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Weekend and Holiday Warriors Who Plan to Hike Half Dome in Yosemite National Park Will Need a Permit


A permit system is going into use this year for those wishing to hike Half Dome on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays. NPS photo.

With hopes of increasing the safety of those who hike up Half Dome, Yosemite National Park officials will limit numbers of weekend and holiday hikers through a permit system this year.

Half Dome long has attracted throngs of hikers -- some experienced, some not, some well-equipped for the task, some not -- and at times there have been accusations that the heavy, unregulated traffic to the top of the iconic dome has played a role in some accidents on the dome's steeply pitched shoulder. While Yosemite officials currently are working on a long-term management plan for the route to the top of Half Dome, until that is in place they are instituting a permit system for Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays whenever the cables are up.

Under this temporary rule, no more than 400 permits -- costing $1.50 each -- will be issued on these days. For comparison sake, park officials say that fewer than 400 people typically try to reach the top of Half Dome during weekdays, while about 800 people, on average, used the trail on weekends and holidays.

If you're a good planner, permits are available up to four months in advance of your visit to Yosemite through the National Recreation Reservation Service. The permits are not available in Yosemite or on a first-come, first-served basis, park officials say. That said, backpackers "with an appropriate wilderness permit can receive a Half Dome permit when they pick up their wilderness permit with no additional reservation required. Rock climbers who reach the top of Half Dome without entering the sub-dome area can descend on the Half Dome Trail without a permit," the park said in a release.

The Half Dome Cables are usually in place and available for use the third Friday in May, conditions permitting. The last day to use them usually is the Monday of the Columbus Day weekend in October. However, park officials cannot guarantee the cables will be available on any given date, and so if you choose to get a permit for dates in May or October, there is an increased chance the cables will not be in place.

Furthermore, Yosemite officials say that if you are unable to hike Half Dome for any reason (including weather, cables not available, illness, etc.) on the day you have a permit, they will not be able to exchange the permit for a different date.

The park has posted a FAQ page here:

Here's the nitty-gritty for getting a permit:

If your hiking date is in May, June or July, the first day to get a permit is March 1. If your hiking date is in August, you can get one April 1; for September dates, May 1; for October dates, June 1.

You can apply for a permit through this site:, or by calling 877-444-6777 (or 877-833-6777 for TDD), or at 518-885-3639 if you live outside the United States and Canada.

Permits cannot be obtained via the mail.

You may only get four permits per phone call or website visit (you can call again or start over again to get additional permits).


The FAQ mentions that a ranger is likely to be stationed at the subdome (I think that's the little hump just before the cables). "Quarter Domes" are actually between Half Dome and Clouds Rest. They also say it won't be 24 hours a day, but it sounds likely that they'll have a few rangers covering the prime hours. Other than the Half Dome cables, day hiking isn't being restricted beyond what's currently in place (group sizes).

I don't really know how dangerous it could be during off-peak hours. The main problem is that it gets crowded during the middle of the day. Again - I think it's going to push HD attempts to the days where permits aren't required. They're probably going to rethink it again when they find that the average 400 a day they get Mon-Thu starts jumping up to 600-700 as people are working around the permit-required days.

Where are they going to put the police? We have day hiked Half Dome many times from the valley and Glacier Point. From those entrance points there are many places to hike to besides Half Dome. Guess they will put a check point...papers Quarter Dome.

My guess is that this is going to push all the people who would otherwise attempt to do this on a weekend and bring considerably more HD traffic on the days where a permit isn't required.

While I suppose they're not supposed to be sold, I could see a market in Craigslist and maybe even eBay listings for permit transfers. I know technically eBay listings for lodging (including campground reservations) must come from certified sellers to try and reduce fraud. Most listings for Yosemite campsite reservation swaps on eBay go down extremely quickly. However - I don't see a day use permit transfer being against their rules.

6.8 billion people on earth....300M in the USA. Get used to overcrowding. I've read all the material on this and provide a good summary and links on my blog at: for Jan 30.

300 permits for "normal hikers." Still won't keep the unprepared from going up. If they all show up at the same hour, it will still be a zoo. Take a couple vacation days and go midweek.

Rick Deutsch
San Jose

I wonder if a similar system will be enforced for a hike to the top of Angel's Landing in Zion National Park?

Owen Hoffman
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

Here is a great way to do Half Dome: Backpack in to the last trail camp, which is just before the sub dome. Set up camp and then wait until about 5 or 6 PM to go the rest of the way to the top. There will be no crowds and you may have the top of the rock all to yourself. Then walk back to your campsite and have a relaxing dinner and campfire. You will need to plan ahead to get a backcountry permit, and there is no water at this trail camp. You will have to haul it in from a spring about 1.5 miles down trail. But it is the most enjoyable way to climb the dome, and the campsite offers spectacular views. I did this last summer.

I've heard some suggestions that the path between the cables has been made considerably slipperier over the past couple of decades. It does feel rather slick compared to areas where the use has been spread out.

I've also heard of other suggestions to use sticky rubber footwear like climbing shoes or approach shoes.


It's a wonder all those people haven't worn the darn thing down to a boulder by now.


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