Tips for Hiking Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

This hike is not for the faint of heart or the average out of shape person. You have to consider yourself at least somewhat athletic to even attempt this hike, so if you’re considering it, start training now.

Here’s what you’ll need to keep in mind:

  • If you’re planning on climbing the cables when they’re up, you need to obtain a permit by entering the lottery in March. You can also try your luck with the daily lottery which you can apply for 2 days before your hiking date.
  • I recommend going when the cables are down and wearing a climbing harness because there are wayy less people and I feel that it’s actually safer to be tied to the cables than simply holding on and hoping that the 50 people in front of you don’t slip and fall. To do this, you will need:
    • 1 rock climbing harness
    • 2 prusiks to attach the cable to your harness
    • 1 climbing helmet (not required, but better safe than sorry)
    • Basic knowledge of how the harness, prusiks and cable work together (it’s very easy!)

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  • If you’re doing a day hike, start as early as possible but no later than 7am or you won’t get back by a reasonable hour. And by ‘reasonable’, I mean midnight.
  • Have a turnaround time. If you’re not at the top of Half Dome by 3pm and you’re coming back down the same day, you need to turn around.
  • If possible, camp at Little Yosemite Valley Campground. The entire hike is very difficult and strenuous to do in a single day, so just make it easier for yourself and camp halfway. You must obtain a Wilderness Permit for this.

What you’ll need to bring:

  • Lots of water. I made it with 2 liters for the whole day, but I know most people are not as used to dehydration as I am. I recommend 1 gallon per person, possibly more if you’re doing this during the summer.
  • Plenty of food. Nuts, bars, gummies, jerky, bananas… anything protein, sugar-packed and light is good. Our group almost ran out of food at the end so be prepared! But also don’t weight yourself down unnecessarily.
  • Sun protection. Sunscreen, sunblock, hats, sunglasses… the higher you climb, the greater the UV rays.
  • Hiking shoes with ankle support. SUPER important! My ankles were killing me halfway through the hike.
  • Hiking poles. I’ve always thought hiking sticks were for old people but a couple of hours into this hike got me grateful for a boyfriend who let me borrow his sticks. These are especially important on the way down when your knees will be killing you.
  • Layers. Wind layers, puffy jackets, beanies… light layers are a must. Temperatures fluctuate during the day and you’ll want to be able to take layers off and put them on as needed.
  • Rubber gloves for the cables. Not a necessity but they definitely help you grip the cables and protect your hands from the little spiky metal bits sticking out.
  • A good hiking backpack. This will make or break your entire experience, believe it or not. You want something that will distribute your pack weight evenly and comfortably while being able to carry all of your food, water, supplies, clothing layers, etc. I highly recommend Osprey’s line.
  • Poop shovel & toilet paper. Having a real shovel is better than digging a hole with a stick, trust me.
  • Trash bags. Please bring your trash out with you as there are no trashcans along this trail. Yes, even ‘biodegradable’ items like apple cores and banana peels.
  • Headlamp. Even if you don’t plan on getting caught in the dark, just bring one because your phone flashlight will only last you so long.
  • Portable phone charger. Always important, especially if you forget to bring the headlamp.
  • Light camera. Taking pictures is only third most important after food and water, duh! Just make sure your camera doesn’t weigh you down.

Phew, what a list! The most important thing is to be prepared on a hike like this. You definitely don’t want to turn around due to lack of food or water!

M

 

 

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