome on a summer weekday before 10 a.m.|
Is it worth the effort of getting up early enough to beat the crowds to the top? Yes. Fewer people on the cables before 9 a.m. makes it quicker, easier and safer for you to ascend and descend the cables. You'll need to get a hiking permit in advance.
|View of Yosemite Valley from the summit of Half Dome|
At the summit, stop to catch your breath, let your cramped arm muscles loosen, and gaze down at evergreen trees and meadows beside the Merced River, which meanders through Yosemite Valley.
|Safely back down the cables, thanks to climbing rope and clips|
We finished our 20-mile overnight hike in Yosemite Valley, descending from Half Dome and over the wooden bridge above Nevada Fall. Take the John Muir Trail if you're already knock-kneed, or drop down the steeper Mist Trail beside Vernal Fall.
Have you climbed Yosemite's Half Dome? Was it worth it? Would you do it again? Have any other tips for novices? Leave us a comment below!
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Photos: Yosemite National Park (Michael Connolly Jr. & Sara Benson)