Wanderlust Wednesday: Yosemite’s Half Dome Hike

Yosemite’s Half Dome

May 2012

wanderlust wed - Copy

So I’m thinking about starting a trend on this blog.

Something I like to call “Wanderlust Wednesday.”

Basically, each Wednesday, I’ll make a post about a trip I’ve been on; a recap with pictures, reviews, and notable adventures!

Sound cool? Cool 🙂

I wrote this post on my old blog, but it was honestly one of the most life-changing events of my life, so I thought, what better way to kick off this new trend? So without further ado, my first Wanderlust Wednesday: Hiking to Half Dome! 🙂


First, some fun facts about the hike:

  • Gain of 4,800 ft overall
  • 8,842 ft at the summit
  • Last 800 ft are vertical cables
  • Roughly 15 miles roundtrip

4:30am: Dad and I wake up. Doused ourselves in sunscreen, drank some pre-workout supplement, and hoisted on our backpacks we packed the night before with water, maps, food, ponchos, knives, toilet paper, and all of the other essentials. It was in the upper 40s when we left, so we had to put on a light jacket…which came off pretty fast once we started the ascent.

5:30am: Sunrise. Arrived at the trail head and began. We found some great sticks near the start of the trail that we used the entire hike as walking sticks. No need to invest in the costly metal ones, when mother nature provides her own! They were MAJOR lifesavers.

mist trail

There are two main trails on the hike–the Mist trail and the Half Dome trail.

Here’s a map:


A lot of tourists take the relatively easy Mist trail to check out Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. There are vertical steps cut in stone right by the waterfalls that are COVERED in slippery moss and wet mist, so it is a bit hazardous. You definitely need hiking boots with great grip. We had ponchos, but the mist felt nice so we didn’t bother putting them on. Once you reach the top of Vernal Falls, there’s a nice viewing area to relax a bit since it’s pretty strenuous going up those steps. We got there around 7:00am.

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Then, there was a series of steep, deep cut stone steps on the way up to Nevada falls. Talk about major lunges–my butt was screaming and my quads were like fiery pits of lava. At the top of that, there’s one final bathroom before all-out wilderness, so we took advantage of it.

The Mist trail then became the Half Dome trail!

This trail starts off with a beautiful, scenic valley that has a creek cutting through it. The flat valley was a great break for our legs, too after climbing nonstop. It’s at around 6000 feet in elevation so we were halfway to the summit by 9:45 am.


Then the major climbing began again in the woods. We saw multiple deer and squirrels in the trees. I spotted 5 deer and my dad spotted 3 🙂 They were good distractions during our uphill trudging along with singing “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen and “Top of the World” by the Carpenters haha (we had those stuck in our heads hardcore)

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Then we reached the tree line and met the anticipated “stairs from hell”. These are some of the steepest and gnarliest stone steps EVER that are cut right into a sheer rock face. We got major heebie jeebies because NOTHING is on either side of you.


After about 30 minutes traversing those, we made it to the top of the subdome and saw the cables.

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The cable climbers still looked teeny even when we were so close!


You have to have a ticket in order to climb the cable part via a lottery-like drawing and we were lucky enough to get picked the night before. Reached the cables at 11:00am.

My dad and I then looked at each other, gave a high five and said “LET’S DO THIS!!”

I totally underestimated just how steep this part was. Our legs were toast, but we found we didn’t have to use them nearly as much–you surprisingly need a TON of upper body strength to literally pull yourself up those cables. There are some pieces of wood to rest on when you’re letting people coming down pass, but you’re almost at a 90 degree angle on a cliff face.

It was definitely the most exhilirating and exciting part of the hike.

We reached the peak at 11:45am, hugged each other, had lunch and fed a squirrel, I sang some opera to complete my bucket list item, and then we took a TON of pics. We were literally on top of the world and have never felt so alive. Not only that, we were SO proud of what we had accomplished and amazed at the beauty of God’s creation. Oh and our legs thanked us for the rest stop, too haha.

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We then left the peak at 12:30pm and headed back down the cables. You literally almost slide down because there’s NO TRACTION between your boot and the rock. We both thought it was going to be a lot scarier than it was, but I thought it was easier than going up.

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Around 1:45pm, we finished the switchback steps and made it back to the treeline.

The weather was marvelous for the whole first half of the day with a light breeze and no humidity, but as the sun started sinking lower, we started to sweat.

When we were almost to the Nevada falls turn off that would take us back to the Mist trail, we ran into a couple that told us to go a different way…yeaaaahhhh it all started becoming uphill and my dad and I were like WTF?!?!?! WE’RE SUPPOSED TO BE GOING DOWN!!! SOOOO we consulted the map, saw we went an extra 1/4 mile on already jello legs and turned around to head BACK to Vernal falls.

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By the time we got to the slippery misty steps, we were BEAT and our butts, calves, and legs were aching. We started getting kinda loopy and funny about then too haha

After making to the end around 6:30pm, we ran (I have no idea how we got the energy) to the bus that would take us back to Yosemite Village where my mom would pick us up. After sharing a sweaty hug and high fiving, we went in a giftshop and got some ice cold OJ and water to celebrate. Our legs were MUSH so we sat to wait for my mom and made a squirrel friend who liked cheese haha


That night, we both dreamt of steps, but slept like babies….let’s just say we had some hardcore soreness in the morning and but felt awesome


So some realizations:

  • My dad realized he’s a beast at going up hills (I suck and had to keep saying”pace” to slow him down haha)
  • I realized I’m a speedy gazelle coming down (he had to say pace to me haha)
  • God creates some of the most insanely gorgeous scenery; both big and small.
  • We motivated each other to succeed and inspired one another
  • We’re OBSESSED with chasing that endorphin hiking high now


It was the best experience of my life and I’m so glad I was able to do it with someone so special to me. I love my dad so much and being able to conquer Half Dome with him by my side means the world to me. 🙂


Have a wonderful day! And thanks again for all the warm welcomes into the blog world!!! 🙂



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  4. I think I remember this post from your old blog, but I enjoyed it just as much the second time around!!!! You and your dad are just incredible! I would love to do a hike like that. It sounds so empowering! This past summer, my friends and I got up at 2:30 in the morning to do a sunrise hike. and it was an amazing experience. There is just NOTHING better than a good hike, especially with people that mean so much to you! 🙂

  5. I am soooooooo excited you are back!!! You know your posts always made me smile! That hike looks absolutely amazing!!! Such a great father daughter activity!!! I can’t wait to see all the other adventures!! Welcome back to the blogging world……make sure you tell me as soon as you post a video!! 😉

  6. Zandra I absolutely love this idea of Wanderlust Wednesday! How freaking amazing are you and your dad for doing the Yosemite Half-Dome hike 🙂 Super cool. I’m in love with all the pictures you were able to get (especially the squirrel, and the shots from the cable ascent portion – holy crap – that’s insane and totally awesome)! I’m so proud of you my friend xo

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