North Dome Hike
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance||9.5 miles (15.3 km)|
|Hike Time||4-6 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||2,170 feet (661m)|
|Highest Elevation||8,150 feet (2484m)|
|Fees & Permits||Park Entry Fee|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Yosemite National Park|
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
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.
The Best All-Around Hiking Footwear
For most hikers, a hiking shoe is the great choice, and the Moab 2 is a winner. The ventilation is great, they last forever, offer good protection, and have a solid grip. There are sizing options for everyone’s foot in this really comfortable and reliable shoe. This shoe is also a favorite of thru-hikers. The only downside is that they are a little heavy. If you are looking for something more aggressive or lighter, check out the bottom of my gear page.
Latest Price on Women’s Shoe – REI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s Shoe – REI | Amazon
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 up to 40% off 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 April 2021.
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 offset website expenses. 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.
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.
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.
North Dome Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
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.
There’s some spectacular backcountry tent camping sites straight toward the shortcut and then to the right.
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.
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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