The Travel Whispers Blogger Challenge

The Whisper Challenge is all the rage on late night TV (thank you, Universe, for Rebel Wilson) and appears to be the hottest new way to announce pregnancies. Some travel bloggers got together and we are having fun with each other – since there’s a lot of travel involved, headphones are kind of a moot point. Or mute point – whichever pun is less groanable to you…. A host of other travel bloggers and I are bringing you the Travel Whisper Challenge!

Thanks to the initiative and inspiration Stephanie Fox, who created these questions and rounded our motley crew together, we are sharing our travel stories and inspirations with each other. Check out the end of my post for links to some other bloggers (with less bad jokes, I promise), and spark your own 2017 travel plans! You can also find more across Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #TravelWhispers.

White Sands National Monument Dog Friendly

If you had to move to a country that you’ve NEVER been to, and live there for ten years, where would you go?

I’m going to double down on Chile. I never can choose whether I love mountains or the beach more, and this way I will retain access to both. I also love the desert. And wine! From the fashionistas in Santiago to the brightly colored buildings of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar, I’ll be able to continue to indulge in many of my loves.

If you had to live in a hotel for the rest of your life, which hotel would you choose and why?

I’m going to make a hard right, here, and deviate from my love of the Americas. I’m going full on SATC fan girl and calling out Hôtel Plaza Athénée. Because… because it’s Paris, and because of all the Carrie Bradshaw moments, and because if I could live in Hôtel Plaza Athénée for the rest of my life, perhaps then I’d also be in the same alternate universe in which I have the wardrobe I still envy, after all this time. Always.

If you could only eat the cuisine of one nationality forever more, which would you choose?

Easy! Mexican food. It is so much more than enchiladas and tacos, although I love both of those, too. Study regional Mexican cuisines and you’ll be gob smacked at the variety and abundance of options. Holy mole!

Who has given you ‘holiday envy’ this year, and how?

One of my friends, who lives in Cusco, went to Salar de Uyuni in March this past year. She planned her visit during the rainy season so the entire salt flat had a gigantic mirror effect. When I saw her pictures, I just – wow, wow, wow!

If you had to look at the same sunrise or the same sunset every day, where in the world would you never get bored of seeing? Please don’t say sitting outside Cafe Mambo in Ibiza.

Ha! I’ll have to Google Café Mambo because I have no idea what that is. A sunrise and sunset I could watch over and again every day is in a corner of the Last Best Place AKA Montana. Specifically… southwestern Montana. Let’s just say, they don’t call Montana Big Sky Country for nothing! I know this is not a sunset, or a sunrise, but tell me you did not just say to yourself “double rainbow all the way around!”

Double Rainbow Big Sky Montana

If you were taking a ‘staycation’ in your home town, where would it be and what would you recommend others to do?

If I were staycationing in Phoenix, I’m waking up in a supremely sublime bead in the Montelucia and start my day with a hike up Camelback Mountain’s Cholla trailhead. But, I would not recommend that for someone who is not already very fit because the hike is strenuous so I’ll recommend the 32nd St and Lincoln trailhead (8A) for out of towners. It’s a great out and back trail that provides fantastic views of the city skyline. For lunch, I’ll head into the center of the city and grab a market fresh, locally sourced salad and mozzarella sandwich at Pane Bianco with a coffee from Lux Central next door. Lux Central is more or less my dissertation writing mother ship (or was before I moved away last month). Sticking with the Central vibe, I’d take advantage of my museum memberships and go to the Heard Museum for their latest exhibits and permanent collection of indigenous art. It never disappoints, even if you are paying your entrance fee; this museum is world class and I consider a Phoenix Must Do! Then, since it’s right next door, I’ll also flex my museum membership pass and go say “hi” to Phoenix Art Museum’s latest fashion exhibit, pause and give my respects to the Frida, and stand among Yayoi Kusama’s electric fireflies. Back at Montelucia the rest of the afternoon is lounging at the spa pool after a facial so good it took at least three years off my face. I’ll end the afternoon with a sunset happy hour at R Bar at Camelback Inn for live music, a great patio, an even better margarita, and a choice setting for a sunset. But not dinner. For dinner, we are obliterating all of those calories burned hiking by indulging in a Sonoran Hot Dog – yup – a hot dog stand. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it! And a late night cap poolside at Prado before heading upstairs for another Montelucia dream. Hmm… I might be feeling a wee bit homesick, now!

