No other hike in the country comes close to Yosemite’s Half Dome. The long, strenuous, challenging, and incredibly scenic day trip to one of America’s most iconic and sought-after summits begins with an ascent of the Mist Trail through the showers constantly raining down from 317-foot Vernal Fall and below thunderous, 594-foot Nevada Fall. Climbing the cable route up several hundred feet of steep granite slab provides a thrill, which explains why the hike is so popular.
The 8,800-foot peak of Half Dome—where many hikers complete the experience by standing on The Visor, a granite brim jutting out over Half Dome’s sheer, 2,000-foot Northwest Face—provides an unrivaled view of Yosemite Valley and a 360-degree panorama of the park’s mountains. Half Dome validates every effort you put in.
Can You Hike Half Dome in November
Half Dome’s cables are open for hiking from late May to mid-October. This popular day hike requires a permit, and a lottery is held throughout March.
Whether hiking Half Dome for the day or backpacking the cable route to its summit, moving up beyond the base of the sub-dome (below the cables) on the Half Dome Trail requires a permit every day during the season when the cables are up, which is generally from the Friday before Memorial Day to Columbus Day (the second Monday in October). On the cable route, the park allows 300 hikers per day: 225-day hikers and 75 backpackers.
The day hiking permit lottery is held March 1-31, and you can apply for up to six people (six individual permits) and a variety of dates, increasing your chances of success. You can only submit one application per season (i.e., put your name as the permit holder or alternate permit holder on one application), and either the permit holder or alternate must show the permit to a ranger at the sub-base. dome’s The application fee is $10, and the permit fee is $10 per person.
Throughout the hiking season, a daily permit lottery for day hikers is held to issue permits that have been unused or canceled. That is held two days before the hike date, and you will be notified of the permit the evening you apply (for example, if you apply on a Thursday to hike on Saturday, you will be notified Thursday evening whether you received a permit).
Backpacking Through Half Dome
Half Dome can be included on a multi-day backpacking permit rather than a day hiking permit. Wilderness permit reservations in Yosemite are based on trailhead quotas. Sixty percent of permit reservations are available by lottery at recreation.gov beginning on Sunday and ending the following Saturday, up to 24 weeks (168 days) in advance of the date you want to start hiking. To begin a trip between August 21-27, 2022, for example, submit your application between March 6-12. Forty percent of wilderness permits are available at wilderness centers one day before the trip start date on a walk-up/first-come basis.
When to Hike Half Dome?
Not surprisingly, Saturday ranks as the most popular day for which people seek a permit to day hike Half Dome (21 percent of applicants), with Sunday second (16 percent) and Friday third (15 percent), according to statistics from Yosemite National Park. Apply to hike it on a Wednesday (11 percent) and you will nearly double your odds of getting a permit compared to applying for a Saturday.
Similarly, permit application numbers peak from mid-June to mid-September, so your chances of obtaining a permit are best midweek in late May and early June, or late September and October. Other advantages of hiking in the spring or fall include milder temperatures. Although spring can be wetter, May and June are also when the waterfalls along the Mist Trail (and throughout Yosemite Valley) reach their most remarkable peak runoff, whereas late summer and fall are frequently dry and pleasant.
Training to Hike Half Dome
Half Dome is approximately 16 miles round-trip from the Happy Isles Trailhead in Yosemite Valley, with 4,800 feet of elevation gain and loss. The ascent up the underrated sub-dome is no joke, and at the end of that arduous journey, you are confronted with a final 400-foot ascent up two steel cables. Practice these 7 exercises 6-8 weeks before your trip, and you should be able to enjoy the scenery instead of begging your legs to get you up one more step.
For the cables, this exercise is a game changer. Most people avoid pull-ups because they require a lot of strength and the average person can’t do too many. There are excellent options to assist you in progressing and making the exercise more manageable. Lower body strength is essential, but when pulling yourself up on the cables, you will be grateful for having the upper body strength to make the work easier on your legs, especially after the sub-dome steps.
- Weighted Lunges
Lunges are a well-known exercise, but add some dumbbells or kettlebells to the mix to improve strength and muscular endurance. Lunges are typically performed in a straight line, but diagonal and reverse lunges can be added to make the exercise more functional for hiking. Ideally, 3-4 sets of 12-15 lunges on each leg should be performed 2-3 times per week.
- Lateral Bounds
Fortunately, hiking trails are rarely straight lines. Unfortunately, most people do not prioritize hip strength when planning a hike. The cables on the Half Dome take you straight up, but traversing the sub-dome requires a lot of lateral movement. Begin with your feet together and leap to the opposite side with your outside foot. Aim to land on one foot and then bound to the other side once you’ve found your balance. Perform this exercise in a controlled manner for 30-45 seconds and repeat 2-3 times. If you find this exercise too difficult, you can strengthen your hips by performing lateral shuffles with a resistance band.
I wish there was another exercise to suggest here, but squats are invaluable in general and cannot be overstated for your ascent of Half Dome. To simulate the weight of your pack, add some dumbbells or kettlebells. Increase the intensity by performing squat jumps or holding the squat down for 2-3 seconds. Perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
- Rows with a Cable Rope
This exercise, once again, helps your upper body assist with the workload up the cables. Begin with the cable above your head, then lean back and pull the cables towards your chest while keeping your back straight. Alter between using both hands and just one for added benefit and variety. Perform 3-4 total sets of 12-15 reps.
- Cardiovascular Exercise
Whether you hike the 16.5-mile round trip from the valley floor or the shorter 7-mile round trip from Little Yosemite Valley, you’ll need plenty of cardio to enjoy your trip. I prefer interval training, but any type of cardio will be beneficial. Simply put, if you want to see results, put your body through more stress than it is used to. Examples include 10-15 minutes of 10-second sprints followed by 60-90 second light jogs, 20-30 minutes of moderate-intensity jogging, or 30-45 minutes of brisk walking up a 10-15% incline.
Put on a weighted pack and put one foot in front of the other. To simulate the hike back to camp, incorporate some lateral steps or walk downwards. Intervals of high intensity for 10-15 seconds followed by low intensity for 60-90 seconds can help improve cardiovascular and muscular endurance. If you don’t have access to stairs or a Stairmaster, you can get comparable results by walking up and down a hill.
If you plan on hiking Half Dome during the off-season, you’ll need to bring your own climbing equipment, such as harnesses, carabiners, and prusik rope. The plus side is that you won’t need to bother with lotteries and permits, or anything of that sort. November is one of the best times of year to visit Yosemite. The summer crowds are long gone, and November visitor numbers resemble those of winter rather than early fall. With much of the park to yourself and many of the trails still open in November, you’re in for a treat. Unless there has been an unusual amount of snow early in the season, many trails in the valley and at lower elevations in Hetch Hetchy and Wawona remain open in this month. Day hiking is also great in November because the weather cools and hikers can dress in warmer layers that they can remove if they get too hot. The cooler weather also means that the bugs and mosquitos, which can be quite bothersome in the spring and summer, have moved on to warmer climates, allowing visitors to enjoy the park without the need for bug repellent.
Another significant advantage of visiting in November is the availability and lower cost of accommodations in comparison to the summer months. While it is nearly impossible to plan a trip to Yosemite in the summer without at least six months in advance, November brings more accommodations available and at a lower price than the same lodges in the summer.