I’m hiking Half Dome this summer with friends and family. The list of people is not complete, the plan is not complete, but it’s going to happen. Last year we hiked the Panoramic Trail and a few shorter hikes on the 4th of July weekend. That one will be hard to beat, it was the best hike I’ve ever been on. So this can’t be an ordinary Half Dome hike, if there is such a thing. The initial plan was to backpack the Panoramic Trail to Little Yosemite Valley, camp and beat the rush the next morning. I’ve overcome most of my fear of heights but I would rather not be fighting a crowd the first time I go up Half Dome. There were complications with the plan though, very limited wilderness permits are available from Glacier Point to Little Yosemite Valley. My son’s and his girl friend suggested going from Tenaya Lake to Clouds Rest Junction (hike up Clouds Rest), to Little Yosemite Valley (hike up Half Dome), then down to the Valley in three days. It didn’t take much research to decide that it would be a tough but beautiful hike. With the much more ambitious hike and really nothing else planned for Yosemite, we lost a few people who were interested in less challenging hikes, camping, fishing, etc. We’ll find other trips to do with them. But there are still 4 or more people interested in doing the hike. Now it is just a question of planning, making reservations, and training so we can complete the hike.
The National Park service does not make it easy to plan and reserve everything you need to pull off a vacation there. Lodging can be reserved a year in advance, wilderness permits are reserved 6 months (actually 168 days which is more than 6 months) ahead, camp sites 4 months ahead opening the whole next month on the 15th of each month, and transportation is reserved no more than 7 days ahead of the day it will be used. The do make it a little easier if you are getting a backcountry permit because for most trailheads they have a backpacker camp you can stay in the day before and the day after your trip. Even with that convenience, there are lots of things to do well in advance and if you miss a deadline or don’t get selected for the days you ask for backpacking you may have to throughout the whole trip. I’m sure it will be worth the trouble though.
Once we had a Plan A – hiking 2-4 July, we checked on availability of lodging for the day after the hike. We’ll stay in a backpackers camp the day before the hike, but it will be really nice to sleep in a bed and take a shower after the hike! We reserved a couple days of lodging in case we don’t get our primary hiking days. Lodging reservations can be cancelled up to 7 days before the trip if you have a change of plans, so reserve early. You will be charged a deposit equal to one night at the lodging which can be substantial. One night at The Ahwahnee can be between 4 and 6 hundred dollars. Curry Village is a much more reasonably priced alternative. Next we pulled out the Julian Calendar to figure out when 168 days before 2 July was in order to put in the wilderness permit request. Luckily it had not already passed. It was in 4 days. You should actually put your wilderness permit request in after 5 pm the day before and prior to 7 am on the first day permit requests can be put in to have the best chance of getting the permit you want. There are fairly limited quotas for each trailhead and for the busy summer months the reservablewilderness permits may all be reserved on the first day.
I’ll post more on this trip as we make progress on making it happen. There may be more changes of plan if we don’t get to do our Plan A, but I’m sure we will be taking this hike some time this summer.
Next planning post for this trip: Yosemite Clouds Rest and Half Dome Backpacking Trip
Or jump right to the Half Dome Hike: Yosemite (2011) (Part 2 – Backpacking to Little Yosemite Valley and Hiking Half Dome)