North Dome Hike

North Dome Hike

In This Guide
  • Video and Turn by Turn Directions to North Dome
  • Do I Need a Permit for North Dome?
  • North Dome Hike Trail Maps
  • Where to Park to Hike to North Dome
  • Indian Rock Side Trip
Total Distance (?)9.5 miles (15.3 km)
Hike Time4-6 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)2,170 feet (661m)
Highest Elevation8,150 feet (2484m)
Fees & PermitsPark Entry Fee
Dogs AllowedNo
Alerts & Closures (?)Yosemite National Park
Park Phone209-372-0200

The North Dome hike in Yosemite is a gem in so many ways. It’s tough, but not super hard. You enjoy beautiful trails but without the major crowds. A quick side-trip takes you to Yosemite’s only natural arch, which is worth a visit. There are picture-perfect views of Half Dome from directly across the valley. And then, of course, North Dome offers panoramic views from down the Yosemite Valley up to the high peaks on Tioga Road and beyond.  I highly recommend this hike; give it a try.

Where Is the North Dome Trail?

There are a few routes to hike to North Dome, and this guide covers the shortest and easiest way to get there, which is from the Porcupine Creek Trailhead on Tioga Road. The trailhead is about 1 hour from Yosemite Valley, depending on the traffic.

Use this trailhead address:
Porcupine Creek Trailhead, Tioga Road, Yosemite Valley, CA 95389

North Dome Hike Directions 2
There are a good amount of parking spots at the Porcupine Creek Trailhead, but it can get full, in which case here is roadside parking next to the parking lot.
North Dome Hike Directions 3
There is a primitive toilet at the trailhead but no other services.

Do I Need a Permit to Hike North Dome?

If you want to do the North Dome hike as a day hike, which is how most folks do it, you DO NOT need a permit. If you’d like to do an overnight backcountry camping trip to the North Dome area, you do need a wilderness permit. The permit demand for Porcupine Creek Trailhead is listed as “medium,” which means that you have a decent chance to land a permit. But again, for just a day hike, you don’t need a permit.

If you were trying to hike to Half Dome and didn’t get a cables permit, try doing this hike or the hike to Clouds Rest. Both hikes can be done without a permit and offer similar, spectacular views.

Gear For the Hike

I’ve listed this hike as moderate because, compared to other hikes in Yosemite of the same length, there’s not much climbing. But at almost 10 miles and with 2000 feet of ups and downs, it’s not a cakewalk. Ideally you should have proper hiking gear, including good footwear, to deal with the small stream crossings and granite sections. Bring 2L of water and some snacks. North Dome summit is a good place for a break and refueling. Mosquitos can be intense in the spring and early summer.

Lone Peak 5

Altra Lone Peak 5
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.

Latest Price on Women’s ShoeREI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s ShoeREI | Amazon

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.


Gaia GPS Mapping App
Smartphones are not backcountry instruments, but almost everyone has one today. And they all have GPS onboard. So I recommend getting a good GPS hiking app like Gaia GPS that supports offline maps. Just make sure to put your phone in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. GaiaGPS not only has smartphone and tablet apps, but also an online planning tool. You can drag the GPX hike tracks from my (or any) guides into the online map and they will sync to your phone. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated September 2021.

My September 2021 Top Gear Picks

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.

North Dome Trail Maps

Like most popular trails in Yosemite, the North Dome Trail is well marked and easy to follow. It can get confusing when the trail goes across the granite in places, but the directions below should get you through those without a problem.

Click Here To View

Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.

Fenix 6 Pro

How are you going to navigate this hike?
To start, you should always have a paper map and compass. And it helps to print this guide out or save it on your phone. I highly recommend a GPS as well. I use the Garmin Fenix 6 Smart GPS watch ( REI | Amazon | My Review) with maps (or the more affordable Garmin Instinct). The GPS smartwatch is nice because it’s rugged, works if your phone dies, and also has a billion other features like sleep tracking, workout recording, etc.

Elevation Profile

North Dome Hike Elevation
The hike to North Dome summit is mostly downhill, and then you have to hike back out. Save some energy for the trip back.

3d Map

North Dome 3d Map
From the trailhead you wind down toward the wall of Yosemite Valley and North Dome. It’s a direct route that gets you to the view ASAP.

