Hiking Half Dome in Yosemite Valley
The National Park Service announces the permit and lottery process for hiking the cables on Half Dome for the upcoming season.
The summit of Half Dome looms nearly 5,000 feet over Yosemite Valley and 8,800 feet above sea level. Aside from being an iconic part of the landscape and scenery, the hike to it has also become a physical accomplishment for thousands of hikers.
The National Park Service has just extended the interim permit system for the Half Dome Trail into 2012. It will be a continuation of the 2010 and 2011 temporary program, which was put in place as an emergency measure to address issues of crowding and safety—with some changes in the allocation process.
The National Park Service will hold two sets of permit lotteries. A single preseason lottery application period will occur from March 1 to March 31, 2012, with results announced in early April. This lottery will cover all dates the cables are expected to be up that year. Permits for 300 people per day will be available through this lottery.
In addition, NPS will hold a daily lottery throughout the Half Dome hiking season, which allows for more spontaneous trip planning. This lottery will have an application period two days in advance of the hiking date with lottery results announced late that night.
Each person may apply as a trip leader only once per lottery. People applying multiple times as trip leader will have all their lottery applications canceled. Each lottery application allows for up to seven date choices. Hiking to the top of Half Dome can be—all at once—dangerous, thrilling, awe-inspiring, gorgeous, terrifying, difficult and exhilarating.
The entire hike is 14 to 16 miles, round trip, and only those who are physically prepared, fit and uninjured should attempt it. It usually takes about 12 hours to the summit and back so leaving much past dawn is a bad idea, since most people don’t want to be stuck up there in the dark unless you’re planning to camp and take a few days to get to the top. (Headlamps and flashlights are necessities though, just in case).
Of course, you have a few choices in terms of which trail to hike and each trail will provide you with plenty of options that don’t necessarily need to involve hiking all the way to the summit. A hike along the Merced River, up hundreds of stone steps to the top of Vernal Fall or Nevada Fall may be enough for many and won’t lack for scenery, either. Campsites fill up quickly, though, so it’s best to make reservations as early as possible.
For more information, visit the National Park Service website.
Look for and reserve campsites here.