Friday, June 15, 2012

The Golden State’s Most Spectacular Hike

Half Dome | Camelbak Water Bottle

California is blessed with some of the best hiking in the country, and there are thousands of miles of trails that can keep even the most adventurous hiker busy for a lifetime. But for those of you looking for the best day hike in the state, my choice is the hike from Yosemite Valley to the top of Half Dome. There are some awesome views in the Golden State, but this might be the best of the bunch.

Yosemite National Park is one of the most spectacular places on earth, and there might not be a more breathtaking view of the valley than from the summit of the park’s most recognizable landmark. In fact, the route has become so popular that it’s required that you apply for a permit months before you plan on making the hike.

The hike to the top of Half Dome is approximately 16 miles long, and the elevation gain is close to 5,000 feet, so it’s not an easy hike by any stretch of the imagination. And the 400-foot climb up the steep cables to the summit will test the nerve of even the most daring adventurer.

It’s only a day hike, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be well prepared for it. Here are a couple hints that should help you reach the top in good shape and good spirits.

One of the most important things to remember on the hike is to wear proper footwear. It makes a world of difference when you are on your feet for upwards of 10 hours. Most of the footing is pretty good, so support isn’t critical, but there are points that it comes in handy. And the ascent up the cables is slick in places, so having a shoe with good traction will give you that added dose of confidence and peace of mind. Bringing your own pair of gloves is also a wise decision, because the collection at the base of the cables is haphazard and often runs out.

It’s absolutely imperative that you bring enough water for the journey, as the summer sun and high altitude will dehydrate you very quickly. There’s no potable water past the Vernal Falls Bridge, which is only 0.8 miles into the hike, so you’ll have to carry a lot of water if you want to finish the trip. Camelbak Water Bottle's are a great choice. Half Dome is not the time to see how long you can go without any water.

You don’t want to carry a ton of food with you on the hike, but it’s definitely a nice pick-me-up to have along the way. It’s a great feeling to be able to catch your breath once you have reached the summit, and munch on something that will give you energy for the hike back. After all, you’re only halfway done once you’ve made it to the top.

It may not be the longest hike in California, or the most physically challenging. But for the experienced hiker, the trip up to the top of Half Dome is one that you have to make at least once in your lifetime.
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