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.
My Goto Hiking Footwear: La Sportiva Wildcat
If you hike a lot or just want the best (but not the most durable) hiking footwear, the Wildcat trail runner is your best move. It’s fast and light on trails, the sole gives me good grip off-trail or scrambling, and they dry quickly.
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Best All-Around Day Pack: Osprey Talon
I try so many backpacks and I can usually find something I love about all of them. But no matter how many I try, I always find that I come back to the Osprey Talon 33 (or for women, the Osprey Sirrus 36). It’s just the right balance between everything. You save weight because there is no frame, but the vented and padded back holds its shape, giving it a pseudo-frame. It’s big enough for long day hikes or overnighters, but when I don’t fill it on a shorter hike, it’s still nice and light. It’s got a sleeve for a hydration bladder and side pockets for Smartwater bottles. I’ve been using (and beating) the same one since 2017 and it’s still going strong.
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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.
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated October 2020.
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.
Download the Hike GPX FileView a Printable PDF Hike Map
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). You can also use most smartphones. Check out my navigation recommendations and resources on my top gear picks page for options at all budget levels.
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.
Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.