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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

North Dome - Yosemite, CA

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Guide 6 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List CA > Sierra Nevada
5 of 5 by 3
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 5 of 5
Distance Round Trip 9.2 miles
Trailhead Elevation 8,136 feet
Elevation Gain -745 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,988 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5 Hours
Kokopelli Seeds 19.14
Interest Seasonal Waterfall, Seasonal Creek, Perennial Creek & Peak
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
14  2018-09-09 trekkin_gecko
8  2018-09-09 Tortoise_Hiker
8  2018-09-09 johnlp
2  2016-06-22 RickVincent
14  2012-07-05 JimmyLyding
41  2012-06-29
The North Rim
Author JimmyLyding
author avatar Guides 109
Routes 335
Photos 4,221
Trips 568 map ( 3,575 miles )
Age 45 Male Gender
Location Walnut Creek, CA
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jul, Aug, Sep, Jun → NOON
Seasons   Early Summer to Early Autumn
Sun  5:41am - 6:05pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Unbelievable Payoff
by JimmyLyding

Likely In-Season!
North Dome is a granite dome directly opposite Half Dome 3,500 feet above the eastern end of Yosemite Valley, and is one of the most spectacular places I've ever hiked. Your payoff is looking Half Dome eye-to-eye, and it is indeed worth the effort. In fact, most of the physical exertion on this hike is on the way back to the starting point at Porcupine Creek Trailhead.

This entire hike has metal signs at every junction so route finding is exceptionally easy.

The trailhead is on the south side of the Tioga Road (Hwy 120), and begin by heading downhill on an old road for a few hundred yards until it turns into the signed Porcupine Creek Trail at a junction with trails heading due east and west respectively. Continue straight/south through a forest of majestic red fir. These are almost identical to Douglas fir, but the bark is reddish. Think of a ponderosa pine's color, but more brown than red. The hike continues mainly flat to the south for a mile-and-a-half before reaching another junction.

Take the middle trail heading due south 1.3 miles through more red fir with increasing numbers of sugar pine and Engelmann spruce as the trail follows the contour on the east side of the Lehamite Creek drainage to the junction with the trail that heads up to Indian Head Rock. The top of Indian Head has an arch that is supposedly pretty cool, and the trail is a little more than a quarter mile each way. This section has a nice uphill stretch through a lot of downed trees before reaching the junction. Continue south and downhill into the upper reaches of the Royal Arch Creek drainage before the trail heads uphill for a bit through a forest that grows increasingly drier and more open. Widely-scattered Ponderosa pines dominate the top of the ridgeline that the trail has reached. The trail continues south and slightly downhill through this open landscape with intermittent views of Half Dome and Clouds Rest, but don't take too much time here for pictures because the real show is further ahead.

The trail reaches a junction about a mile from the Indian Rock junction, and the trail heads left very steeply downhill before switchbacking to the right/south directly to North Dome. This half-mile section has some spots that might require some hikers to do some butt-scooting, but it's not too difficult. The trail continues along level terrain after the switchback through a small but deep mixed conifer forest before everything begins to open up. Continue as the trees become stunted and widely scattered Ponderosas uphill to the top of North Dome.

The incredible view of Half Dome from the summit is immediately apparent upon reaching the top. There is a nice cluster of weathered rocks that form a great break spot at the highest spot, but one can travel a few hundred yards south closer to the edge on the south side for more views. The view of Half Dome is impossibly beautiful, but Clouds Rest to the northeast isn't far behind. I prefer the view of these two massive hunks of rock to the east so I'd recommend doing this hike in the afternoon when the sun is at your back. Views to the west of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, and the foothills beyond are still impressive. The high peaks of the Cathedral and Clark ranges are visible high to the east and southeast respectively, and typically hold snow well into summer if not all year. Needless to say this is a photographer's dream.

Enjoy the top of North Dome then return the way you came. There is more uphill than downhill on the return trip with most of the tougher portions closer to North Dome.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2012-07-09 JimmyLyding
  • Yosemite Campgrounds
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  • Yosemite Park Map
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    Yosemite Park Map
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent Triplog Review
North Dome - Yosemite
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
My last day in Yosemite. It's been a heck of a trip! I've already hiked close to 50 miles and I know I'm near my limit. I was seriously considering spending the day relaxing but I could not resist the call of North Dome. The Dome looms over Curry Village. It's one of the last areas of Yosemite Valley I have not been.

