I Climbed Half Dome in the Dark — Photos, How-to and Tips

I Climbed Half Dome in the Dark — Photos, How-to and Tips (5)

  • Location: Half Dome, Yosemite, California
  • Distance: 15.7 miles (out and back)
  • Ascent: 4,800 feet
  • Difficulty: Extremely strenuous

A few years ago, I had the magical experience of climbing Half Dome — but not just any ol’ Half Dome hike; we started at 3am in order to catch the sunrise at the top. There are a ton of great reasons why you should do this: cooler temperatures, sunrise views, and almost most important of all, less crowds.

Here’s some of the photos from this awesome hike, and at the end, I’ll relay some of my tips and recommendations if you want to do the same trip.

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Hiking the John Muir Trail: Snagging Permits

Hiking the John Muir Trail: Getting Permits

It’s February, and you’re planning a John Muir Trail through-hike in August. Did you know you should have already applied for your permits?

Hi, I’m Tracy, and I’m panicking a bit.

Okay, that might be a bit hyperbolic, but I’ve told myself (for the last few years) that I needed to do the John Muir Trail, and preferably before I turn 30, which makes this year the last year before my arbitrary deadline rolls around. I’m rather busy (working on my company, WeddingLovely), and just now remembered permits. I have March 1st on my calendar for when the Half Dome permits are issued, but you can get Half Dome permits along with your Wilderness permits, which opens earlier in the year.

Here’s the deal if you’re doing JMT too this year, and starting in Yosemite:

If you’re going to leave through Yosemite, you’ll need Yosemite Wilderness permits. 60% of the permits are available 24 weeks (168 days) in advance of the day you’ll start your trip (and if math isn’t your strong point, here’s a table to help you pick which day to apply.) 40% are available first-come, first-served the day before your hike. I got a permit for my Half Dome hike a few years ago the day before and had no trouble, other than standing in line for awhile (30 min+).

Which means, if you’re planning on hiking the JMT starting in early August, you should have already applied for your Wilderness Permit or plan on doing so ASAP. Apply here.

Starting the JMT from another trailhead? Find out where to get your permit here.

Another tip: The Yosemite Wilderness Permit website allows you to fill out the form on the website, but it crashed two separate times for me, so I had to go back and fill in the form over and over. Download the form instead and use HelloFax.com to fill in the form and fax it in — so much easier.

Anything I’m forgetting or should know about the JMT? Let me know in the comments!

Edit: Well, just got the notification that my initial permit request was denied for all three dates I requested. Trying the next three dates, here’s hoping it works!

Edit 2: The people at the Wilderness Permit office must hate me — I’ve sent in request after request for later and later dates, and I keep getting email after email of denials. At this point, looks like I can get the August 12th start date (which opens tomorrow at 7:30am), or I can come the day before my ideal start date (July 30th) and try to get one of the first-come, first-served passes. The problem here is the additional Half Dome permit, which I could get if I got an early permit for JMT, but not if I get the day before. So I’ll have to add myself to the lottery on March 1st and hope I get one of those too. UGH. All of this would have been avoided had I realized when the 168 days began! I think at this point, the first-come, first-served pass works best. Oh fun.