Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan
Half Dome, one of the most popular attractions in Yosemite National Park, lies in the middle of designated wilderness from the intersection with the John Muir Trail to the summit. In 2008, up to 1,200 people a day tackled the famous trek up the cables; the high level of use has led to both safety and environmental concerns. The National Park Service (NPS) is developing a plan to provide long-term stewardship of the Half Dome route to address Wilderness and safety.
The Wilderness Act of 1964 describes wilderness as embodying the following four qualities: "untrammeled," "undeveloped," "natural," and "outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation." While the Wilderness Act provides descriptions and guidelines, it does not provide use numbers or prescribe specific management actions.
HISTORY OF THE HALF DOME TRAIL
The Half Dome Cables, erected in 1919, comprise the final 400 feet of the 8.2-mile trail connecting Yosemite Valley with the 8,836 foot summit of Half Dome. In 1984, Congress designated Half Dome as wilderness. Today, the hike to the summit of Half Dome is arguably the most iconic and popular wilderness excursion for visitors to Yosemite National Park.
The Half Dome trail's popularity is taking a toll on its wilderness environment:
• Vegetation damage and soil loss on and near the trail corridor, including many sections that are very wide and deeply eroded
• Habituation of wildlife along the trail corridor, and particularly at the summit and subdome, from improper food storage and feeding
• Threats to a population of the Mt. Lyell Salamander, a California Specie of Special Concern
• Severe crowding on the subdome, summit and cables, including long lines to use the cables
• Very high encounter rates on the entire trail
Increases in the number of people hiking to Half Dome are impacting the environment so that it no longer reflects the conditions called for in the Wilderness Act.
Crowding on the Half Dome cables can increase exit time from the summit and the amount of time visitors are exposed to hazardous natural conditions such as slippery wet rock, extreme temperatures, and lightning.
PURPOSE OF THIS PLAN
1. Protect the wilderness character of the project area
2. Improve the visitor experience on the Half Dome Trail by reducing crowding
3. Protect the area's natural and cultural resources
4. Improve the ability of its visitors to manage their own risk
Central to this planning effort is an open and transparent public involvement process where everyone is invited to share ideas and concerns. Public scoping occured May 26 - July 9, 2010. Public review of the environmental assessment occurred Jan 24 - Mar 15, 2012.
On December 19, 2012, a Finding of No Significant Impact was approved for the Half Dome plan. To view the decision document, errata sheets to the environmental assessment, and public comment response report, click on the "Document List" on the lefthand side of the screen.
Attn: The Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan
P.O. Box 577
Yosemite, CA 95389