Half Dome cables in place in Yosemite

The most iconic hike in Yosemite National Park opened this past week when the Park Service announced that the cables are now in place on Half Dome, the giant slab of granite that is one of the most recognizable landmarks in that park.

During the summer months, the Half Dome hike has become a popular draw for Yosemite, so much so that permits are now required to make the 16-mile round trip hike to the summit. Along that route, hikers gain more than 4800 feet in altitude, which means that the trail gets extremely steep at some points. In order to make the trek safer and more accessible, the National Park Service installs metal cables each year. Those cables serve as hand holds for those making the trip to the top, helping them to ascend the more treacherous sections of the trail.

As you can imagine, the Half Dome hike is a strenuous one, and not just because of the physical challenges of the trail. During the summer, Yosemite Valley can get quite warm, which can cause problems for hikers who don’t bring enough water with them. Afternoon thunderstorms are not uncommon either, and the last place you want to be when the lighting starts crackling exposed on a giant slab of rock at altitude.

But those that do make the hike are rewarded with fantastic views of the surrounding California countryside. The Yosemite region is amongst the most beautiful locations in any national park, and the summit of Half Dome towers above the area, offering a breathtaking reward to those that manage to complete the hike. It is well worth the effort.

[Photo credit: Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press]