Let me just start off by saying, hiking half dome is not for the faint of heart. It takes a whole lot of courage, faith, and preparation, both materially and mentally. Especially if you’re someone like me who goes into it with no training involved. This experience, for me, was one of the most insane, scary, emotional, yet rewarding experiences of my liffffe. Now that I’ve made it to the top and back in one day and in one piece, I thought I would share my top 4 tips for anyone who is planning to hike one of the most beautiful, difficult, yet rewarding hikes in California.
Give yourself at least two days
My best friend and I hiked this in one day in the middle of the week, and I had to go into work the next day. Nottttt the best idea…unless you don’t mind being a walking zombie the next day. Unfortunately I had no choice, since I had already taken so many days off work. But if you plan to do this hike in one day and can spare an extra day, DO IT. Seriously. Your body needs recovery and will thank you. Be sure to make yourself an epsom salt bath for those aching muscles!
2. Pack Essentially
Bring plentyyyy of water. I bought myself a cambleback that holds 2 litters of water, as well as my ice cold water from my REI Water Bottle, and a gallon size water container that I carried and finished on the way up. Yet I STILL felt like this wasn’t enough water. They warn you with signs before you begin the trail that you need at least one gallon of water…and they aren’t messing around!!
Also, BRING GLOVES. I’m pretty sure they won’t let you even go up the cables unless you have those.
And of course a permit, which you can get here!
Bring lots of snacks! I brought cliff bars (cause, you know, cliffs and all) and trail mix from Trader Joe’s. I also brought a sandwich from Deli Delicious to reward myself with at the top…butttt I don’t recommend that since it turned out to be all soggy and gross..lollll.
Bring flashlights and/or headlamps! I can almost guarantee you will be hiking back in the dark (depending on the time of year and how fast you go of course). We only brought one flashlight between the two of us. Don’t rely on your phone flashlight either. They aren’t very strong, and you’re going to want to save your phone battery for photos!!
Lastly, bring a portable First Aid kit. We bought ours from Big 5. Thank the lord we didn’t end up needing it. Better safe than sorry! If you’re clumsy like us, it might be a smart idea.
3. Backpack overnight to Little Yosemite Valley
Here’s the thing. I don’t recommend doing this in a day. This is yet another reason why you need to give yourself at least two days. If I ever do this this hike again, I’m backpacking it and camping in Little Yosemite Valley Campground, which is about half way up (4 miles). Because we did this in a day, we felt a bit rushed at the top in order to make it back before dark (which didn’t exactly go according to plan). The views are incredible, and are basically the whole point of doing this, so I wished we had more time. Backpacking is the way to do it so that you can take your time to really enjoy it. Especially since the trail is so steep and hard. You’re going to need to take the extra time anyway to take lots of water breaks!
4. Pray…a lot.
I don’t know what your religious background looks like, but for us, I believe praying is what ultimately got us through this. God has a way of helping put the right people in front of us at the right moments, just when we need them most. Honestly, we were blessed to have met our new friends, Fabiana and David, for being our source of encouragement in getting up and down the cables, and for navigating us and keep us company along the trail back. I thank God for them, and for all the kind strangers we passed along the way. Especially to the ladies at the end of the trail that offered us a ride back to our cars when our legs could no longer bare to walk. We couldn’t have done it without the lord’s guidance.
There were many times in this journey that we wanted to give up. So many times we were filled with doubt. Filled with tears. Filled with exhaustion. And filled with uncertainty that we would make it through this dark, steep, endless trail back. I never thought I would do this hike. At least not without a lot of training. I wasn’t even going to the gym up until this point. I told my friend there was no way. I told her to find anyone else. But no one else came through. It’s almost as if this opportunity was destined just for me. I’m glad I took the chance…because in the end, It was worth it all.
Let me be the proven example that despite the most difficult thing you could ever endure, is actually possible. You know those things you say you could never do? I bet you can. I dare you to try. Just take my advice, and enjoy one of the most unforgettable experiences of your life!