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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.
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.
Looming 4,800 feet above Yosemite Valley is the “Crown Jewel” of the Sierra, Half Dome. This granite monolith has captured the imagination of explorers, climbers and artists alike and is the most sought after summit in Yosemite National Park. However, at over 17 miles round-trip and with thousands of feet in elevation gain and loss, a day-trip to the summit is certainly not a giveaway. For those that complete the journey, the spectacular views of Yosemite Valley and the Yosemite High Country are worth every hard-earned step.
SYMG has been leading Half Dome trips for over 20 years and recruiting one of our experienced guides is perhaps the best way to enhance your Half Dome experience. Our primary purpose for offering these outings is to provide an interpretive/educational component for guests who are seeking more than just a summit experience. In addition to structuring your day to maximize your chance of summiting Half Dome, our guides focus on one of two educational themes: Interpretation or Mountain Skills. This is all in an effort to provide you with the most well-rounded and rewarding wilderness experiences possible, all while climbing one of America’s most iconic summits.
- Interpretive programs are focused on three main themes: Natural History, Cultural History, and Wilderness/Environmental Philosophy & Values.
- Mountain Skills programs focus are centered on executing single-day summit pushes and will focus on planning, pacing, and sound decision making while attempting to summit a mountaineering objective.
SYMG guides are professional, highly experienced and enjoyable people to be around. All have spent years perfecting their interpretive and mountain skills in and around Yosemite and look forward to not only teaching and guiding you in these spectacular locations, but getting to know you as well. Your guide is there to help you have the most fulfilling day possible in Yosemite. All SYMG guides are professionally trained and hold advanced medical certifications. Gratuities are accepted and appreciated for a job well done.
Equipment: The guide(s) carries a map, water filter, and first aid and emergency items. Wear a broken-in pair of hiking boots or trail shoes. Bring a lightweight rain jacket and a headlamp.
Your Cost Includes: Your personal guide, trekking poles upon request (on your registration form), and permits for the cable route.
Not Included: Personal gear, lunch, transportation and tips for guides (10-20% of trip cost recommended).
Meals: No meals are provided. Bring snacks & light lunch food, as well as 2 liters of water
Preparation: Hike. Take some long day hikes in the weeks leading up to your departure. Cycling and training on stadium bleachers is very appropriate. Cyclists tend to be better prepared than distance runners for the sections of granite stairs.
Your guide will meet you on the porch of the Mountain Shop in Half Dome (formerly Curry) Village at 6am. Expect a dawn-dusk experience and plan food and clothing accordingly. The overall trip is appx 17 miles and includes 4,745 feet of elevation gain and then loss. Most groups finish the round-trip by 5:00pm, though it could be hours earlier or later depending on the overall pace of the group.
Trail synopsis: The Valley floor sits at 4,100 in elevation and the summit of Half Dome is at 8,845’. The trail begins by following the “Wild and Scenic” Merced River past Vernal and Nevada Falls. There, we’ll encounter 400+ steep granite steps along the Mist Trail section, which can be wet in the early season when the waterfalls are full. Once above the waterfalls, the trail is well-graded and travels upwards through mixed conifer forests. We gain 2,842 feet in just the last 3.1 miles to the summit. The last 900 feet is a very steep climb up many more granite stairs and semi-exposed rock slabs on the east side of Half Dome. Cables assist hikers on the final 400 feet. After a few minutes to enjoy the hard-earned summit, we retrace the entire route, ideally reaching the trailhead by 5:00pm for a celebratory meal and drink.
With your own Half Dome permit: $495 for 1-2 people. $95 for each additional participant. With SYMG's permit: $295 per person, up to 5 participants. Minimum of 2 paid participants to run the trip, solo hikers are welcome. Please call our office for additional information regarding Half Dome Day Hikes 800-231-4575
We enjoyed our guide Ryan. He took us to Half Dome on Thursday. We learned a lot. I'm glad we had Ryan's experience along the way and that he took Blake up the cables and me to the subdome. My goals were to complete the hike safely and to learn along the way and although tired at the end of the day, Blake and I both had more energy than expected that night. We appreciate all of the breaks we took along the way and the wealth of information from our guide.
-Lisa S, 2015
I did this hike on the weekend with Chris. I had a fantastic time but - unfortunately for me - something went a bit wrong with my breathing (possibly just due to poor fitness!). The reason I wanted to write to you was to just get it on your radar that Chris is an amazing guy (if you don't already know). By the time I realized something was wrong we were already on the way back, but he did a phenomenal job of keeping an eye on me, topping me up with his personal energy bars / drinks, picking out rest stops and just being unbelievably accommodating. I honestly think that if I'd been on my own I would have given up and slept under a tree - no doubt whatsoever in my mind that he's the only way I made it out by nightfall. I can't imagine how stressful it must have been for him towards the end (we wanted to be out by sunset and I had to stop about five times just from Vernal Falls to the trailhead, which took about 40 minutes) but he remained professional, supportive and kind (and we made it!). I tipped him everything I had in my wallet, which was only about $40, but if I'd had triple that he still would have got it all. Incredible job and an incredible guy.
-Sam M, 2014
Thanks for your guidance and steady persistence that I could make the final push on the cables of Half Dome. I was amazed that you were able to make the trip the very next day for the rest of our group! They reported a great time but exhausted! We had a good trip back to Iowa on Friday. Many thanks to you and Lindsey for your particular care and safety of my Tiny�s (grandkids). They are rather special and they will always remember their Yosemite Hike to Half Dome. Tell Lindsey Hi for us and again Thanks for a JOB WELL DONE.
-Larry E, 2013