Half Dome

Half Dome

Half Dome Yosemite NP | Pung

Half Dome, an iconic geologic formation located in Yosemite National Park in Mariposa County, California, is a testament to the raw and unyielding beauty of nature. This majestic granite dome, named for its distinctive shape, is situated at the eastern end of Yosemite Valley in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Its sheer face and rounded top, reminiscent of a giant stone hemisphere cleaved in half, offers a dramatic vista that has captivated the imaginations of visitors for centuries.

Half Dome rises over 8,800 feet above the valley floor and is a popular destination for both amateur and experienced climbers alike. The ascent to the top provides a challenging, yet immensely rewarding experience, offering panoramic views of Vernal and Nevada Falls, Liberty Cap, and the expansive Yosemite Valley. However, Half Dome is not just a climber’s paradise; it’s also a significant site for geological study. The formation’s unique shape provides insights into the processes of glaciation and exfoliation that have sculpted the landscapes of Sierra Nevada over millions of years.

Sunrise on Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California | Stephen Moehle

The Half Dome has also played a crucial role in the cultural history of California. It was revered by Native American tribes who lived in the region and later became an emblematic symbol of the American West during the 19th-century era of exploration and expansion. Today, it continues to draw millions of visitors each year from around the world, contributing significantly to the local economy of Mariposa County.

Half Dome is more than just a geological marvel; it’s a symbol of California’s natural beauty and rich history. Its towering presence over Yosemite Valley serves as a reminder of nature’s grandeur and the enduring allure of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Whether you are an adventurer seeking a thrilling climb or a traveler on a quest for breathtaking vistas, Half Dome in Mariposa, California offers an experience like no other.

View of Half Dome at sunset reflected in the Merced River | Sarah Fields Photography

Fast Facts

Country: United States

State/Province: California

County/Region: Mariposa

Mountain Range: Sierra Nevada

Parents: Sierra Nevada

Elevation: 8,846 feet / 2,696 meters

Prominence: 1,360 feet / 410 meters

Isolation: 2.06 miles / 3.32 kilometers

Nearest Higher Neighbor (NHN): Clouds Rest

First Ascent: October 1875 by George G. Anderson

Fun Fact: The most popular trail up Half Dome is the cable route, which has as many as 1,000 climbers a day when the weather is nice!

Flora and Fauna

Located in the heart of California, the Half Dome is a significant granite dome in Yosemite National Park, the Sierra Nevada. This iconic landmark is renowned for its unique shape that resembles a giant stone crest rising more than 8,800 feet above the valley floor. But besides its impressive geology, Half Dome is also home to a diverse array of flora and fauna that contribute to the ecological richness of the region.

Yosemite National Park view of Half Dome from the Valley | Cassiohabib

The flora around Half Dome is predominantly made up of coniferous forests, with trees such as Ponderosa Pine, Incense Cedar, and White Fir dotting the landscape. The lower elevation areas are populated by deciduous trees like Black Oak and Pacific Dogwood. During spring and early summer, these forests burst into color with a myriad of wildflowers like Lupines, Larkspurs, and Indian Paintbrushes adorning the trails. The rich flora supports a variety of fauna species, creating a vibrant ecosystem.

Sunset over Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, California | James William Smith

The fauna at Half Dome is equally fascinating, boasting of mammals such as Black Bears, Mule Deer, Bobcats, and more elusive creatures like Mountain Lions. The park is also a bird watcher’s paradise, home to over 260 species including Peregrine Falcons and Great Grey Owls. Reptiles and amphibians, including Western Pond Turtles and Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged Frogs, are spotted frequently around the water bodies near Half Dome.

The flora and fauna at Half Dome are an integral part of the delicate balance of nature in California’s Sierra Nevada region. They play a critical role in maintaining biodiversity and ensuring the health of ecosystems. It’s a testament to nature’s resilience and adaptability, a place where life flourishes amidst rocks and rugged terrains. With its rich biological diversity, Half Dome serves as an important habitat for various species and a captivating destination for nature lovers.


Half Dome is one of the most iconic landmarks in the region. Majestic and imposing, Half Dome attracts thousands of visitors annually who come for the breathtaking views and the challenging hiking trails. The Half Dome trail itself is perhaps the most renowned of these, but there are several lesser-known trails near Half Dome that are equally deserving of attention.

Half Dome Trail View, Yosemite National Park, California | Stephen Moehle
Yosemite Half Dome towards the end of fall. | Lando Aviles

The Mist Trail is one such path that winds its way near Half Dome. This trail offers the unique experience of hiking alongside two massive waterfalls: Vernal and Nevada Falls. As you traverse this trail, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Half Dome at various points along the way. The trail is well-maintained and clearly marked, making it a safe option for those new to hiking in the Sierra Nevada region.

For those seeking a more challenging route, the John Muir Trail is an excellent choice. This trail intersects with the Mist Trail near Nevada Falls and continues all the way to the summit of Half Dome, offering unparalleled views of California’s Sierra Nevada.

The Panorama Trail is another spectacular path that offers awe-inspiring views of Half Dome. Starting at Glacier Point and ending at Yosemite Valley, this trail provides panoramic views of Half Dome and other landmarks in the area.

While the Half Dome trail itself is an incredible hike that offers breathtaking views of California’s Sierra Nevada region, there are several other trails near Half Dome that provide equally stunning vistas and diverse terrain. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a novice, these trails offer something for everyone.

On Nov 14, 2016, Supermoon rising over the Half Dome in Yosemite National Park | Phitha Tanpairoj

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