- Backpack through Yosemite Valley and summit iconic Half Dome
- Follow expert guides who pass on local knowledge and outdoor skills
- Take in scenic vistas, glacially-carved features, and magnificent forests
Half Dome, 8,842 feet of granite rock, is the signature landmark of Yosemite National Park. Join REI for this epic and challenging backpacking trip to the top of one of the world's most photographed rock faces. We explore the diversity of the high country by day, and relax while stargazing by campfire at night. Come see why Yosemite maintains such a unique and special place in the heart of all those who explore its trails!
Routes are dependent upon a number of factors: Park Service permits, area conditions, etc., and our specific route may not be known until quite near the departure date. Whichever route we take, all itineraries are equally unforgettable and provide access to the summit. Mileage and elevation changes will vary but expect to hike from 5 to 9 miles each day, with elevation gains from 800 to 2,700 feet in a day, and elevation losses from 800 to 4,000 feet in a day.
Looking for more ways to get away from the crowds and explore Yosemite’s backcountry? See another side of the park with our Hetch Hetchy backpacking trip , our Yosemite Valley backpacking route, or explore Tuolumne Meadows and beyond on our High Country backpacking adventure.
- Day 1 - Welcome to Yosemite with a trip orientation and dinner in camp.
- Day 2 - Head out on the trail and into Yosemite's beautiful backcountry.
- Day 3 - Summit day, or camp on the shoulder of Half Dome.
- Day 4 - Summit day, or see vistas on our hike out of the Yosemite Valley.
Trip Itinerary and Details
Important Notice: Day 1 is the day you should plan to arrive at the meeting point for the trip. This may require departing your hometown one or more days in advance and traveling on an overnight flight.
Day 1 - Welcome to Yosemite with a trip orientation and dinner in camp.
Your trip begins in Yosemite National Park, CA. Today you will meet your guides and the other group members at the Backpackers' Campground, located at the far end of The North Pines Campground in Yosemite Valley. Group members must arrive at camp by 4 p.m. for orientation, dinner, gear check, and distribution of group gear and food. Please allow yourself plenty of time to get to the campground, as traffic may get congested in the valley. Dinner included.
Day 2 - Head out on the trail and into Yosemite's beautiful backcountry.
Today we wake and enjoy breakfast before packing up and heading out to our first backcountry campsite. We'll distribute group gear and food, review techniques for correctly packing a backpack, and discuss our route. Depending on our route, we may start with either a park shuttle (approximately one hour) or head right to our trailhead from the valley floor. This is typically a full first day of backpacking, with time along the way for lunch, a myriad of photo opportunities, trail interpretation, and maybe a dip in a mountain creek. At dusk, look forward to camaraderie around the campfire as we watch for shooting stars overhead. Our first day we'll usually hike close to 5 miles, elevation profiles will vary by route. All meals and snacks provided.
Day 3 - Summit day, or camp on the shoulder of Half Dome.
Another glorious day in the mountains awaits us as we don our packs and hit the trail. Depending on our route, this may be a summit day with only a day pack, or we may continue our route with fully loaded packs to camp on the shoulder of Half Dome. Our guides will share their passion for backpacking in the Sierras, and you may delight in a glimpse of a marmot or the call of the mountain chickadee. A hearty dinner will satisfy your belly and the Sierra stars will satisfy your soul. All meals and snacks provided.
Day 4 - Summit day, or see vistas on our hike out of the Yosemite Valley.
If this is our summit day, we'll rise early to enjoy the dome near sunrise, with a celebratory breakfast after we return to camp. Nevada and Vernal Falls will be both backdrop and soundtrack as we make our way down the Mist and John Muir trails to the valley floor. At trail's end, we'll catch the park shuttle for a quick trip back to our cars at the Curry Village lot. Our estimated time of arrival back to our vehicles is approximately 6:00-7:00pm. However, please note that this may vary, as our return time is largely dictated by trail conditions and other factors beyond our control. Breakfast, snacks and lunch included.
Although we do our very best to adhere to the schedule listed above, this itinerary is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control. There are numerous beautiful and suitable routes available to our guides, and these routes may be utilized instead of those published in this itinerary when circumstances or conditions warrant. This trip is operated rain or shine.
Contact REI Adventures prior to purchasing your airline ticket to confirm the trip has the minimum number of participants required to operate.
Professional instruction and guiding; meals as noted on the daily itinerary; 2-person tents; group cooking gear; group first aid kit, water filter; campsite and permit fees; shuttle between trailheads.
Transportation from your hometown to group meeting point; park entrance fees where required, insurance of any kind; alcoholic beverages; soft drinks; guide gratuities and items of a personal nature.
