Hiking Half Dome is a roughly 16 mile round trip. You will be gaining about 4,800 ft. of elevation. On average the hike will take about 10 – 12 hours.
If you plan on starting your hike after 8:00 AM, you will definitely want to be prepared with a headlamp.
The Half Dome cables usually go back up the Friday before Memorial Day (conditions permitting) and come down the day after Columbus Day, However, many will ascend the cables during the off season to avoid giant crowds and getting a permit.
We parked the cars at Glacier Point and began the hike starting at Happy Isles Trail head. Shortly after beginning the hike you will run into the John Muir Trail which will intersect with the Mist Trail and take you to Vernal Falls.
Vernal Falls is a a great place to take a short break and take in the view.
From there you will continue along the Mist Trail up another stair section with a few switchbacks taking you up to Nevada Falls.
After you get past Nevada Falls, the trail will once again intersect with the John Muir Trail. This will take you a few miles until you finally reach Half Dome Trail.
Once you reach Half Dome trail, it will be about a 2 mile journey to the summit.
If you plan on hiking Half Dome during the off season, you will want to bring a harness and length of cordellete. Be sure you are experienced with a prusik or similar friction knot before ascending the cables.
During the off season the cables are basically dangling down toward the sub dome so you will want to tie into the cables before ascending to the summit.
In our case, we were blocked by a snow slab that had buried the top section of the cables. We saw a number of big snow slabs break loose and slide down the Dome during the time we were there. Being that we were directly below the upper slab of snow, we didn’t want to be in the way in case it decided to break loose and come rushing down toward the group.
Over all, hiking Half Dome was a great hike and definitely worth the trip.