“It is all very beautiful and magical here – a quality which cannot be described. You have to live it and breath it, let the sun bake it into you“- Ansel Adams describing Yosemite
As a yearly tradition, a few friends and I embark on a 5-day camping trip in Yosemite National Park. Although just a 6-hour drive from Los Angeles, once there you are transported to a different world. The park encompasses 1,189 square miles of beauty, housing 1,600 miles of streams and 800 miles of hiking trails. One of the most impressive ways to view Yosemite’s natural beauty is by taking a trip to Tunnel View. From Tunnel View you can see the valley’s most iconic landmarks; El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls and the most famous of all, Half Dome.
This year, my friends and I decided we would achieve something that has been on my bucket list for quite a while…Half Dome! Half Dome is viewed as one of the most difficult hikes in Yosemite, partly due to its mileage (about 18 miles round trip) and partly due to the last 2 miles, which includes several hundred feet of granite stairs and 400 feet of cables. The cables can be treacherous, but if done right, there is no need to worry about your safety. The National Park Service recommends against climbing Half Dome when the cables are down (October-May) and also when the surface of the rock is wet and slippery. While most people don’t wear harnesses while climbing the cables, we decided we would so that we were safe no matter the situation. While completing this hike is not easy, it is doable if you are in good shape and is extremely rewarding!
When planning our hike to Half Dome, our goal was to watch the sunrise from the top. Therefore, we left our campsite in Yosemite Valley at 9pm. We hiked through the night with assistance from the moon and our headlamps and reached the base of the cables around 3:45am. Reaching Half Dome before sunrise is not common practice, but leaving in the middle of the night provides numerous benefits; it is significantly cooler and you go through less water. In addition, it is better to climb the cables without an abundance of people.
Once at the top, we witnessed an incredible sunrise over Cloud’s Rest, one of Yosemite’s highest points, that soon illuminated the entire valley. We celebrated our accomplishment with a champagne toast and began the trek back down to the valley floor. While the hike and cables were different and more adventurous then anything I had ever experienced, they made the whole trip worthwhile.
If climbing Half Dome isn’t on your bucket list, there are plenty of other options inside the park. There are hikes varying in length from 1 mile to 20 miles plus, guided tours, museums, shops, swimming and many other activities.
Camping in Yosemite Valley is great for many reasons. One of which is that you are in close proximity to many different trailheads and activities. Campsites for the summer months fill up just minutes after going on sale so be sure to check the National Park Service website for the booking schedule. In addition, if you are going to hike Half Dome, you need a permit. The National Park Service allows 400 hikers to climb Half Dome each day. Click here for Half Dome permits.
Pictures do not do Yosemite’s beauty justice. It is an incredibly stunning National Park that everyone should have a chance to see.
Sara Zuckerman is a first grade teacher living in her hometown, Los Angeles. She enjoys being outdoors camping and hiking. Sara also enjoys documenting life through photography.