Yosemite Half Dome stands 8,842 feet tall. A granite mountain that has been cut in half by the ice glaciers that passed through. When the glacier passed through it did not reach the top 900 feet of this rock. The glaciers took out the jointed northwest side and the frost took out the front side of the rock. It is the most recognizable rock in Yosemite's landscape.
The Ahwahneechee Indians were the ones who live in Yosemite Valley in the early days. The Indians called half dome, Tissaack. They believed that a woman turned to stone because of her anger. They believed that half dome is that woman. Tears of sadness are still visible on her light colored face on the front wall.
Peregrine falcons are birds that love to make their nests in the cracks and deep crevasse on Half Dome and Yosemite's other massive cliffs. These birds use their talons to scrape indention's in the granite to make a nest. If your up at Glacier Point, grab your binoculars and see if you can find a Peregrine falcon!
Hiking Or Climbing Half Dome
Many people love the challenge of going to the top of this landmark mountain. (I personally have hiked it three times) It is a 17 mile round trip hike. It takes 10-12 hours to go up and back and can be done in one long day. It is a difficult hike and I personally think anyone who is in shape and over the age of 12 can hike it if they are determined!
The top of Half Dome is bigger than you think. The area on top of the dome is equivalent to 17 football fields! So there is a lot of space to walk around on when you are standing on top.
The US National Parks did a study and found that out of all trails in all US National Parks, the trail to the top of Yosemite Half Dome is the most traveled. More people want to hike to the top of Half Dome than on any other hiking trail.
There are four ways for you to get to the top
The first way is to start at the Happy Isles Trail. Go to the trail head and just start walking! Head up the Vernal Fall and Mist Trail. From there you keep going up the John Muir trail to Nevada Falls. From there you take the Yosemite Half Dome Trail to the top.
Half Dome Cables
The last 500 feet are cables that you use to go to the top. Cables are not up all year long (lightening can strike them). Cables are usually up by Memorial Day weekend which is in late May. The cables come down after Columbus Day in mid October.
In my opinion, the cables are not as scary as they look. You have two cables with wooden slats between them. You put a hand on each cable and step on the wooden slats that have been put in place and walk up. People go up and down the same way. The cables are at a 45 degree angle on the northeast side of the dome. It takes about 15 minutes to go up the cable stretch...so your not on them very long. Please be courteous to those who want to pass you.
The second way to the top is to start at Glacier Point. You can drive to Glacier Point and walk down and over on the Panorama Trail. This hike allows you to go down hill about 3/4 of the time. You are starting out higher than Nevada Falls. You walk down to Nevada Falls and then go up the Yosemite Half Dome Trail from there. Between Glacier Point and Nevada Falls you pass by Illioutte Falls. This waterfall is not seen from the valley floor. I have done the Panorama hike three times and it takes 10-12 hours to complete. I think going this route is easier than starting at Happy Isles and going straight up. Besides this way has more scenic views of the valley. When you are heading back, do not go the same way that you came or you'll end up back at Glacier Point. Just follow signs down to Happy Isles, it is shorter and down hill.
The third way to get you to the top of Yosemite
Half Dome is to ride a mule or a horse. Yes, you can let the four
legged beasts do the walking while you sit! They will take you as far as
the cables. Animals do not climb cables so you must dismount at the
cables. You climb the cables and in about 15 minutes...you will be at the top of Half Dome The only draw back with riding a horse
or the mule is...time. They only give
you about 30 minutes to go on to top and back. They want the horses and mules back at the stables before dark.
That gives you 30 minutes to go up the cables, down the cables and spend about 1 minute on top of the mountain :(
It is nice to spend about an hour on top of the world after all the work that it takes to get there! Amazing enough, it is still about a 10 hour round trip if you take a horse or donkey to the top. It is not the time saver that you think it might be.
There is a forth way to the top of Yosemite Half Dome.
It is for professional mountain climbers only though! In the summer months it isn't hard to see a professional rock climber climbing Half Dome straight up its face. Grab your binoculars and watch the pros!
I've been on top and laid on my stomach and watched the professional rock climber climb of the face. You very well may be lucky enough to see them too :)
Don't Want To Do The Half Dome Hike
You don't have to stand on Yosemite Half Dome to enjoy the beauty of it. Just head up to Glacier Point and you can look straight across at it. You are just as high up...and your car takes you there! Your so close it looks as if you can throw a rock and hit it. But don't do it!
Yosemite Half Dome Permits
Permits to go up the cables are required everyday of the year to hike half dome. Permits are required so that the cables do not get congested. Daily, there is a ranger that checks to see if climbers have the required Yosemite Half Dome permit. Without a permit, you will not be able to climb the cables and you will be turned away. 400 hikers a day are allowed to go up and down the cables. 300 permits a day are issued to hikers and 100 permits a day are issued to backpackers who have a wilderness permit. If you have a wilderness permit, you must also have a Yosemite Half Dome permit to go up the cables.
You must have a permit to climb the cables
Permits are issued through a lottery system. You may get into the lottery by logging into recreation.gov. If you don’t want to go to the website you may call. They are open from 7 am - 9 pm. PST. The number to call is (877) 444-6777. No matter what date you want to hike, you must apply for a Yosemite Half Dome permit between the dates of March 1st - 31st. The lottery is in early April. You will be notified by email of the lottery results. You can also check results online or call them.
On the application, you can apply for up to 6 permits and for up to 7 different dates. You will win the lottery for the number of permits requested, on the dates that you ask for, if the date and space is available. Yosemite Half Dome permits are awarded on a first come, first serve basis.
You must specify a group leader for you hike. Multiple applications with the same leader will be removed from the lottery, and any person applying multiple times as a trip leader will have their lottery applications canceled. Permits will only be valid if the trip leader and/or alternate specified on the permit is part of the group that is hiking for the day the permit is valid. Names of the trip leader may not be altered in any way once the permit is issued. Dates may not be altered on permits either. Permits are not transferable.
There will also be 50 permits issued daily during hiking season. These permits are issued on the estimated rate of under-used and cancellation of permits. These 50 daily permits are for two days prior to the hiking date. An example would be: if you wanted to hike on Saturday, you would apply on Thursday morning and received an e-mail notification of results late Thursday night. You may also check to see if you won the lottery by checking online or by phoning them the next morning. Applications for the daily permits are accepted from midnight – 1 pm PST.
There are two separate fees for permits. There is a $4.50 fee for applying online. The fee for phoning in the application is $6.50. The fee is nonrefundable and it applies to the application…not per person. This fee covers the cost of processing the permit application.
The second fee is $5 per person. This fee is only charged if you win the lottery and receive a hiking permit. This $5 fee is fully refundable if you cancel your permit at least two days before the hiking date that is specified on your permit or if the cables are not up.
Here is an interesting fact: Permanent cables were installed in 1927. They are now taken down every winter because of all the lightening.
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