My plan: I would pay the $11.50 for a 8am bus ride on the Tuolumne Hikers Express shuttle. I was lucky to get a seat because it was originally sold out. I double checked later in the day and picked up the one remaining seat for a cancelled reservation. The shuttle would drop me off at Porcupine Creek and I would hike down to North Dome. My original plan was to retrace my steps from North Dome and then connect to the Snow Creek Trail which would lead me down to Mirror Lake and back to Curry Village. I changed my plan and headed west on the North Rim Trail and made my way down the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail. This was a hard decision!

I arrived at the shuttle at 8am and I was ready to hike! The bus was very slow going with a stop at Yosemite Lodge and another stop at Crane Flat for a bathroom break. I got off the bus and started hiking at 10:15am. This is late for me! After stepping off the bus I gear up and prepare myself for the hike. To be honest I was dead tired and almost regretted riding the bus. I had to dig deep for this one!

The first few miles of the North Dome Trail lead down a gentle grade through the forest. There are no views for a while. Eventually the trail starts to head uphill and the views start to open up. One of the first things I see is Clouds Rest. I continued on and views into Yosemite Valley open up as well. Half Dome then comes into view and really grabs your attention. It is one hell of a large piece of granite! Finally my goal North Dome comes into focus. It looks a lot different from up here! The trail makes a slight turn to the left and then hooks back toward the summit. You follow the granite and find yourself at the end in few minutes.

By this time I've been seeing epic views for six days! I'm kind of getting numb to them. I have to pinch myself to remind me where I am and what I'm doing. There is no where else on earth I'd rather be then right here. From North Dome, Half Dome looms straight ahead. Clouds Rest rises to the east and Basket Dome looks inviting as well. It's similar to North Dome. To the west is the top of El Capitan and Yosemite Falls trail. I wish I could spend eternity right here.

Time is wasting so I started my return. At this point I changed my plan to head for the Upper Yosemite Falls trail. I'm really slogging at this point and I want the easiest and quickest way back to the valley floor. The Snow Creek Tail is longer and more isolated. I also can't resist hiking past falls...they are spectacular.

I left North Dome and headed west on the North Rim Trail. This trail is easy to follow as you head into the forest and away from the edge. I followed this for roughly three miles and only saw one other hiker. There were a couple of nice creeks that I used to splash some water in my face and soak my bandana. This helped rejuvenate me! I continued on and the trail lead out of the forest to Yosemite Point. This is another epic view! I continued and dropped down near the bridge above Upper Yosemite Falls. The water was flowing very low compared to my trip here two years ago.

On the way down I made a quick detour to the top of the falls. There were a bunch of people. I walked up and took my pics and then headed out. It was around 2pm and I wanted to get back. I hit the trail and cruised down stopping quickly for a pic here and there. Several groups asked me how much further to the top. I could not give them a good answer. After an hour or so I reached the valley floor and was back at Curry Village shortly afterward.

This has been the trip of a lifetime for me. Everything came together and I accomplished all of my hiking goals and then some! I finished with roughly 63 miles and 14,500 feet of gain over six full days. By the end, the sun and dehydration were a constant threat. This was not easy. The hiking began to feel like a job. I needed a break was happy to return to Phoenix. All good things come to an end.

Parting words, Yosemite and the Sierras are heaven on earth for me. I miss them already! I shall return!

Permit $$

Yosemite National Park
Entrance Fees
Wilderness Permit
Half Dome Permit - Currently required 7 days a week. Check the link for the most up to date information.

2014 - 300 permits issued daily, 225 for dayhikers.
2013 - 400 permits issued daily, 300 for dayhikers.

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
From Manteca, CA take Hwy 120 east through the almond groves between Escalon and Oakdale in California's Central Valley before the highway heads into the oak-dotted foothills passing through Groveland and Big Oak Flat (last chance for gas before Crane Flat inside the park). The road is windy and the going slow for certain stretches, but you reach the tall timber soon enough. The park entrance station is about 30 minutes past Big Oak Flat, and continue on 120 for 10 minutes to the junction with the road into Yosemite Valley. Turn left to stay on 120, and pass Crane Flat which is your last chance to get gas and visit a convenience store. Continue on 120 up into the Yosemite high country on the way to Tuolumne Meadows. The trailhead is on the south side of the highway about 30-40 minutes away, and Tuolumne Meadows is about 30 minutes further east.
page created by JimmyLyding on Jul 08 2012 10:12 pm
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