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Difficulty descriptions are by nature very subjective. The categories below represent generalized distinctions in terrain, level of commitment, time spent at elevation and overall trip duration. Level of commitment refers to the ability to opt out of activities such as peak ascents from a base camp. A committing trip requires a daily mileage to be completed each day.

These trips typically travel on groomed trails at a leisurely pace. You can expect maintained trails, gentle grades and more flexibility in terms of your destination for the day. Hikers will carry mainly the essentials in a light daypack and travel anywhere from 3 to 8 miles depending on the trip or preference.

Moderate- Basecamps
These include hiking, backpacking, or stock-supported trips that take place mostly on maintained trails to get to camp. These trips hike into a set basecamp and then offer optional destinations with varying degrees of challenge. You can expect modest climbs on uneven terrain. Total distances are often 4-7 miles of hiking per day over 3-4 days of hiking.

These trips include on- and off-trail hiking or backpacking or stock-supported trips. The trails can consist of uneven terrain with modest to difficult climbs and some steep passes (gains of 1000-2000’). These trips are typically 3-5 days in duration but can be longer. For backpacking trips, they can include carrying a fully weighted pack (30-42lbs) and travel 6-10 miles per day.

These trips include on- and off-trail hiking, backpacking or stock-supported trips with uneven terrain and steep grades and passes. These trips are more physically and mentally challenging and usually 7-8 days in duration. For backpacking trips, pack weight will consist of (30-40lbs). Because these types of trips have a required mileage to complete each day, the level of commitment is high. Trips in this category spend significant time at higher elevations and often cover 8-12+ miles per day with average gains/losses of 1,500-3,000’ per day. The most successful people on these trips have some prior overnight backcountry experience.

These trips include on- and off-trail hiking or backpacking on uneven terrain with steep grades. These trips travel 10-12+ miles per day and can vary from 8-21 days in length. Given the mileage and duration, there is an increased amount of physical and mental challenge throughout the trip. Pack weights will consist of 35-45lbs depending on the resupply schedule. Because these types of trips have a required mileage to complete each day, the level of commitment to reach your destination is high. The most successful people on these trips have extensive overnight backcountry experience.

Half Dome Backpacking Weekend

About the trip

Based from the superlative Yosemite Valley, we’ll achieve the summit of one of the world’s most iconic peaks: Half Dome. Along the way, we’ll travel the shores of the “Wild and Scenic” Merced River, pass Vernal and Nevada waterfalls, and hike a section of the famous John Muir Trail. Surely, though, the highlight of the trip is standing atop Half Dome (8,845’) with sweeping views of the Yosemite high country.

Accommodations: We provide your first night lodging in the Curry Village tent cabins and two nights tent camping (price based on shared occupancy). Located in the heart of the Yosemite Valley, Curry Village is the ideal spot to explore all that Yosemite has to offer.

Equipment: We supply all group camping gear (stoves, cookware, water filters, group first aid kit, etc.). We can also supply personal camping equipment (backpacks, sleeping bags, ground pads, trekking poles, and tents) upon request with no additional fee. You are welcome to bring your own personal camping equipment if you prefer. A detailed gear list will be sent to you upon registration.

Meals: We provide meals starting with lunch on day two through breakfast and trail snacks the last day. Our "Backcountry Gourmet" meals have been acclaimed in Sunset Magazine. We take pride in providing excellent meals even in remote surroundings.

Your Cost Includes: Meals (as noted above), group camping gear (as noted above), personal camping equipment (as listed above), accommodations (as noted above), applicable permits, professional mountain guide(s), pre-trip planning packet, and trip support from our friendly office staff.

Not Included: Personal clothing and footwear, personal gear not listed under “Equipment” above, meals while in the front country, tips for guides (10-20% of trip cost is customary), transportation, and optional trip cancellation insurance.

Preparation: Training is paramount to the enjoyment and success of your trip. We recommend exercising in the months prior to your trip to bolster sustained cardiovascular/aerobic activities as well as core and leg strength. Day hikes with a full backpack, preferably on hilly, off road terrain, is the best way to train for our trips. Activities such as cycling and step-master type machines are also excellent and preferable to a routine comprised solely of running.

