About two months before the trip my friend told me he had a few extra permits for the hike, and he put the offer out to other friends as well so he could try to get a small group together. Two of my friends had four passes so they were trying to find another couple to go. Luckily for me, there was no other couple that was able to go so I joined them and the three of us spent the weekend together doing this amazing hike. One of the permits went unused unfortunately, but it was definitely better that we had too many than too few.
Hiking and Camping Permits
There are two types of permits that are needed to hike Half Dome hike and to camp overnight at the campgrounds. “Day-hike permits” are required to hike Sub Dome and to get to the top of Half Dome. The permit is required to do the cable hiking, which leads to the very top of Half Dome, and to hike Sub Dome (which in my opinion is more demanding than the cables). The reason Yosemite requires permits is to control traffic in certain areas. The approximately 600 foot cable portion is very steep and dangerous so not many people can use it at one time, so this area is crowd controlled. Everyone can hike about 90% of the trail without a permit but by requiring the permits for this portion they’re able to control traffic to 400 people per day.
The second type of permit is the “Wilderness permit” and it is required to camp anywhere in the park. In order to camp at Little “Yosemite Valley campground”, which is along the main hiking trail, a reservation is required which is tough to get because there is very limited space for campsites. With a general wilderness permit, camping is allowed almost anywhere in the park except within certain areas. In the case of hiking Half Dome, in order to camp freely it has to be done a minimum of more than 2 miles from the campgrounds. Because we failed to make a reservation at the Little Yosemite Valley campgrounds, which we thought the permits we had covered us for, we had to go out of the area and camp on our own which in my opinion was one of the best things about the whole hike (entire blog post to come about the camping).
My friends had four day-hike permits, but not a wilderness permit. Their intention was to make reservations at the Little Yosemite Valley campsite but the night before we started the hike, while finishing our packing, we realized we only had day-hike permits but that we’d likely need a wilderness permit to camp overnight. The next morning, when we set out to do our hike, we went to the park office and they gave us the information on where we could camp. So long as we were more than 2 miles away from Little Yosemite Valley campsite, we were ok. On the map, the ranger marked a small creek and told us to make sure to reach the creep. At that point would know for sure we were in the area where we were supposed to camp.
This sign is just past Little Yosemite Valley campgrounds as a final check to make sure you have the required permits if you’re planning to hike to the top.
Tuesday— Full day of school in Tampa, including an exam. Then a late night flight from Tampa to San Francisco, arriving into SF at 11:50pm. My friends rented a ZipCar and picked me up from the airport.
Wednesday— Spent the morning/afternoon in SF on my own, then when my friends got off work we headed to the mountains. We left SF about 6pm and arrived at our hotel near Yosemite around 11pm.
Thursday— Woke up early, went for a swim in the hot tub, checked out of hotel around 11am. It took a few hours to get situated, park our car, and start hiking. We began hiking at around 3pm which gave us about 4-5 hours of hiking before the sun went down. We camped overnight on the side of the mountain by our selves at a spot we found about 10 minutes before the sun set.
Friday— HALF DOME! We woke up at our camp site around 7am and set out on our full day of hiking. We had to make it to the top of half dome and all the way back to the bottom by time the sun went down so we had about 12 hours to do it all. After the hike, we checked into our hotel inside the park. We were exhausted so we had a quick pizza dinner at the nearby restaurant and called it an early night.
Saturday— Woke up, checked out of hotel room and had lunch in the park. We had lunch at the Ahwahnee Hotel which is the nicest hotel in the park. We couldn’t afford to pay the $500+ per night it costs to stay there but having lunch there was a good way to go see what we missed. After lunch we drove to another vantage point that overlooks the valley that we hiked in, and then we had to hit the road back to San Francisco because the car rental was due by 6pm.
Sunday— Spent the morning/afternoon in the city and at Dolores Park. Evening/overnight flight back to Tampa leaving SF at about 8:30pm. Due to missing my connecting flight in Phoenix, I arrived back in Tampa around noontime on Monday afternoon.
