Yosemite National Park – So Much More Than Just Half-Dome

Angelique just posted about Yosemite requiring permits for Half Dome.  The measure is long overdue, as the crowds up there have been horrendous and make for an extremely dangerous and tense climb up the cables to the top.  Now, of course there is a good reason why Half Dome is so popular, but no one should be bummed out of you can’t get a permit to do Half Dome.  Yosemite is enormous and offers so much more.  To the adventurous who are looking for something more off the beaten path in Yosemite, here is short list of amazing spots:

Clouds Rest: (7 miles in/14 miles round-trip) – This is one my favorite places in the park.  You start at Tenaya Lake and wind through a lush alpine forest and never have a moment where you can’t see massive granite peaks and rocks around you.  At the end, you are rewarded with this narrow boulder hop to the top where you have some pretty exciting exposure thousands of feet down to the Valley floor.  You can pull your lunch out and see the crowds lining up on Half Dome’s cables as you sit in relative calm and serenity.

View of Half-Dome from Clouds Rest. The long white "path" up the shoulder of Half-Dome is the cable route.


Mount Dana at Moonlight

Mount Dana: There are a number of routes on Mount Dana ranging from Class 1-2 all the way to 3-4 Class.  The standard route if you aren’t a comfortable climber is the NW Slope.  Plan on a half-a-day from leaving Tioga Pass Station before you top out at 11,400 ft.  The view is spectacular, with Mono Lake and the Owens Valley to the East, Cathedral Peak just to the west, Mammouth to the South, Tuolomne Meadows and Mount Conness to the North.


Tuolumne sunset after a storm.

Tuolumne Meadows:  Tuolumne offers a lot of everything for any person’s outdoors taste.  If you are looking for casual to aggressive hiking, a little peak bagging or some of the best climbing in the world, Tuolomne is your gateway to goodness.  The trailheads you can access from there are Cathedral Lakes, Dana Meadows, John Muir Trail, May Lake, Saddlebag Lake and Sunrise Lakes.  The peaks you can reach from there are Cathedral, Cockscomb, Mount Dana, Half-Dome (via Sunrise Lakes), Mount Lyell, Kuna Peak, North Peak, Mount Conness, Clouds Rest, Echo Peaks, Mount Hoffman, Koip Peak, Matthes Crest and Tresidder Peak.

There is some great backcountry camping out there.  Make sure that you are prepared and have proper bear storage containers as there is a good chance you’ll run into Yogi and friends out there.  Make sure you keep all food that you’re leaving in your car in the bear bins as well, as they will break into your car.  Not only will you be bummed that your doors are ripped off, but the Park Service may fine you up to $500 for not properly storing your food.

If you are a fan of rafting, some of the best rafting in California is on the Tuolumne River.   All Outdoors is a great rafting company and has some sweet trips that range from 1/2 day all the way to 3-days.  On some of the trips, you can experience some pretty hard core class IV rapids down Clavey Falls.


North Ridge of Conness - You can see the two prominent towers that require negotiation on the way to the summit.

Mount Conness: this is my favorite place in all of Yosemite.  This actually merits a whole separate post later, but Conness is on the far north-eastern border of Yosemite and if you’re climbing the class 4 North Ridge, the best route is through Hoover National Forest from the East.  The North Ridge is a long granite spine, defined by two towers which require repelling skills.  Watch for ice in the early part of the summer or in the fall.  I was rebuffed by some black ice the first time I went up and ended up with a pretty scary moment.  During the heat of the summer, you will not find a climb with cleaner, solid and more fun granite anywhere.  You should be a confident rock climber with rappelling skills to take a whack at this one.

I feel like I’m just getting started here, but the point is Yosemite offers so much more than just Half Dome.  Forget the permit, avoid the crowds and enjoy one of the best places in the world.

– Doug



  1. With all that there is to do in Yosemite, one day just doesn’t seem enough. I recommend packing your camping gear and pitch your tent at one of Yosemite’s 13 campgrounds.
    Visit http://www.recreation.gov or call 877-444-6777.

Submit a comment