My Top 10 National Park Hikes (over 6 miles)
I completed the list of my Top 10 Short National Park Hikes over a month ago, so I guess it’s about time I start the list of my favorite longer hikes. This list will focus on hikes over six miles long.
You probably noticed by now that I love the National Parks and like making lists. In addition to the list of my favorite shorter National Park hikes, I have previously made lists of my Top Ten National Parks, Top 20 Things to See in the National Parks, Top Ten Waterfalls, My Bucket List, and Ten Places You Should Visit Before You Die. So yeah, I enjoy writing these blog posts. I hope you enjoy them, too.
Let me know if you agree with me, want to add other hikes, or want to try some of these out.
My list so far…
10. Mount LeConte – Great Smoky Mountains National Park
9. Cape Alava – Olympic National Park
8. Half Dome – Yosemite National Park
Location: The eastern end of Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park, which is in central California.
Distance: 17 miles roundtrip for me (counting the walk to the parking lot). There are a couple of different route options on this one, too.
Elevation change: 4,800 feet (which is a whole lot for a day hike).
Difficulty: On my totally subjective scale from a 1-10 (10 being the hardest) I would give it an 11. I’m not a marathon runner or someone that is incredibly fit, so if I were I might say it isn’t that difficult. I know some kids and older people successfully tackle Half Dome, but it was very hard for me (both physically and mentally). I would definitely classify this is the most difficult trail I have ever hiked.
Wildlife: I saw a rattlesnake in the woods and a marmot atop the summit of Half Dome. Black bears are known to frequent Little Yosemite Valley.
Brief Description: This is almost like several hikes in one. Depending on your route you either take the scenic Mist Trail or else a portion of the famed John Muir Trail. Then you traverse Little Yosemite Valley before reaching sub dome. That’s when things start to get crazy. A long series of rock steps (which ruined my knees on the way down) lead to the infamous cables. It is essentially a 400-foot-long 45 degree ladder to the summit. If you are scared of heights you might not make it up that.
Highlight of the hike: The summit provides incredible views of Yosemite Valley and the High Sierra. If you take the Mist Trail as part of the hike you will be treated with more amazing scenery.
Tips: There are a lot of things to pay attention to on this one. First off, you need a permit to hike up Half Dome now (not back when I did it). Be very careful and pay attention to the weather. Don’t go anywhere near the cables or the summit if there is bad weather on the horizon (there are numerous warnings posted). More than twenty people have died on Half Dome. When I was on the cables I saw someone accidentally drop a water bottle. I watched as it bounced down the curved granite surface and disappear to oblivion. It was not a good thing for a person scared to death of falling off the mountain to watch.
Also, start very early. The hike takes most people 10-12 hours to complete and you don’t want to finish it in the dark. I recommend going backwards down the cables. It was much easier for me that way. Definitely use gloves on the cables (there was a big pile of them at the base when I was there). Oh and bring lots and lots of water, everyone I was with ran out. Bring plenty of food to keep you energized, too. This is a very serious undertaking (unless you are super fit and very comfortable with heights).
I haven’t shared a blog post about my Half Dome hike yet, but I surely will sometime in the future. It is one very memorable hike.