The Half Dome shape is so particular that the brand North Face used it for its logo. The peak is really famous in the climbing world, for any serious climber who is ready to spend a few days on the cliff.Fortunately, even if you`re not a good climber, or not even a climber at all, there is another way to reach it: hiking. The park decided to install cables in the 50s to allow anyone to climb its massive face. This hike become so famous that in 19xx the park decided to limit the climbs access to only (300) people a day. The access to the cable is now only accessible to someone that win a lottery. But be careful, even if the top of the peak is pretty easy to reach, the hike itself is an serious hike, about 18 miles long and 4500 fts of elevation. Some books refer to it as the « ultimate day hike ». You will have to be prepared, both physically and emotionally.
Permits are distributed by lottery via Recreation.gov, with one preseason lottery with an application period in March and and daily lotteries during the hiking season. People can apply for up to six permits (six people) and for up to seven dates. The application fee is $4.5 per application (not by person). If you win the lottery, there is an extra fee of $8 per person. See Half Dome Permit Lottery Statistics on the park website, to get better chance to win the lottery.
The hike takes about 10 to 12 hours round trip, depending on your pace and your stops along the trail, so you will have to start early, probably around 6 or 7am. So you will have to find a place (camping, hotel or hostel) close to the park for the night before and probably for the next after your hike. You will be probably super exhausted. If you’re super lucky, you will be able to find a campsite in the Valley, but you’d better to not rely on that. Those spots filled up super rapidly, especially during the summer season. I recommend to look for a place outside the park (max 90mn driving), e.g. around Flat oak, groveland etc…
The trailhead starts at the end of Yosemite Valley, close to the upper pine Campground . The parking is pretty big but filled up super rapidly because the first part of the hike is one of the most popular hike of yosemite : the mist trail. The first part of the hike is pretty steep until Vernal Fall, but the trail is super good, it’s paved on most of it. Vernal fall is super scenic. Then the stairs go above the waterfall, to reach a plateau until the next stair to go above Nevada Fall. Then you reach Little Yosemite Valley. This part is flat and super nice. The trail is sandy, shady, and eventually continue thought beautiful redwoods.