Many consider Yosemite to be the mecca for any outdoor enthusiast. For this trip, we opted for a slightly rougher excursion by hiking to the Little Yosemite Valley backpacker campground, but there are plenty of options for the dirt adverse. Whether it’s a canvas tent in Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village) or staying in the renowned Majestic Yosemite (better known as Ahwahnee, pre-trademark controversy) there’s a home for everyone in good ole Yose.
One of the classic Yosemite expeditions is Half Dome, the omnipresent focal point of the park. The hike to half dome is challenging in many ways that I will detail in this post, but totally worth it. While Half Dome isn’t for the faint of heart, almost anyone can make it up with some basic training beforehand (AKA going to the gym). There are two options for hiking up, and many more if you are a climber. The most popular yet hardest option is doing the whole trek all at once. This requires waking up before dawn and logging 16+ miles in one day, half of which are straight uphill. The second option, which is what we opted for, is to stay in the backpacker’s campground. The sites are halfway to Half Dome, allowing you to break up the trip into multiple days. I wouldn’t go as far to describe this as “leisurely” but it personally made it more enjoyable. Another option for my fellow glampers would be to attempt the one-day trek, but to stay in one a more ‘luxurious’ lodging location (like the Ahwahnee… er… Majestic Yosemite) and indulge in a post-hike hot tub and massage the next day.
Almost as difficult as climbing Half Dome is securing permits. Not long ago, Yosemite introduced a permit system to help reduce the massive amount of crowds attempting to hike up the steep ascent in a single file line. This is fantastic once you actually get there, but makes it harder to plan the trip.
Now that we have the challenges outlined, let’s get to the good stuff. Hiking up the ‘dome’ requires walking on what feels like a 60+ degree angle, holding on to cables for dear life. Sound terrifying? It is, but something about the scare factor makes it all the more exciting. And once you reach the top, the views are well worth it. Make sure to pack a delicious sandwich and perhaps a good beer to truly enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Enticed by this demanding yet truly rewarding adventure? You have time to start planning. The lottery for permits runs throughout the month of March, and the cables to climb up open up over Memorial Day Weekend. If you want to go the backpacking route, you should apply for the wilderness permit and signify that you also want Half Dome passes included. You need to apply for the wilderness permit five months in advance, so plan accordingly!