Hiking Camelback Mountain

Describe your perfect travel day of the year?

In July I packed Edie and an overnight bag in the Volvo and drove out to Salvation Mountain and Joshua Tree National Park. I knew my days were numbered in Phoenix and hadn’t yet visited either of those two sites. They were close enough they were always considered but just barely far enough away to be slightly inconvenient for a day trip. When I arrived at Salvation Mountain, it was 11:00 am and the sun was already blisteringly brutal. A monsoon flood created a two hour detour and delay so my 4:30 am departure plan to avoid the height of summer sun was foiled. Nonetheless, although my visit at Salvation Mountain was shorter than I wanted – it was so hot – I felt nothing but gratitude and happy overwhelm to finally be standing at the side of Leonard Knight’s testament to his love of God – and love of love. You do not need to be religious – in any way – to recognize that there is something incredibly beautiful and significant about Salvation Mountain. Edie and I went to Salton Sea where the little mongrel delighted in rolling in the mummified tilapia on the shoreline (dogs can be so gross, at times). The mercury kept rising and we kept rolling. I was delighted to come across a fresh fruit stand on the side of the road in Mecca, CA, and even more delighted my re-immersion into Spanish lessons enabled me to navigate the entire transaction en Español! After we drove through Joshua Tree (too hot for hiking plus it’s not very dog friendly – delicate eco system), I stopped at The End, a vintage shop in Yucca Valley I have been Instagram stalking for over a year – my only disappointment is I swore to myself no budget for buying – I could have spent hours and DOLLARS shopping there. Kime Buzzelli’s collection was that good! Not even the slightest nonplussed with my blathering fangirling, Kime let me know about and invited me to head up the road to Pioneertown for a large community chili cook off. Helloooooo, yes, ma’am, and thank you! Although I did feel terrible about dribbling the habanero chili on little Edie’s head…. Huge dog mama fail! The day ended with a late night patio and hotel in Palm Springs. Just my smelly mutt and me, and I wouldn’t have had that day. Any. Other. Way. Ok, I totally could have gone for the day to be about 30 degrees (F) cooler!

Salvation Mountain

What have you ticked off your bucket list in 2016?

Oh my gosh, where do I begin? There were so many! I didn’t get to defend it but I finally finished writing my dissertation (early 2017 is when I’ll get to my defense – finally). Big yay! I backpacked and camped in Havasupai. It was as incredible as I hoped it would be. I hiked to the top of Half Dome. Solo. I even packed a mini bottle of champagne to celebrate that summit. I finally left my job. I broke out of the golden handcuffs, sold or gave away most of my belongings, and am taking a year, perhaps a little bit more, off of work. I finally made it to the Big Easy and sat across from Jackson Square while drinking chicory coffee and munching on steaming hot beignets from Café du Monde. Also solo. It was a big year for changes!

Havasu Falls, Havasupai Grand Canyon

What is top of your travel bucket list for 2017?

I’m currently scoping out which apartments in Ciudad de Oaxaca and Puerto Escondido I want to rent for my long term stay in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. I finally intend to follow through on my goal to achieve fluency and full literacy in Spanish. No more bad grammar for me – and oh, btw, did I mention improving my surfing? Because I love it – well, both – and I am horribly unskilled at it – well, at both.

Joshua Tree National Park with Dogs

Share your favourite Instagram photo of 2016?

Instagram and I disagree on my favorite photo of 2016. This photo was the basis for my holiday card this year. I get it, my round rump and Edie in a cat sweater is unlikely to compete with yoga, a horse, and Costa Rica…. But this one – it is my favorite! It took me three passes through Tunnel View and Glacier Point and requests of strangers to make this photo for me. The third person was really game to help me capture the image I wanted. Because this year was full of so much change and because Edie is my littlest and best ride or die companion, I wanted to visually create how I felt about my excitement looking forward to 2017 and creating closure of 2016. If you must look back, may it be to remember love and friendship….



Rhiannon of Wales to Wherever is frigging hilarious! Check her out, particularly if you are an Anglophile like me and can’t get enough of that fabulous Brit Wit (they do it better).

Natalia of Go with Talia also has some amazing photographs and a really neat accomplishment from 2016 with her own 12 Trip Challenge. Talk about #TravelGoals….

