Epic Rocks: Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

Photo By Art Markiv

One of the most iconic landmarks in all of Yosemite National Park is Half Dome. This massive granite dome rises nearly 5,000 feet above Yosemite Valley and is an incredible sight to behold. The monolith sits above Yosemite Valley in California’s Yosemite National Park and is a prominent feature in the Sierra Nevada. The word “Half” is actually very fitting; the dome is only about one-half mile in diameter. The hike to the top of Half Dome is considered to be one of the most difficult hikes in all of Yosemite. No wonder the park service has deemed it a “Grand Canyon-like” hike. It is definitely not for everyone.

The easiest way to get to the trailhead for Half Dome is to take the Yosemite Valley Nature Trail. The nature trail begins at the Yosemite Valley parking lot and is a paved path, made wheelchair accessible and rated as easy, that leads to the base of Half Dome. To reach the top, hikers can take Yosemite Valley trailhead to the eastern edge of the Valley, near Yosemite Lodge, and ascend on foot or via the Yosemite Museum via John Muir Trail.

Alternatively, they can take a second trailhead located in Yosemite West at the western entrance to the park, which can only be used from late May to October. From the Yosemite West trailhead, hikers will ascend the western shoulder of Half Dome, a steeper and rockier trail.

Photo By Denys Nevozhai

At the top of Half Dome, there is a small building that visitors can enter to view a display about the formation of the Sierra Nevada. Once inside, the visitors will be greeted by a very large granite dome, made of a fascinating variety of different colors. After examining the granite, visitors can view the large cliffs that run along the sides of Half Dome. These cliffs are up to 2,000 feet in height and drop straight down for a massive distance. On a clear day, visitors can see coniferous trees and even the Great Sierra Nevada range.


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