For those who are physically (and mentally!) up to the challenge, Half Dome is the ultimate Yosemite day hike.
The final cabled ascent will test both your courage and strength, while your reward will be the one-of-a-kind panoramic view at the top, the unparalleled sense of accomplishment, and the unforgettable memories of the entire journey.
This hike is so popular you will need a permit to reach the top. Only a limited number of permits are available and only by lottery, so plan ahead!
Even if you are not able to get a permit you can still hike to the base of the subdome, which is quite a great destination anyway.
While there are several routes, many people choose the Mist Trail route from the valley floor. The total round-trip distance is about 14 miles (!) and rises 4800 ft from the valley floor. This is not a casual day hike!
The Mist Trail route is a great choice in part because it takes you past Nevada Fall and Vernal Fall where you'll have the luxury (?) of stairs cut directly into the steep granite slope.
An alternative route is the John Muir Trail, which is not quite as steep as the Mist Trail but misses Vernal Fall. Both trails meet again at Nevada Fall.
Vault-style toilets at the top of Nevada Fall are the last you'll find on the route itself.
For the most up-to-date information be sure to visit the official National Park information page. Another great source is at Russ Cary's yosemitehikes.com. Check it out!
(Banner photo credit Doug Letterman 2012 on Flickr)