Katie at Creative Travel Guide also shared with us some great nuggets and photographs so sharp and beautifully composed I may need to throw away my camera for good!

And if you’re looking for little bite sized nuggets to read at a time, Pete of A Thousand Flights will give you a rather fun and novel approach to his Whisper Challenge.

Check back soon for an updated list on other Travel Bloggers who have taken part! If you want to get involved join the Facebook group.

New Orleans dog friendly


Tips for Traveling with Pets

A few days from now Edie and I are hitting the road to spend Christmas with my folks. Whether by plane or car, this little moppet mutt is my ultimate ride or die copilot and carry-on companion. I love being able to travel with her. I estimate we’ve logged around 5000 miles in the car together and she has been on 15 or 16 planes, so I came to develop a routine for her to make the points between our destinations easier for her. And for me! Wherever you and your pet are heading this holiday, there are ways to make holiday travel plans with pets go smoothly. My advice is for when you are road tripping or bring your pup in the cabin of an airplane as I have not checked Edie into the cargo hold. She’s carryon size… 7 pounds. 7.6 on a heavy day. Usually 8 ½ pounds at the end of a trip to see Gigi and Gramps on the farm…. Oh, Edie!

tips for traveling with pets

Make a list and check it twice! Santa’s not the only one who ought to be list making and checking. Plan out how much food you need for your travel. Include enough for an extra couple of days in case you have any flight delays or cancellations. Last year, my flight was delayed three days because of bad weather! Along with food, bring collapsible bowls for easy carrying and packing.

To add to Edie’s comfort I bring her favorite toy. If we are flying, I freeze peanut butter inside her kong in a plastic bag and tape a note to my phone to remember to grab it from the freezer before heading to the airport. This gives her a good, comforting distraction when I put her in her carrier. I also put in a small towel for her to snuggle with during the flight. This is going to sound weird but I will sleep with the towel the night before so she has a familiar smell among all the added airplane smells. Edie literally is my carryon when we fly! When we drive, I bring her bed and favorite blanket. No matter the transportation mode, an absorbent potty pad and extra bags are always on hand.

tips for traveling with pets

Safety and furbaby well being! If you are flying, make sure you know what your airline requires for pets as carry-ons. Among the various airlines I’ve flown there have been differences in their requirements. Most will require you to bring a veterinary healthy pet certificate verifying your pet has been examined and determined to be healthy within 10 days of the departing flight. It’s an added expense and one I find annoying but if you don’t have that certificate and flight crew asks you to show that certificate, well, you may have another delayed flight to reschedule. Edie has flown on 15 or 16 flights. I’ve been asked to show the certificate at check in once and at boarding one other time. So for all the times I was annoyed to have spent the money, the two times I was required to show them that piece of paper I was really glad I covered that base! When meeting with your vet, discuss your pet’s anxiety levels. Edie is high anxiety and very fear based. Her first couple of flights I had the tiniest Valiums in my pocket and I did use the

m on one flight. She has since become a seasoned traveler and is an easy traveler. There is no doubt in my mind that is in part to me having a plan and preparing her for the journey.

Make sure all of your vaccinations are up to date, your pup wears her collar and tags, and all of your contact information is current. If you have not microchipped your dog yet, please consider doing so.

Carry-on carriers need to fix specific dimensions. I’ve used the same carrier for each flight and multiple airlines, and mine is a no frills bought at Petsmart variety. If you’re driving, there are various seat belt harnesses you can use to help keep your pup secure.

tips for traveling with pets

When in doubt, snacks!!!!! If you fly, unless your pet is a service animal, your pet will be your carryon and will need to remain under the seat the entire flight and you are not supposed to open the carrier or allow any scenario in which escape is possible. That isn’t to say I haven’t unzipped a tiny bit to tuck a couple of treats to Edie throughout the flight. And that isn’t to say I haven’t also had to wrestle her little snout back into the bag to zip up. I give her the kong and a couple of treats as soon as I place her in the carrier and she gets treats when we get off the plane. Snacks also help to give a little bit of positive reinforcement.

