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Hiking Half Dome- Fitness and Travel Lover Edition

One of my top 5 hikes in the US and one of the only hikes that gave me shaky legs...

Fit man hiking Half Dome in California
Bain on his way up the cables at Half Dome

Hiking Half Dome in Yosemite National Park is an adventure that is not to be missed. This iconic granite monolith stands at 8,836 feet and is a challenging hike, especially when nearing the summit. However, the view from the top is worth every step of the journey. You also meet friends like the one pictured below on the way up.

Squirrel in Half Dome
Bain's Squirrel Friend

Before setting out on your hike, it is important to plan ahead and obtain a permit. Permits are required for the cables section of the hike, which is the final 400 feet to the summit. These permits are in high demand and are often sold out months in advance, so it is important to plan ahead and secure your permit well before your planned hike. I (Bain here) was lucky as I did not have a permit- yes, rebel status. I met a group while hiking to the top who had an extra spot on their permit, and the Park Ranger who sits and checks the permits allowed me to join this group. He told me not to tell anyone so let's keep this a secret between the Fitness and Travel Lovers.

The iconic cables section of Half Dome
The iconic cables section of Half Dome

The hike to Half Dome begins at the Happy Isles trailhead and follows the Mist Trail, which is a strenuous hike that gains 4,800 feet in elevation over 14 miles. The trail is well-marked and offers scenic views of Vernal and Nevada Falls along the way. The hike can take anywhere from 10 to 14 hours, depending on your pace and fitness level. It took me 12 hours with stops for lunch, snacks, and chats. I packed healthy meals including rotisserie chicken, vegetables, and rice in light tupperware which lasted me throughout the hike. I also included some protein bars for snacks. And LOTS OF WATER!

Waterfall in Yosemite
One of the amazing waterfalls on the way up to Half Dome

As you near the summit, the trail becomes steeper and more challenging. The final 400 feet to the summit are climbed using a set of cables that are anchored into the granite. These cables provide a handhold for hikers to use as they make their way to the top. It is important to note that the cables are not always in place and are typically only set up from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. I had someone in rock climbing shoes walking beside me on the rock while I used the cables- what a boss.

The view from the summit of Half Dome is truly breathtaking. You will be able to see the entire Yosemite Valley, including El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, and the High Sierra. It is a view that will stay with you forever and is a testament to the power and beauty of nature. I almost teared up when I saw it. What an amazing place!

The view from near the top of Half Dome
The view from near the top of Half Dome

Remember to take time to soak in the views and enjoy the moment, as the climb back down can be just as challenging as the climb up. When I started down from the top my legs were visibly shaky. I have only experienced this on a handful of occasions, so it goes to show how difficult this hike can be. Hiking Half Dome is a challenging but rewarding experience, and one that should be on every hiker's bucket list. Enjoy, Fitness and Travel Lovers!

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