Full Itinerary

Day 1: Check in to Curry Village within spectacular Yosemite Valley anytime after 5pm. Meet your guide and group at 6pm on the porch of the Mountain Shop in Curry Village for a short meet-and-greet and trip orientation. Dinner tonight is on your own at one several local restaurants.

Day 2: After breakfast on your own, you will meet your guide in front of the Curry Village Mountain Shop at 8:00am. We’ll leave our cars here in the parking lot and take a short (10 min) shuttle to the Happy Isles Trailhead. From there, we’ll follow the Merced River past Vernal and Nevada waterfalls and into Little Yosemite Valley where we will make camp for the night. 5 miles

Day 3: Beginning early in the morning, we'll eat breakfast and start our hike to the summit of Half Dome (8,845'). After a few miles of gaining elevation within the fir forests, we break above treeline for our first look at the famous Cables Route. After a bit more hiking we’ll make the quick and straightforward climb up the final stretch to Half Dome’s summit. Spectacular views await of the Sierra high country and down into Yosemite Valley far below. Not to be missed is a peek over the edge from The Visor, perched 4,700ft above Tenaya Canyon. After hiking back down to camp, we can go for refreshing swim from the beaches of the Merced River, have dinner and relax by the campfire.

Day 4: Our hike back to the trailhead is as amazing as everything else we've seen as we travel the famous John Muir Trail along the “Wild and Scenic” Merced River back into Yosemite Valley. We’ll arrive to Curry Village between 12-1pm.

*Please note that with the new Half Dome permitting regulations in place since 2013, coupled with a huge increase in demand for fewer permits, itineraries may be subject to slight changes and different trailheads may be used to make sure we can climb Half Dome. One common option may be we need to add an additional Day 5 and slight additional cost to the trip. All departures including Half Dome are not guaranteed until 6 months in advance, when the permit lottery is completed. You will be informed of any necessary changes and can be refunded at this time if the actual dates and itinerary don't end up working for you.


*Similar trips include: Half Dome and Cloud's Rest Backpack, High TourYosemite Falls LoopRed Peak Loop with Half Dome Summit

Trip Details

4 or 5 days

Group size
maximum 12 ppl

Difficulty Rating


$1095 per person on 4-day itinerary
$1295 per person on 5-day itinerary

price based on shared room occupancy Single Lodging Supplement (when available): Requested Single $165; Forced Single $80

2020 Trip Dates
June 17-21, 2020 (5-day permit confirmed)
July 8-11, 2020
September 9-12, 2020


Months ago we booked a trip to Yosemite Valley to Celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary. Like many, we wanted to climb Half Dome, but we did not win the lottery to get permits. Disappointed, I began brainstorming to figure out a way to summit Half Dome, and that is when I stumbled upon SYMG. At the time my husband felt that the trip was over priced, but I convinced him to book the hike/climb trip for the weekend of September 18-20, 2015. Upon completing our hiking trip, we are happy to say that the hike/climb was worth every penny in large part thanks to Brendan Hayes and Alex Kendrall. Being a nurse, I know that it is not easy dealing with the public but these two gentlemen did a wonderful job. Their customer service skills were excellent from start to finish. They both had such patience, kindness, and professionalism. The world would be a much nicer place if everyone were like them. They made us feel at ease and welcomed. We were very impressed with their knowledge and experience, especially with their backpacking cooking skills. Not only did I love their food that they prepared, I was very impressed that they got my husband to eat things I could never get him to try. I must say that the food they prepared was better and healthier then the meals that they served in the Valley.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Brendan and Alex for making this trip and climb so memorable for us.
Thanks again for making our trip to Yosemite so wonderful and memorable!!

-Annette & Mike D, 2015

Just finished our trek this afternoon. The SYMG team did a great job. Laura Steinbach, our guide, was fabulous. She provided great coaching on all aspects of the hike, from cable techniques to bear safety. And her menu was great. Ask her about the campfire crowd on Saturday night---can't find comedy entertainment that good in Vegas! Thanks to all.

-Les M, 2012