Wear them out! A tired pup is a less anxious pup. Traveling can be very stressful for your pet so giving them a good exercise session before hitting the road or arriving at the airport will help them relax. When we road trip, I’ll take Edie for at least a 30 minute walk before we begin the day’s travel. When we are driving, I’ll make stops every 3-4 hours to let her stretch her legs. Even when I schedule ridiculously early flights, I’ll take Edie on a long walk before my Uber ride takes us to the airport. We have gone on walks as early as 3:00 am to let her burn off energy. Terrier mixes for the kinetic energy win! Depending on the airport and how busy the airport is, you might be able to get away with letting your dog walk between connections. I’ve found airports to be of varying levels of enforcement. Some have been really staunch on making sure she’s in her carrier as soon as we get through TSA and some have been too busy for me to risk letting her walk on leash because of the crowds. Some airports have pet depots which make travel really nice!

Dress rehearsal. If you are flying and the first time your pet meets the carrier is at the airport when she is already feeling high stress, woooooo are you setting both of y’all up for a rough flight! Introduce the carrier ahead of time to give your pup a chance to get to know the carrier in a positive and secure environment.

tips for traveling with pets

Do you travel with your furry family members?

How to travel with pets holiday season How to travel with pets holiday season


White Sands National Monument | A Dog Friendly Road Trip

Tucked within an active U.S. military missile range in a remote area of the southwestern corner of New Mexico, White Sands National Monument is a paradoxically beautiful reverse oasis. Quite small yet feelingly vast, the monument occupies only about 275 square miles of space within the same missile range where the first nuclear weapons tests (atomic bombs that were later dropped on Japan) were carried out in what is now Trinity Site.  The sand dunes are made of gypsum, the last remnants of an ancient ocean that once occupied the area some 250 million years ago, and some change. 

White Sands National Monument Dog FriendlyWhite Sands National Monument was my first stop on a 2,400 mile relocation road trip. My original plans were to take Edie and back country camp in one of only five camp sites in the park. Yep! White Sands is INCREDIBLY dog friendly! My timeline and planning didn’t exactly match my grand plan and I quickly came to acceptance that I would not be spending the night inside the monument, instead having to settle for my ride or die motel of choice, Motel 6 (most dog friendly budget accommodation I have found to date), about 20 minutes from the monument, in Alamogordo. I only visited the park for a couple hours and I could have stayed there all day long. Edie and I had so much fun playing in the back country dunes!White Sands National Monument

Note to self: in theory, driving across the desert in the middle of the night is a good idea. Visibility is clear (usually), there are not likely to be any elk or deer darting in front of the car, and there’s minimal traffic. But, the temptation of road hypnosis is real!

Imagination can have you almost convinced you might have seen chupacabra or moth man in the almost super moon full moon night sky. The dunes are kind of that creepy when the moon is that large and bright – they practically glow in the dark! You know how a completely snow covered landscape reflects that moonlight? Well, try that and add in aliens (Area 51 and Roswell are only about three hours away – road trip consideration), any sorts of bad juju that must be bound to creating frigging atom bombs, and a highly caffeinated, physically exhausted, sleep deprived, over active monkey brain thoughts. Anything to stay awake! Combine all that with the fact the only time Edie has ever been subdued at a border patrol check point was at the missile range pass, and I had to really wonder if there was something supernatural happening….

Despite checking in to the motel at 2:30 am, by 7:30 we were back in the car and heading to the monument. I wanted to be at the dunes as soon after sunrise as possible. Desert sunrises are nothing short of inspirational.

White Sands National Monument

The visitor center is immediately upon entrance. I got to the monument before the center opened so couldn’t go inside to rent a waxed sled to ride the dunes… which is sort of a moot point because the park is adamant that no dogs are to be left unattended in vehicles at any time. This is because the temperatures in the dunes get fatally hot most of the year. At 8:00 am on a particular November morning it was 40 degrees F outside (about 4 degrees C), but like I mentioned, the center wasn’t open yet, and I had a jam packed day ahead of me so I headed straight for the dunes to go for a brief hike.

I have been wanting to visit White Sands for a rather long time. It was close enough I could have done so much sooner in the span of a weekend out from Phoenix. But it was far enough away – about a 6 hour drive – that I put it in the “not as convenient” bucket. I am SO glad I finally went and I am rather sad I waited so long and had such little time to spend in the monument.

