Permits Make Half Dome Trek Safer

New regulations aim to make Yosemite National Park’s famous hike up to Half Dome safer by using permits to limit the number of people allowed on the hike per day.
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New regulations aim to make Yosemite National Park’s famous hike up to Half Dome safer by using permits to limit the number of people allowed on the hike per day.
Cables assist hikers on the final 400 feet up Half Dome in Yosemite. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Cables assist hikers on the final 400 feet up Half Dome in Yosemite. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Yosemite National Park’s famous hike up to Half Dome is proving to make this iconic hike safer. A permit system started in 2010 led to the hike being a much more enjoyable experience. While pure solitude is still a goal of the Wilderness Act, visitors are not subject to the crowds of the past.

The steel cables were in stalled in 1919 and afforded non-mountaineers a way to enjoy the views from the summit. Before that, a rope installed by the first man to the top, George Anderson in 1895, was the sole way to do the final 400 vertical feet of the rock itself. With upwards of 1200 people going up the cables on a 2009 summer weekend day, the park realized that it is difficult for everyone to descend rapidly if sudden mountain weather moved in.

Today, the system allows about 300 people per day. 225 of those are day hikers and are distributed via a March lottery. The rest are for wilderness permit holders and a daily mini-lottery of 50.

Park officials and visitors alike agree that the permit process has made people more aware of and better prepared for the hike’s difficulties. Rick Deutsch has made the trek 40 times, “wrote the book:” One Best Hike; Yosemite’s Half Dome, and writes a blog at hikehalfdome.com. He says that because people now have to read the warnings and watch an informational video, they venture out with a better idea of what to expect.

Not that these new permit procedures make the 12-hour round trip any easier; it’s a massive 16 mile roundtrip, with a nearly 5,000 vertical foot rise.

Deutsch says: “It’s one of the hardest things most people have done, but anyone can do it with three things: Education, Preparation and Motivation.”

See you on the top!