Half Dome Permits for Day Hiking
Wilderness Permit Information
Camping Information at Little Yosemite Valley
Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Park
In June I had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco for the weekend and do a short side trip to Yosemite to hike Half Dome. Prior to the trip I had very little knowledge what Half Dome was and I had no idea what the cables were leading up to the top of Half Dome. This hike was one of the craziest things I’ve done so far in my life and it was one of the funnest weekend trips I’ve done in a while.
Over the next week I’m going to write different posts about the trip so for this post I’m going to write an introduction about what Half Dome is and where it is.
The day after finishing the hike we drove 25 miles to another vantage point to get this view pictured above. Half Dome is the rock on the left of the image and the waterfall on the right is the area where we hiked. The valley below is the floor of Yosemite where most tourists visit. The surrounding area for miles and miles each way is Yosemite National Park.
Yosemite National Park is located in Northern California about 3 hours East of San Francisco. Half Dome is located in the main tourist area and is one of the main attractions that many tourists go to see.
Backside of Half Dome
The cables. The last 1,000 feet to get to the top of Half Dome consist of climbing up this steep piece of granite holding on to the cables and slowly moving from plank to plank.
The top of Half Dome. Worth every ounce of effort to get here.
I have a friend whose parents one day decided to sell their house, put all their belongings in storage, and hike the Appalachian Trail from the beginning in Georgia to the end in Maine. My friend’s parents didn’t give him much warning so he was equally as shocked as we were to learn of this when he shared it with us shortly after finding out. My friend wanted to join them but he wasn’t able to leave so quickly. He waited a few months and took a bus to Virginia to meet with them and finish the journey the rest of the way to Maine. He ended up hiking about half of the trail and was gone for about 4 months. Even though it’s been over five years since returning, every time I hang out with him we talk about hiking and mountains and his experience hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Recently I learned something new about the Appalachian Trail. More than 200 million years ago, the mountain range that spans the East Coast (the Appalachian Mountains) used to be part of a larger mountain range that now lies in Canada, Europe, and Northwestern Africa. Hundreds of millions of years ago these different mountain ranges were connected as one back in the Pangaea Era when there was only one large land mass. The International Appalachian Trail (IAT) project was initially started by the Governor of Maine to create an international partnership with Canada by extending the Appalachian Train from where it ends in Maine further into parts of Canada that are part of the same mountain range. Slowly, the project grew to include other countries and the idea is now to “connect all of those mountains that were created when the ancient continent Pangaea was formed 300 million years ago.”
As part of the international agreement between Maine and Canada in relation to the International Appalachian Trail, in September 2008 Resolution 32-6 was formed which “commits the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and the provinces of Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland Labrador ‘to continue to work closely with the various organizations that are developing and maintaining these trails, in order to maximize their positive impact on our tourism industry and further promote the feeling of connectiveness that exist between our respective jurisdictions.'”
The mission of the International Appalachian Trail is to establish a long-distance walking trail that extends to all geographic regions once connected by the “Appalachian Mountain” range, formed more than 250 million years ago on the super-continent Pangea.
In addition to connecting people and places, the goal is to promote natural and cultural heritage, health and fitness, environmental stewardship, fellowship and understanding, cross-border cooperation, and rural economic development through eco and adventure tourism.
National Geographic included the International Appalachian Trail as one of the World’s Best Hikes in their recent article. The series by National Geographic includes 20 amazing hikes from around the world. The “World’s Best Hikes: Epic Trails” article was written by Doug Schnitzspahn who has worked for the National Park Services in Montana and Idaho. He is currently the editor-in-chief for Elevation Outdoors magazine.
A truly great trail winds into the essence of a place, so when assembling this list of the world’s great hikes we kept an eye on more than the footpath. We looked for walks that travel deeper into a location’s history and culture. Sure, there’s outdoor adventure on each of these 20 hikes, but the trails also tell a rich story. So here they are, the holy grails of trails across the world. —Doug Schnitzspahn
Flagler Films recently released a 6-minute video on YouTube about the IAT in Ireland. They are in discussions with PBS to produce a 3-hr segment about the International Appalachian Trail so I will keep my eye out to see what developments come in the future.
Flagler Films, IAT News: http://iat-sia.com/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=61&cntnt01returnid=15
IAT Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Appalachian_Trail