White Sands National Monument

While White Sands is probably not on everyone’s bucket list, having finally been for myself, I cannot exclaim enough how much you should really make the effort to go if you are in the region. I don’t see how anyone could be disappointed with the rugged beauty of these dunes! Plus, I even have a super solid fantastic Mexican food recommendation for you (read on) that is only about half an hour away from the entrance. How do you like them manzanas? See what I did there? :o)

White Sands National Monument

What to know:

  • The monument is located within an active missile range and military base. It is subject to periodic closures during missile tests. Verify access availability prior to your venture out to make sure you don’t show up during a closure. NPS does an excellent job of providing updates, which you can check here. If you want to backcountry camp, you must arrive at the Visitor’s Center before 2 pm. Otherwise you have no chance of getting a permit. When I was initially planning I called the backcountry office to verify details. The ranger advised me it’s even best to call them a couple of days prior to your intended camping stay because if there are any tests, you will not be able to obtain any permits. I’m still ultra bummed it didn’t work out for me but my timeline went from flexible to not at all in a hurry. If you’re a camper, I say DO IT!
  • Admission is a very low fee: $5.00. But – if you have the annual inter-agency pass your entrance fee is already covered (an investment I make each year because I tend to visit numerous parks making the all park pass a best value for me).
  • DOG FRIENDLY ALERT! The NPS isn’t exactly known for being offering most dog accessible places (wilderness… yada yada yada…). Well, White Sands is SUPER dog accessible. You can even take your pup/s backcountry camping with you! Edie and I romped throughout the dunes. I swear my angsty little creaton discovered a reason to live running around those dunes. She had so much fun! Editorial disclaimer: dogs are to be kept on leashes as all times.
  • Exposure risk is real! Temperatures range from freezing in late fall and winter to “my eyes are boiling” hot in summer. Even in most of fall and spring it can get quite “warm.” Fun fact: unlike beach sand, the gypsum won’t get hot, though, so although your skin might feel like it’s sizzling, you can walk on the sand dunes without getting burned. Don’t underestimate the intensity of the sun and temperatures. Bring, and wear, sunscreen, even in the winter. The sun reflects right off that gypsum and onto you. Shade only exists in concept and imagination in the dunes. You are in the desert.
  • Sunglasses are a great idea… for a couple of reasons: 1) the sun, and 2) the wind! No one wants sand in their eyes. I have it on good record that the wind can be downright offensive. Food for thought: if you’re bringing your pup, consider eye gear for them. I had Edie’s doggles on hand just in case. But, lucky for that mutt, there was no wind so she didn’t have to wear them.
  • Food and water. Water is essential… even in winter! Exposure and dehydration are definite ways to dampen your perception of fun. What I was saying about the temperature? You will get dehydrated before realizing it. You are in the desert. There are no cafes or restaurants inside the monument but there are some great picnic stations you can enjoy.
  • You can sled the dunes! You may bring your own or rent at the Visitor’s Center. I even have some friends who brought their snow boards and used those on the dunes. The gypsum isn’t slippery like snow is, so you need to wax the sleds. You can rent them for a nominal fee at the Visitor Center and return them for a partial refund. I watched some people sledding on the dunes and they looked like they were having a blast.
  • Activities range from aforementioned hiking and sledding to horseback riding (your own), cycling, backcountry camping, ranger programs, and salivation worthy photography (my skills should not be an ambassador for the staggering beauty of the dunes).
  • Lodging is available in Alamogordo or Las Cruces. Las Cruces is a larger and more vibrant community than Alamogordo. If you’re going through or staying in Las Cruces, do your taste buds and bellies a solid by stopping at Si Senor Express. It was recommended to me by a local from Hatch, NM, and she knows good Mexican food.White Sands National Monument

Have you been to White Sands? Do you have anything to add I might have missed? Or are you now Google Maps checking coordinates and route to plan your next road trip? Comments and recommendations or questions, comment below and let us know! I’d love to hear from you.

White Sands National Monument


17 Mile Drive and The Lone Cypress | A Quick Guide

 I never like to leave Monterey, but all good things must come to an end, right? Fortunately, there’s a sweet way to ease out of the pain of saying goodbye… and it involves travel from Monterey to Carmel-by-the-Sea. 17 Mile Drive… and a view of what is likely the most photographed tree in the world… the Lone Cypress, of course!

17 mile drive and the lone cypress

Within Pebble Beach, which itself boasts of coastal mansions and golf course luxuries that would be considered ostentatious by some, is a slice of sur nothing short of stunning. 17 Mile Drive, which is within the Pebble Beach community just south of Monterey, will let you get close sightings of harbor seals, sea otters, and Cypress silhouettes. If you are in the area, consider this drive a must see. The landscape and cut of the coast quickly transitions from the peaceful, calm, protected waters of Monterey Bay to waves pushing and crashing against rocks and cliffs. 


