There are two ways to take in what are considered the best views of the most iconic Yosemite Valley granite feature — Half Dome.
You could take the 15.6-mile round-trip from the Yosemite Valley to North Dome that includes a quad-busting 1.7 mile stretch where you climb 2,500 feet in that 1.7 miles.
Or you can take a 10.4-mile round-trip hike from the Porcupine Trailhead at 8,100 feet once crews clear the snow from Tioga Road for the season.
The goal is to reach North Dome. The perch from atop the 7,540-foot North Dome affords you the best overall view of the Yosemite Valley as well as looking eastward and southward on the horizon. But more tantalizing are the views of Half Dome.
It is from North Dome where Half Dome turns into a massive background for portraits or simply an awe-inspiring vista.
I’ve hiked to North Dome six times now. While I like the view it is not my favorite Yosemite hike. But it is my go to hike if I want to show someone that has only one day to soak in Yosemite National Park. That’s because of the views not just from the top but also along Tioga Road of which I include a drive a little beyond the trailhead to Tenaya Lake.
That one day whirlwind Yosemite National Park tour also includes the obligatory drive around Yosemite Valley where 90 percent of the park’s 4 million annual visitors are satisfied to explore and say they’ve seen Yosemite National Park.
The North Dome hike from Tioga Road is five to eight hours.
My favorite route to North Dome is from the valley floor. Not because I’m certifiably crazy and love the challenging grind of the switchbacks of the Snow Creek Trail that covers the same 2,600 feet to valley’s rim in 1.7 miles that the trail to Upper Yosemite Falls does in 3.2 miles.
It’s because of the lack of crowds once you past Mirror Lake and the non-stop and ever-changing views of Half Dome as you snake your way up out of Tenaya Canyon.
The best place to start your hike heading up Snow Creek Trail is the Curry Village parking lot. Even if you just head up to the Snow Creek bridge you will enjoy stunning views of Half Dome as well as earn the ability to boast you tackled the hardest trail that climbs out of the valley.
Cables needed to ascend Half Dome won’t be up until late May at the earliest. The preseason lottery has already been held to secure the permit needed to ascend the iconic granite dome. Daily lotteries take place for what permits are left once the cables are up.
For mid-April crowds are incredibly light this year … The 40 percent of average snowpack will likely keep falls going at their strongest thru early May … This is the perfect time for the relatively easy hike to serene Mirror Lake on the eastern edge of the valley … Getting into Yosemite National Park becomes a hassle starting May 21 when reservations will be needed to drive into the park … A new roundabout near Yosemite Village is in place to help ease some of the notorious summer traffic jams … The entrance fee per vehicle is $35 and is good for seven days.