Toast on Half Dome

resting on Half Dome

My friends and I had wanted to go see Yosemite National Park for most of our lives. We “trained” for 6 months and thought we were in pretty good shape, but were still not prepared for the ~16 mile hike and 4800 foot elevation gain to get to the top of Half Dome. We took off at 4:30am in the dark and got lost for a bit at the top of Vernal Falls. The stairs up and down quarter dome were scarier to me than the actual cables on Half Dome.

The thing no one tells you is that on your way up the cables, there are huge cracks in the rock face that are like 2′ tall steps… at a 45 degree angle. Holy moley! Check that one off the bucket list.


From the Moderator: This post seems to describe the famous Mist Trail to Half Dome via Vernal Falls.  The 15 mile trail includes Nevada Falls and is considered a strenuous trail of switchbacks with several points where the the trail ascends via hewn granite steps.  It is also an incredibly scenic trail, if you take the time to look up from your feet.  


  1. The observation that the Quarter Dome climb leading to the cables is a bit scarier than the actual cable section is right on the money. For a walk-up, the exposure is extreme (not unlike the conditions on Angels Landing in Zion NP), so if you’re not comfortable with heights, you may need to plan additional time to the top.

    The Mist Trail is really beautiful in the light of day, so you may consider hiking that a day or two prior to the Half Dome hike since you’ll need to leave so darned early on HD Day. Another thing to consider is hiking *down* the John Muir Trail on the way back, rather than returning via the Mist Trail. It adds a little distance but is much kinder to your knees. Walking down the stone steps on the Mist is a real knee buster.

    Plus, you’ll see some different countryside on the way back.

    • Wilderness Dave says:

      Great tips Terry! It does look like coming back via the JMT adds about 2 extra miles…not bad when you’re already talking about 14-15 miles anyway. My knees were hurting just thinking about the return route on this, they are relieved by your suggestion…

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