You can drive 17 Mile Drive south to north or north to south. Whether entering through the north or south gates, you will need to pay a $10 entrance fee. If you choose to shop or dine at Pebble Beach golf club, you will earn a credit toward that bill with your fee. Otherwise, consider that ten bucks your price of admission! The guard will give you a map for you to follow along that coincide with marked points of interest throughout the winding ocean-side drive. 

17 mile drive and the lone cypress

There are a total of 19 points of interest along 17 Mile Drive, and, tour vans and your patience for either battling our waiting out tourists to get that perfect picture aside, you can make the drive as leisurely as you want. There is no brevity to 17 Mile Drive, nor should there be! 

17 mile drive and the lone cypress

My favorite view points along the drive are:

  • Spanish Bay
  • The Restless Sea
  • Point Joe
  • China Rock
  • Bird Rock
  • Fanshell Overlook (closed April through June – it’s a harbor seal pupping point)
  • Cypress Point Lookout
  • The Lone Cypress
  • The Ghost Tree
  • And then there are 10 other points at which you can stop and enjoy the drive :o)

17 mile drive and the lone cypress

I never completed the entire 17 Mile Loop because, to my delight, the drive drops me right in front of Carmel-by-the-Sea, which just might be my fantasy, if I win millions of dollars in the lotto, new hometown. It is, by many accounts, the most dog friendly city. Period. Ever!

17 mile drive and the lone cypress


So You Want to Hike Half Dome? Here are Some Tips How!

If you have the slightest enjoyment from and love for hiking, I’m willing to wager you have a dream list of trail heads. I’m willing to double down and bet Half Dome is on your list, too. Who hasn’t sighed (and salivated) over Ansel Adams’s images of that monolith standing over Yosemite Valley? This hike continues to rise in popularity, and while the permit system to hike Half Dome has done much to protect the trail path and reduce crowding (thereby helping bring an overall better experience for hikers), actually obtaining a permit feels very much akin to the quest for Wonka’s golden ticket!

I tried two prior seasons to obtain a permit and was unsuccessful. I finally got my cable permit for September 30, 2016! Spoiler alert, I ultimately hiked Half Dome with a backcountry permit (a calamity that will be fully explored and expressed – hysteria – in another post… another spoiler alert, best to probably not soldier up and still attempt with an acute case of food poisoning).

Half Dome Summit

Logistics of the Half Dome Hike


  • 14.2 miles round trip via Mist Trail (22.7 km)
  • 16.5 miles round trip via John Muir Trail (26.5 km)
  • 7 miles round trip from Little Yosemite backcountry campground – permit required (11 km)

Other trails by which people can hike to Half Dome include:

  • 20 miles round trip via Glacier Point (32 km)
  • 23 miles round trip via Tenaya Lake (37 km)

Elevation of Half Dome: 8,843 feet (2,695 m)

Total Elevation Gain from Trailhead: 4,800 feet (1,600 m)

Difficulty Rating: Strenuous (yes, it is, and yes, it is so worth it)

Time: average 10 – 14 hours depending on speed and physical condition

Knee Soreness Rating: Those angry mofos are going to ask you for a divorce (but you won’t be sorry, and they will forgive you)

Hiking Half Dome

Permits: Yes! You need a permit to climb the cables and summit hike Half Dome. There is a ranger stationed at the base of Sub Dome checking for your permit. Okay, so the ranger wasn’t there the day I hiked, or the day before, I was told, but I have reliable sources who promised me that was an anomole. The hike up to Sub Dome is beautiful in its own right. But if you have your heart truly set on summiting Half Dome and you don’t have a permit, and the ranger is there, you will be sorely disappointed.

I think the NPS site does an excellent job of providing information on the permit process. I used the data points provided (see here for popularity by day based on prior year permits) to strategize the days I would apply for my permit. A maximum of 300 permits are distributed each day during the season the cables are up, distributed for 225 day hikers (see here for information on securing a day hike permit) and 75 backpackers (see here for information about overnight wilderness permits).

