Hiking Half Dome in a single day requires you to hike a fairly grueling 17 miles or so with a number of sections of the trail which use stairs rather than regular incline. You will need to watch out for a very large amount of slick granite, which can pose issues for the unwary hiker. There is even a good ½ mile stretch of sand on the trail. This makes for a rather challenging hike overall, but it is very worth it.
The trip up to Yosemite National Park from Orange County takes a few hours, especially if you end up trying to wait for the (in)famous Los Angeles traffic to dissipate before you start heading North. For this trip we ended up traveling up up I-5 to CA-99 to CA-41 which brought us into Yosemite Valley. Once in the Valley we made our way to the Mist Trail trailhead near Curry Village. Unfortunately, we left Orange County slightly after 8 PM (mostly due to delays getting our rental car, thanks Hertz!), which meant, between driving and stopping for Dinner/Brunch at 1 AM, we didn’t arrive until 5 AM, which happened to be the time at which we started the hike.
To get to the actual beginning of the Mist Trail, you need to hike on a bit of paved trail, which includes a few rolling hills. At the end of the pavement you will find a bridge, followed by a the final drinking fountain (the last source of potable water you will find on this hike, bring a water filter!). From here the trail goes off to the left, and you start seeing the beginning of the stairs up to the first waterfall. Take your time going up, the Mist Trail is one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever been able to do.
Keep on Trekking
After going up the two waterfalls, there is still a good chunk of trail left to go, while there may not be more waterfalls to walk by, the trail will wander along the Merced River for a while before starting up towards the cables. As you go up, be on the look out for a few places where by walking a few feet off the trail you can get some really nice views of various parts of Yosemite Valley.
After getting to the end of the trail, you still have to go up the cables. The cables are actually the only part of this hike you need to win the lottery on recreation.gov. The cables require a little bit of upper body strength, as you will need to literally pull yourself up. One thing we found when doing this is that waiting (i.e. taking a nap) for an hour can make there be a lot less congestion on the cables.
After reaching the top of the cables, you only have a few more feet to walk before you get to the summit of Half Dome, from there you will see some very impressive views of Yosemite Valley.
The Summit is Only Half Way
The problem with day hiking things like Half Dome, is that once you get to the summit, you still have to get all the way back down, and it is quite a ways to go. If you are coming down in the summer near sunset, be warned that there are some big, very aggressive mosquitos out there which will do their best of get a nice dinner out of you.
The writeup for this hike is a little different, as it took me a very long time to get around to writing it, as life has gotten a bit busy. As I write this I’m actually sitting in Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, listening to a CNN special about Yosemite. Just thought I would include that little piece of trivia.