Yosemite Backpacking – Half Dome – 5 Day

Trip Length 5 Days
Group Size 4–10
Activity level
Starting from
$1,699 for REI Members
$1,874 for non-members
Departures Jul 2021-Aug 2022

An epic backpacking adventure through High Sierra wilderness to the summit of Half Dome—one of Yosemite National Park’s most iconic peaks.

The distinct shape, massive size and spectacular geology of Half Dome has long served as a beacon for outdoor adventurers from around the world. Rising 4,800 feet from the floor of Yosemite Valley, this imposing granite monolith is one of the most well-known geological features in the Sierra range.

On our 5-day Half Dome backpacking trip, we have ample time to immerse ourselves in the backcountry beauty of this magnificent national park as we traverse dirt trails en route to our final lofty objective. Each day, we backpack through sweet-smelling coniferous forests and past towering waterfalls, settling into tranquil wilderness campsites when night falls. After three full days of exploration, we leave our heavy packs at camp and make the final push up to Half Dome’s rocky summit via the exhilarating cable route—400 feet of twin cables that allow hikers to ascend the steep route without technical climbing gear. Finally reaching the mountaintop, we're rewarded with breathtaking views of the Yosemite Valley far below and a surrounding sea of soaring granite peaks that comprise the crest of the Sierra Nevada. It's a memory—and a sense of accomplishment—that will surely last a lifetime.

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Trip Highlights

  • Backpack through the spectacular High Sierra landscapes of Yosemite National Park
  • Hike up the exhilarating cable route to Half Dome’s summit
  • Follow our exceptional guides down trail and learn about Yosemite’s fascinating natural history
  • Enjoy tasty guide-prepared meals throughout the adventure
  • Roundtrip transportation from Fresno included

Activities

This trip is rated Vigorous [4]. We plan to backpack for 6–8 hours per day on dirt trails with some stretches of rocky, steep, and exposed terrain. Typical daily elevation gains and losses will vary between 2,500'–3,500'. Our average hiking pace is 2–3 miles per hour. Participants should arrive in excellent physical condition in order to fully enjoy all this adventure has to offer.

  • Backpacking
  • Hiking

What's Included

Professional guide leadership; round trip transportation from host hotel in Fresno; meals as noted on the daily itinerary; tents; group cooking gear; group first aid kit; water filter; national park entrance and permit fees.

Accommodations

Backcountry camping, 4 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Meet your guides and fellow adventurers and hike into the Sierra backcountry

Our trip begins this morning in Fresno, California. Meet your guides and fellow backpackers for introductions before loading into our private van and setting out on the drive to Yosemite National Park. Arriving at the trailhead midmorning, our guides conduct an orientation and gear check and prepare a picnic lunch before we don our packs and strike out into the Yosemite backcountry. In late afternoon, we arrive at our wilderness campsite and enjoy our first tranquil night under the Sierra stars. Lunch and dinner included.

Backpacking: 5.5–7 miles, with up to 3,467’ of elevation gain/loss (see “daily mileage” note below); Van transfer: 2–3.5 hours

Note on daily mileage: We apply for permits for a variety of different routes to Half Dome, so specific driving times, daily backpacking mileage and elevation profiles vary dependent on which permit is obtained for each specific departure. Permits are confirmed approximately 4 months prior to departure date.

Days 2–3

Backpack through dramatic Yosemite landscapes en route to Half Dome

We spend two glorious days in this Sierra Nevada paradise, backpacking through vast wildflower meadows, past cascading waterfalls and over high alpine passes en route to our objective, the massive granite monolith of Half Dome. Although the hiking is sometimes challenging, our enthusiastic guides lead us down trail, keeping us energized and enlightening us on the geology and natural history of the surrounding landscape. Each night, we pitch our tents and settle into our cozy campsites for some well-earned relaxation time, relishing the Sierra sunsets and tasty guide-prepared meals that keep us fueled up for our daily adventures. All meals included both days.

Backpacking: 7–10 miles both days, with up to 3,268’ elevation gain/loss (daily mileage will vary depending on which permit is obtained for your specific departure)

Day 4

Summit Day!

The final push to the summit of Half Dome is always exhilarating and unforgettable. We leave our backpacks at camp today and set out down trail with just our daypacks. The route to the top of Half Dome includes a final ascent up a steep 400-foot section of granite that incorporates steel cables to grip for added balance. On this section, our guides stay close, cheering us on and assisting as necessary. Finally at the summit, our efforts during the past four days are rewarded with a great feeling of accomplishment and awe-inspiring panoramic views of Yosemite Valley and the magnificent High Sierra. Back at camp tonight, we celebrate our successful summit with a delicious dinner surrounded by our backpacking companions and newfound friends. All meals included.

Hiking: 6.8 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +2,695' / -2,695’

Day 5

Enjoy a final day of backpacking in Yosemite before returning to Fresno

We pack up camp one last time this morning and begin our hike out of the Yosemite backcountry. We pass thundering Nevada Falls and, following the John Muir Trail, continue down towards trail’s end at Happy Isles. After lunch in Curry Village, we rendezvous with our van and drive back to Fresno where we say our final farewells. We anticipate getting back to our Fresno host hotel at approximately 5pm this afternoon. Breakfast and lunch included.

Backpacking: 5 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,110’ / -3,202’; Van transfer: 2.5 hours

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.

What to pack

Contact Us

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 REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.