  • Preseason Lottery: This occurs in the month of March. You can select up to seven dates, ordering preference, and request up to six permits for each of those dates. If you have multiple people with whom you’ll be hiking, it’s a good idea to hedge your bets and each person apply. However, permits are not transferable, so make sure you have a solid commitment from whoever is applying as the leader/alternate because either the trip leader or alternate leader designated on the application must carry and present the permit to the ranger. If you know you absolutely must plan ahead for your trip to Yosemite, this will be your best permit application option.
  • Daily Lottery: If you’re the type who lady luck loves and fortune favors, then my darling friend, this is your type of gamble! A portion of the permits are distributed through the preseason lottery, but based on cancellation of preseason permits and excess availability, there are, on average, about 50 or so day permits that can be had through the daily lottery. You apply for your desired date between 12:00 am – 1:00 pm two days prior, and you will receive an email the next morning (the day prior to your desired date) if you were successful. You also receive the “womp womp wommmmp” email (which I have a collection of these) to notify you if you were not successful, so you’ll know either way. If you plan to be in Yosemite several days you can do this each day until you either receive the permit or run out of days. Of the five days I applied, I ultimately DID receive a permit for September 30, the same day as my back country permit. But, because I didn’t receive the email until after I gave up my campsite in Yosemite to begin arrangements for my overnight hike (no cell service at the Hogdgon Meadow Campground), I was committed to having to hike to Little Yosemite Valley for the overnight stay in the backcountry camp.
  • Backpacker’s Permit: Most people hike Half Dome as a day hike, but if you have the equipment and the interest to backpack and stay overnight in Little Yosemite Valley, you can apply for a wilderness permit. From the research I did in anticipation of all the ways I could snag a permit, it generally appears this is your most solid bet if you are wiling to abandon all expectations of being a Curry Village glamper and can pack in (and out) your camping gear to stay overnight a night or two in the backcountry. While primitive, the campground is nicely maintained, is in a beautiful clearing about a mile from Nevada Falls, and really closes the gap between your starting point and Half Dome summit. You apply for the wilderness permit to camp in Little Yosemite, and you request the Half Dome permit when you apply for the Little Yosemite wilderness permit. You can do this online, or like I did, walk into the wilderness office in Yosemite Village. I walked in at 10:45 am, gave them my information and requested dates, and was told to come back at 11:00 am. Fifteen minutes later I had the permit. I was going to hike Half Dome!

So You Got Your Permit. Yahoooooo!! DANCE PARTY YAAAAAAY! Now What? Some Tips!

Bug repellent. Depending on the time of year, the mosquitoes are more notorious than BIG and RBG, combined. I hiked in late September and had not a single bite, but there were gnats that were terribly annoying. If you are hiking in warm weather, bring some repellent.

Bathrooms are located at the Happy Isles, below Vernal Falls, and pit toilets are at the top of Nevada Falls. Once you pass Nevada Falls, hold it or get comfortable with nature (or take a mini detour to the Little Yosemite campground where there are more pit toilets).

Start as early as you can. In fact, if I did it again as a day hike, I’d probably start around 2 or 3 in the morning. The trail is very well marked, particularly so at the start of the trail, so you can get good distance in before you would need to look for cues (footprints – get low, but not Trump low – and look for footprints on the path). I write this having hiked a significant portion in the dark on a moonless night (literally on a new moon).

Gloves! When you get to the cables, use gloves! Whatever you do, do not use leather or suede gloves, and absolutely stay away from fingerless gloves. I bought these gloves at Home Depot for under $5. They off gassed like crazy but they were like fly paper on those cables. On my way down the cables I encountered a woman wearing fingerless gloves and her fingers were getting torn up. We were near the bottom, and I offered a trade to her. She didn’t put up any argument. We swapped and even the short distance I had to go down with the fingerless gloves, my fingers were red, raw, and quite sore. You want something that covers the entirety of your hands and that is going to hold tight to those cables. There was a big pile of discarded gloves past hikers “donated” to the common good, but I read urban legends of rodents occasionally using that pile for beds. Yosemite is currently in a plague situation so if you must, you must, but if you can plan, plan to bring ridiculously grippy gloves. You’ll be glad to have them.

gloves for half dome cables

Layer! Bring a light layer. When you are hiking, you will be warm. The climb is consistently up an incline with some significant switchback action in some portions, mainly Mist Trail’s Vernal Falls stairs, switchbacks up to Nevada Falls, and the entirety of Sub Dome come to blistering mind. But, one you get to the top of Sub Dome, you’ll start to cool off. If you want to enjoy your well earned and deserved time up top of Half Dome, you’ll want a layer. You’ll also appreciate the layer if you are descending in the late afternoon and will be hiking down in the dark. Bring an extra pair of socks, too. Your toes will love you (and may be great intermediaries and character references for you between your knees and you afterwards).

