National park tips: Here’s how to hike Half Dome in Yosemite

The 16-mile round-trip hike to the top of Yosemite's Half Dome is a 10- to 12-hour undertaking.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

To hike Yosemite’s Half Dome in a day, you need a permit, mild weather and an early start — by dawn, usually. It’s a 16-mile round trip, with 4,800 feet of elevation gain. Plan on 10 to 12 hours.

Do it after Memorial Day, when rangers put up steel cables to help climbers cover the last 400 feet to the top. The cables usually come down on the day after Columbus Day. (This year, Columbus Day is Oct. 10.) Permits, handed out by lottery at, are capped at 300 hikers a day. To boost your odds, choose weekdays.

Permits are $12.50 (if you apply online) or $14.50 (by phone). Details here. Before your first step, set a turn-around time. And if it rains on your day, scrub the mission: Slippery rocks have killed several hikers in the last decade.


READ: A full view of Half Dome »

In honor of this year’s National Park Service centennial, the Travel section is posting 100 park travel ideas and tips based on trips staff travel writer Christopher Reynolds has taken, along with photo-op advice from Times photographer Mark Boster. We’ll post one per day through Dec. 31.

Follow Reynolds on Twitter: @MrCSReynolds

See travel videos by Reynolds from around the world.


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