Allyse has never been and it has been quite a while since I last went, so Allyse and I are planning on hiking Half Dome and the Mist Trail this summer during July. We will be starting from Happy Isles trailhead staying our first night on the trail in Illilouette. We will then spend a day hiking to Little Yosemite Valley campground and taking the next day to do the cables up to the top of Half Dome. We will have a nice little hike down to the valley to finish off the adventure. To enjoy the backcountry of Yosemite National Park, we did need to get backcountry permits, permits for Half Dome and a campsite in the valley for our first night. Yosemite National Park is one of the most amazing pieces of wilderness that our country has to offer. It has soaring mountains, raging waterfalls, cold rivers and the famous El Capitan and Half Dome. It contains picturesque landscapes and some hard, but beautiful trails. With all this beauty packed into one place, Yosemite gets packed completely through the on-season, which is generally May to early October. This means that getting permits and campsites is difficult and has to be done far in advanced or potentially getting lucky with walk-in permits.
To stay the night in the backcountry, it is required to have a permit for everyone that is going to be staying with you. The permits are split up into a set that can be reserved beforehand and another set that can be secured the day before you hit the trails. I have never tried to secure permits for the day of, but according to my research, it looks like you have to show up pretty early to get them and wait for a long time. For the less visited portion of Yosemite’s backcountry, it is fairly easy to get permits, but for the popular portions, it is almost impossible. Happy Isles trailhead, everything that goes through Little Yosemite Valley and Cathedral Lakes are the most popular permits and require that the form be submitted right when they are available (see reference 1 at the bottom for the dates). The National Parks system has actually gotten better with this in the last couple of years because you used to have to call or fax in the form to reserve your permit, but this year, there was an online form that I could fill out, which makes it significantly easier. For anyone going through those popular areas, consider as a possibility taking either a different trailhead or going to a different area.
Half Dome Permits:
Half Dome permits are about as hard as getting the backcountry permits around Little Yosemite Valley. There are a couple different options to get them. You have the option of getting them with you backcountry permit, so the permit that you’ll use to stay in the backcountry you can use to get up on Half Dome. You can also by a day hike permit, so you would need to leave pretty early in the morning and you have to summit Half Dome the day that you have the permit for. The last option would be to see if you can buy someone else’s or put yourself on unused spots of other
Camping in the Valley:
The night before we get on the trail, we will be staying the valley, so that we can walk around the valley and do other things. There are several campgrounds that are specifically set aside for backpackers and climbers to stay in the night before and the night after their trip. The far end of the North Pines Campground across a little footbridge is a backpackers campground and I believe you can stay in Camp 4.