This trip is rated Vigorous(4). Participants will be carrying their own backpacks with weights of 35-40 lbs over steep and rocky terrain with constant and dramatic elevation gain and/or loss exceeding 2,000 feet or more per day on most days of this trip. Day hiking with 35-40 lbs in the pack you intend to hike with on the trip and making sure your hiking boots are broken in before your trip is key. This is not a beginning backpacking trip. Previous experience is highly recommended.
Daytime temperatures usually range between 60o – 80o F, with evening temperatures dropping into the 40s - 50s. You may encounter freezing temperatures at some of the higher elevations. Afternoon thunderstorms are a distinct possibility so adequate raingear is important.
REI Adventures recommends one of the following ways to make your rendezvous: either rent a car and drive to the designated location or fly into Merced, CA (with connections from Las Vegas) and use YARTS (Yosemite Area Regional Transportation Service) to travel the rest of the way. YARTS can be contacted at 1-877-98-YARTS.
Please note that you may not be able to connect with YARTS service out of the park until after 5:00 p.m. on the last day of our itinerary on most departures, and this may impact your air travel plans.
If you are traveling alone we will assign you a roommate of the same gender if possible. A limited number of single accommodations are available, and are assigned only as necessary.General Information
This trip is subject to the booking information set forth in the current REI Adventures Weekend Reservation Information. Please read this information carefully and call us if you have any questions. A full gear list and detailed pre-trip information is sent upon sign-up. We highly recommend the purchase of travel insurance through REI Adventures. If coverage is purchased at the time of your initial reservation, the 'Pre-existing Conditions Exclusion' is waived (certain exclusions apply).
We look forward to having you join us for the trip of a lifetime! Why wait? Space is limited, reserve your adventure today.
Yosemite Half Dome Backpacking Gear List
The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To obtain maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. This gear list has been created to help you choose equipment for the trip. Try to bring only what is necessary - this will help you and the field staff. If you do not already own all of the necessary gear and are not certain if you will participate in outdoor trips on a regular basis, please consider renting.
- Tents (3 season, 2 person)
- Cooking gear
- Stoves and fuel
- Water filter
- Group first aid kit
- Bear canister
- Backpack: large internal frame or external frame (65-85 liters) – should be large enough to accommodate a cylindrical bear canister approximately 8.7” in diameter x 12.7”
- Pack cover – waterproof
- Lightweight compressible sleeping bag (rated at 20o-25o F)
- Lightweight compressible sleeping pad (inflatables are best)
- Rain jacket and pants, lightweight waterproof and breathable
- Midweight fleece jacket or wool sweater (or lighter upper body warm layer)
- Midweight synthetic thermal top and bottoms (MAY count rain pants as this bottom layer, and/or 1 long-sleeve synthetic t-shirt type layer as top layer – dependent on expected temperature and date of travel)
- Hiking pants, quick-drying, lightweight (zip-off legs are great & negate the need for shorts). No denim!
- Hiking shorts, quick-drying, lightweight OR the shorts from your zip-off pants
- 1 T-shirt, synthetic
- 2 changes of underwear
- 2 pairs of wool or synthetic hiking socks
- 2 pairs of synthetic sock liners (optional)
- Sun hat with brim
- Wool or fleece hat
- Lightweight wool or fleece gloves
- Work gloves with rubber (Nitrile) palm
- Hiking boots: heavy duty, waterproof, and well broken-in, should rise above ankle
- Water-friendly shoes or sandalsfor stream crossings (can also be used around camp)
- You will need capacity for carrying 3 liters (or quarts) of water. This can be in the form of hard plastic bottles or in a hydration system, however the system must include at least one, 1-liter/quart Nalgene-type bottle (not a disposable water bottle).
- Headlamp with new batteries and bulb
- Plastic bowl, spoon, fork, mug
- Sunglasses and retainer strap
- Sunblock with minimum SPF 25 (small)
- Lip balm (unscented)
- Insect repellant (small)
- Mosquito head net
- Toothbrush and trial-size paste
- Small pack towel and/or washcloth
- Personal first aid kit, small and light weight (to include personal medications)
- TP system: Place the following items in one 1-gallon Ziploc bag: ½ roll of toilet paper, 1 Ziploc 1-quart bag, sanitation trowel, small bottle of hand sanitizer. A few wet wipes can be a nice addition.
- 1 large plastic garbage bag
- One light-weight carabineer for hooking your water bottle to your belt while ascending the Dome
- Down vest or jacket (highly recommended)
- Trekking poles (highly recommended)
- Gaiters (low or trail running type)
- Ear plugs
- Bic lighter (optional)
- Paper and pen
- Camera and spare batteries
- Small, compressible daypack (example: REI Flash 18 pack)
Feel free to give us a call at (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out www.rei.com/learn. The Expert Advice section on our "Learn" page has great information to help you prepare for your trip.