Half Dome

Half Dome was originally called “Tis-sa-ack,” meaning Cleft Rock in the language of the local Native Americans. It is a granite dome in Yosemite National Park, located in northeastern Mariposa County, California, at the eastern end of Yosemite Valley.


In January 2010, the National Park Service announced that permits will be required to hike the Cable Route on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays. The park service cited safety concerns and increased crowding on the route as reasons for the new policy.


Permits will be issued only through the National Recreation Reservation Service from four months in advance to one week in advance. A maximum of 400 permits per day will be issued, and a processing fee of $1.50 per permit will be charged. Permits will not be issued in the park.


In 1865, this granite dome was considered “perfectly inaccessible,” but thousands of Yosemite hikers now reach the top each year by following a strenuous trail from the Valley floor.


The final 400-foot ascent, up the peak’s steep east face, follows a pair of metal cables raised on posts that lead to the breath-taking summit. This cable route was constructed in 1919 by the Sierra Club for visitors without technical rock climbing ability.

There is a Native American legend that explains the creation of Half Dome through domestic violence. The legend tells us that a young married couple was arguing. The wife, Tesaiyac, in her despair threw a basket of acorns at her husband as he was chasing after her.


The western face of Half Dome is a sheer cliff, made up of Plutonic granite, and probably was never a full round dome. Half Dome was originally called “Cleft Rock” by the Native Americans who lived in the area.


Fractures in the granite of the dome captured water, which went through freezing and thawing, pushing the rock apart and causing 20 percent of the rock to fall away, creating Half Dome’s dramatic face.

You can’t climb Half Dome unless the cables are up, which is generally from mid-May or early June through Columbus Day weekend in October. For 2014, the cables will be up from May 16 through October 14, conditions permitting.

Half Dome

Half Dome, Yosmite Valley

The waterfalls will be better the earlier in the year you go. Avoid Half Dome on days when there are thunder clouds in the area – it’s not worth the risk. Even rain without lightning will make the granite on the cable route dangerously slick, so it’s best to skip stormy days altogether.


The trailhead is at the east end of Yosemite Valley, to which almost all roads in Yosemite lead. From 140, just stay on the road until you’re in Yosemite Valley; from the north (Big Oak Flat) entrance, do the same; from the Tioga Road, go west until it terminates at Big Oak Flat Road, then turn left and follow Big Oak Flat Road to the valley; from the south entrance, take highway 41 (which you’re already on) all the way to the valley.


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