North Dome Hike Directions

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Video Directions

Watch This Video In 360/VR Why 360/VR Is Great

Turn by Turn Directions

North Dome Hike Directions 4
Look for the big Porcupine Creek Trail Head sign at the parking area and start heading downhill.
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The beginning of the hike follows an old paved road downhill. The pavement is slowly disappearing as mother nature chips away.
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Soon the wide road ends and you’re back on a trail through the woods.
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There are some stream crossings at the beginning of the hike.
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The first part of the hike is picture-perfect and gently downhill walk through the woods. There’s lots of shade and beauty.
North Dome Hike Directions 9
When you get to the junction of the Snow Creek Trail on the left, keep hiking straight. The trail to the left takes you down to Mirror Lake in Yosemite Valley.
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And right after that the Yosemite Falls Trail shoots off the right. Stay left to head to North Dome.
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The trail starts to go uphill as you approach the side of Indian Rock. There’s a small overlook to the right. Check it out and then head back to continue on the trail.
North Dome Hike Directions 12
Climb the boulder to enjoy the overlook, then head back to the North Dome Trail.
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Once you are back on the North Dome Trail, there is more uphill hiking as you approach Indian Rock.
North Dome Hike Directions 14
At the top of the climb you’ll reach the intersection for the Indian Rock Trail. I highly recommend making a quick visit to Indian Arch, a short way up the Indian Rock Trail. When you’re done there, you will continue on the trail to North Dome (or just go straight here to skip the arch).
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The climb to Indian Arch is steep but short. There are also parts where the trail splits and then comes back together.
North Dome Hike Directions 16
Soon you’ll see the rocks at the arch in front of you. Some folks mistake this for Indian Rock, but it’s not, it’s the arch. Hike to the right of the rock formation and go around the back.
North Dome Hike Directions 17
After you climb up on the rock formation you’ll be able to see Indian Arch, the only natural rock arch in Yosemite NP. Enjoy the spot then move on.

You can follow the trail all the way to Indian Rock, but it’s not as spectacular as the arch. For most folks, I’d recommend heading back down to the North Dome Trail after enjoying Indian Arch.

North Dome Hike Directions 18
When you get back to the trail junction, hike left to continue towards North Dome.
North Dome Hike Directions 19
Soon the terrain will shift to raw granite. When you get towards the ledge, the main trail cuts down to the left. There is a shortcut straight down the granite ahead. Usually I descend on the main trail and come back up the granite shortcut.

There’s some spectacular backcountry tent camping sites straight toward the shortcut and then to the right.

North Dome Hike Directions 20
The trail cuts back away from North Dome and can be counterintuitive. Look for a well-worn path and any cairns as you head down.
North Dome Hike Directions 21
Once the trail turns back towards North Dome, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular side views of Half Dome, which is directly across Tenaya Canyon.
North Dome Hike Directions 22
The trail pops out on the granite ridge again as you head straight. You’ll be able to see North Dome in the distance as you continue.

North Dome was named in 1851 by the Mariposa Battalion. The battalion was a state militia that fought against the Native Americans who inhabited the area during the Mariposa War. The conflict started when gold rush miners wanted to force natives off the land.

North Dome Hike Directions 23
When you get out to the ridge, look back to see the granite shortcut that we passed earlier. There’s not much of a trail; you just walk straight up the rock.
North Dome Hike Directions 24
Continue down the granite, favoring the left side. Look for cairns and other clues in the spots where you are walking on the rock.
North Dome Hike Directions 25
Leave the granite section to the left where there is a switchback and then dirt again.
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Then you get to this trail junction; make the hard left. The trail to the right heads to Yosemite Falls.
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This section can get a little tricky. The trail winds down away from North Dome, and eventually comes out at this section where you hug the side of the granite to head steeply downhill. There are no real drops or extreme edges.
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At the bottom of that steep section you’ll pass through one last wooded area.
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And then do the gentle climb up to North Dome. Unlike Half Dome, there are no cables or drops to the side.
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And at the top of the climb you’ve reached North Dome!
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To your right is the Yosemite Valley.
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And to the left, Half Dome and Clouds Rest.

The summit of North Dome has nice groups of rocks where you can sit and soak in the views. When you’re done, you just turn around and go back the way you came to finish the hike.

This guide last updated on September 18, 2020. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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