Half Dome to be Less Accessible, Maybe

Park officials want to curb the traffic by permanently limiting access to Half Dome through the Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan.
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Yosemite Half Dome. Photo by Todd Reich

Photo by Todd Reich

Update March, 2014:See related post with lottery information.

Yosemite’s iconic Half Dome landmark, a site called “perfectly inaccessible” in 1874, now sees up to 1,200 ambitious visitors a day. In an effort to preserve the natural resource, park officials want to curb the traffic by permanently limiting access through the Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan.

"At the end of the day, if the visitors and users of wilderness aren't willing to make sacrifices to preserve the wilderness character of these areas, then we just won't have wilderness," George Nickas, executive director of Wilderness Watch, told the Associated Press. "We'll have some Disney-fied version of it."

Just how to limit the number of visitors, if the number will even be limited at all, has yet to be decided. Suggestions include preventing everyone from ascending and taking out the cables hikers use to make it up the final 45-degree incline. According to the Stewardship Plan, allowing only 300 people per day past a checkpoint two miles from the top is the preferred option. Nickas and his cohorts believe that limiting access will both protect the area, as well as make it less crowded and safer for those who do head to the summit.

Others, of course, feel differently, believing that everyone inclined to trek to the top should be able. In their minds, Half Dome’s vistas over Little Yosemite Valley, El Capitan and the Valley Floor should be open to anyone willing. Many hikers even call the experience transcendent.

The Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan
opened for public review on January 24. Comments will be accepted through March 15, 2012. Visit Plan’s website to submit your thoughts electronically, or talk with a park staff member at the monthly Open House at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center Auditorium on Wednesday, February 29, 2012, from 1-4 p.m.