Rising nearly 5,000 feet above Yosemite Valley and 8,800 feet above sea level, Half Dome is a Yosemite icon and a great challenge to many hikers. Despite an 1865 report declaring it was "perfectly inaccessible, being probably the only one of the prominent points about the Yosemite which never has been, and never will be, trodden by human foot," George Anderson reached the summit in 1875, and in the process created the predecessor for today's cable route.
Today, thousands of people reach the summit. For most, it is an exciting, arduous hike; for a few, it becomes more adventure than they bargained for. Every summer, park rangers must assist hundreds of people on the Half Dome trail.
The most famous—or infamous—part of the hike is the ascent up the cables. The two metal cables allow hikers to climb the last 400 feet to the summit without rock climbing equipment. Since 1919, only a few people have fallen and died on the cables. However, injuries are not uncommon for those acting irresponsibly.
The cables are not the only difficult part of the hike, which is 14 to 16 miles round-trip and gains 4,800 feet. If you're planning to hike Half Dome, you should be in good physical condition. However, the reward is worth the effort! Along the way, you'll encounter outstanding views of Vernal and Nevada Falls, Liberty Cap, Half Dome, and—from the subdome and summit—panoramic views of Yosemite Valley and the High Sierra.
It takes most people 10 to 12 hours to hike to Half Dome and back. If you plan on hiking during the day, it's smart to leave before or at sunrise. You should have a non-negotiable turn-around time (i.e., if you're not at the summit by a certain time, you'll turn around). Check sunrise and sunset times before you embark on your hike, and always bring a flashlight or headlamp with fresh batteries for each person. Although the trail is well marked, you should be prepared with a good topographic map and compass, and knowledge of how to use them.
Much of the hike to Half Dome is an unpredictable adventure into Wilderness, but preparation is paramount.
The Half Dome cables are put up each spring and taken down each fall, typically from the Friday before Memorial Day through the Tuesday after Columbus Day. These dates are conditions dependent and may vary from year to year.
You must have a permit to ascend the subdome steps or Half Dome cables. Day hike permits (valid from 12:00 AM midnight to 11:59 PM) are available by two lottery processes. The preseason lottery application occurs throughout March, with results announced mid-April. A smaller number of day hike permits are available every day the cables are up, via a two day in advance daily lottery.
Multi-day hiking permits (overnight backpacking with an overnight stay at Little Yosemite Valley or other Wilderness location) are not available through the lottery process. More information on multi-day hiking in Yosemite is available at: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm
Permits are required 24 hours a day, seven days per week to ascend the subdome or Half Dome cables. Ascending the subdome or Half Dome cables without a permit is a violation of 36 CFR 1.6 (engaging in a permitted activity without a permit) and is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and/or six months in jail.
Cancelling Your Permit
Before your hike
While on your hike
Watch this video to learn more about hiking Half Dome.
A non-refundable application fee of $10.00 is required for each lottery application. Each awarded permit has a $10 recreation fee per hiker.
Daily Lottery Only: If your application is selected through the lottery, you'll automatically be awarded a permit and will be charged $10 per person to the credit or debit card used for your application. If the charge to the credit or debit card is declined for any reason, the reservation will be forfeited.
Permits may be cancelled with full refund of the $10 recreation fee, any time prior to 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time the day before the hiking date. Please check the weather and consider cancelling your permit if foul weather is in the forecast.
To cancel a permit or reduce the group size, login to your Recreation.gov account or call the Contact Center at (877) 444-6777.
Resale or auction of advance reservations is prohibited.
Any resale or auction of permits will make the permit/contract null and void.
Yosemite CA 95389