10 Things First-Timers Should Not Do When Visiting Half-Dome – TheTravel


First time hiking Half Dome? Here are ten things first-timers need to know about this Yosemite day hike.
Yosemite National Park is a popular destination for travelers, with 3.3 million people visiting this stunning national park each year. Some travelers visit Yosemite to enjoy the 750+ miles of hiking trails, while others prefer to take in the natural beauty in other ways. There are many things to do in Yosemite besides hiking, including taking a scenic drive, bird watching, fishing, swimming, and camping.
Hiking in Yosemite National Park is popular for a reason, however. One particularly breathtaking trail is the Half Dome Day Hike, offering stellar views of the granite dome. This hike is not for the faint of heart, as it involves high elevation, switchbacks, steep drop-offs, and slick granite. The hike is about 14-16 miles long, taking hikers an average of 10-12 hours to complete. There are plenty of dos and don'ts when it comes to Half Dome, and below is a list of ten things first-timers should not do when visiting Half Dome.
The cliqué phrase “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is thrown around often. In the case of hiking Half Dome, however, this statement could not be more true.
The Half Dome Day Hike can take a grueling 10-12 hours to complete, meaning hikers need to begin their day with as much energy and nutrients as possible.
It is also important to pack snacks for the day. Some popular snacks for day hikes include jerky, trail mix, protein bars, and fruit leathers.
The goal is to pack snacks that are lightweight, nutritious, and easily portable.
The National Parks Service is very strict about permits, and park rangers check guests in by examining their permits. Permits can be saved to one’s phone or printed out on paper.
Only 225 day hikers are allowed on the Half Dome trail each day.
There are two ways to obtain a permit; entering the preseason lottery or entering the daily lotteries. These lotteries can be found on Recreation.gov, with the preseason lottery ending on March 1.
Visitors who attempt to hike the trail without a permit are fined $280.
There are plenty of other exciting hikes in the area, however, for people who were not able to obtain a permit.
Clouds Rest, North Dome, and Sentinel Dome are all great alternatives to the Half Dome Day Hike.
Heightened altitude causes changes to the body, including altitude sickness and feelings of discomfort. This means the heightened altitude will be an added challenge for hikers.
The Half Dome sits 8,800 feet above sea level. Some travelers suggest getting to Yosemite a few days prior to hiking to acclimate to the change in altitude.
Another tip is to try a shorter high-altitude hike to see how one’s body reacts.
Headaches and nausea are symptoms of altitude sickness, so hikers experiencing those symptoms should descend and head back to the trailhead.
Related: Enjoy This 3-Day Camping Adventure In Yosemite On A Road Trip From San Francisco
One of the most important items for any hike is good shoes. The slick granite found throughout the Half Dome Day Hike requires hikers to wear shoes with a strong grip. Hiking boots or running shoes are appropriate footwear options.
Visitors also need to bring work gloves. A portion of the hike involves holding wire cables while ascending and descending a steep rock.
Gloves are necessary to avoid cuts and blisters forming on one’s hands. Other important gear to bring include a headlamp, water, snacks, sunscreen, bug spray, and first aid supplies.
First-timers may be excited to complete this trail but should not attempt to if the cables are down. The cables go from the base of the dome to the top, stretching 400 feet upwards at a 45-degree angle.
Understanding how to use cable supporters is important for first-time hikers. Even though the steep angle of the trail seems daunting, the cables make the hike doable for most people.
When the cables are removed, however, the trail becomes treacherous and not beginner-friendly in the slightest.
Related: Yosemite's Tunnel View Is A Scenic Point Worth Seeking Out, Here's How
While people of varying skill levels and ages have completed the Half Dome Day Hike in full, first-timers should not feel pressured into completing the hike.
There are plenty of visitors who hike as far as the cables, then turn around. Hiking Half Dome should not be a competition, but rather a chance to connect with nature, explore, and embark on an adventure.
There is no shame in knowing one’s limits and not spending 10-12 hours completing this intense hike.
While the Mist Trail should be on every adventure seeker’s bucket list, it is not beginner-friendly and should only be attempted by the seasoned hiker.
Mist Trail was given its name for a reason, and the steps on this path are often wet, slippery, and dangerous to walk on.
Avoid a potential injury by taking the John Muir Trail back instead. The John Muir Trail wraps around south, adding a bit more time to the hike, but is worth it for hikers looking for an easier trail back.
Most people think of hiking as being hard on one’s knees, feet, and legs. The Half Dome Day Hike also involves upper body strength. For first-timers who choose to embark on the cables, upper body strength is needed to ascend at the steep 45-degree angle up the dome.
Some seasoned travelers even speculate that ascending the cables takes about 50-75% upper body strength while hiking on the flat ground requires strong legs.
Incorporating arm, shoulder, and back workouts into one’s gym routine is a great way to prepare for this hike.
Wildfires are a concern at Yosemite, but the main concern when completing the Half Dome Day Hike is thunderstorms and rain. If it has been raining, the granite will be slippery.
Even sturdy hiking boots don’t always keep hikers safe from slipping.
The Half Dome is also prone to being struck by lightning, with signs on the trail warning hikers that the dome has been hit by lightning every single month of the year.
Park rangers will alert hikers if weather conditions are unsafe, but it is also smart to do separate research on weather patterns prior to arriving at the trail.
One important thing first-timers (and all hikers in general) should keep in mind is starting their hike early. Since the trail takes 10-12 hours to complete, the earlier a person begins hiking, the better. 5 am is a good time to arrive at the trailhead.
If it takes a traveler 12 hours to complete the hike, they will be on the trail from 5 am-5 pm.
Since this is an all-day hike, it is also important to remain hydrated, wear sunscreen, stop for breaks, keep track of the time, and not be afraid to turn back.
Steffi Haenicke is a freelance writer. No stranger to list content, Haenicke wrote several list articles while working at Clique Magazine, a fashion and lifestyle digital magazine. Haenicke is also quite the traveler. She makes a biennial trek to Germany to visit relatives and explore the country.

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