Compression socks. The night after, consider sleeping in compression socks to help reduce swelling and soreness. I wore mine a couple nights afterwards while sleeping and whereas I tend to swell up after long hikes, I had much less swelling than I did following this summer’s Havasupai hike.

Have good shoes. Those Vernal Falls steps. Yes, eventually… eventually… as with all seemingly unending torturous things, will end. You can save your knees a lot of pain and take the longer John Muir Trail – which is still remarkably lovely and will give you gorgeous views – and bypass the Nevada Falls switchbacks and the Vernal Falls stairs. The Vernal Falls stairs on Mist Trail will be slippery depending on time of day and year. Make sure your shoes, in general, have really good traction. You’re really going to want to have ridiculously grippy shoes when you get to those cables.

On the subject of safety…. 

A climbing harness. So, I’m going to pull out my soapbox. Do you wear a seat belt when riding in a car? Maybe not, but you should. You should also seriously consider a harness for the cables. The way I see it is if I wear a helmet when I ride a bike, when I ride a horse, if I SCUBA dive with a backup regulator (which I NEEDED to use along a reef wall in Belize), if I wear a life vest when water skiing, why would I not use a climbing harness when climbing 400 feet up a very, very, very steep, smooth, granite rock face? I had one person on the trail actually try to dissuade me from using my harness, telling me it would slow me down and wouldn’t stop me from sliding down the cable to the lower pole, blah blah blah…. I have health, car, renters, home owner, life, and pet insurance, so it’s safe to say I’m a safety girl. SO much a safety girl. I’m so glad I had the harness and double carabiners to clip over the cables (some people suggest a via ferrata harness but I borrowed my friend’s climbing harness and she helped me fashion a sufficient setup that included two carabiners so I was always secured to a cable, even when transferring cable poles. My harness did not slow me down any more than my own anxiety did. Looking back, I can remember how skeeved out the exposure effects got me. I don’t like heights. And knowing I was secured to those cables was good for me and for everyone else on those cables with me. So consider what your limits are and what you are going to need to be confident and safe. Not only for your own well being but for the other climbers, too. I was not the only one I saw with a harness set up, either.

Do not attempt in inclement weather. If you see storm clouds in the sky coming in, if it is raining, don’t attempt the summit. Half Dome is one gigantic lightening rod. Granite is insanely slippery when it is wet. Most of the deaths on Half Dome are directly attributed to lightening strikes and falling off the cables from slipping on the wet granite.

Water. Water. Water. Plan to carry at least three liters of water with you, and plan to drink at least five liters. You can get potable water in two places along the trail, but the last place where you will be able to refill your water on the way up (and the first place on your way down) is at the bathroom stop at the bridge right before Vernal Falls. From Vernal Falls, you’re looking at about 12 miles, round trip, without access to potable water. Hydrate good and well before the hike and on your way up to Vernal Falls, refill at Vernal Falls, and refill on your way down upon return to Vernal Falls footbridge. If you have a filtration and treatment setup, you can get water from the Merced River, but unless you actually want to give yourself giardia – and I can think of better ways to lose a few pounds – don’t attempt to drink untreated water from that river.

Snacks. You’re going to burn through a lot of calories. Have plenty of snacks to eat during the hike. If possible consider having a carb heavy supper, similar to you would if running a half or full marathon. Also, treat yourself to something excellent to celebrate up top. I had a mini container of champagne and a tiny charcuterie and a supremely dark chocolate bar. Unfortunately, I was not feeling well, so decided to save the champagne to celebrate back on level land.

Aside from these tips, remember to pack out everything out, and remember to have sooooo much fun! I swore I would never hike Half Dome again, but three weeks later, I’m already wanting to go back! With proper planning and preparation, your Half Dome hike can be enjoyable, surpass your expectations, and deliver an amazing experience shared with your companion or savored solo, like me!

Let’s hear from you! I provided a list of tips to do, but I also have a near calamitous list of what not to do. What are your questions of Half Dome? What else would you add for recommendations to others seeking to capture this experience? Please comment below and share. 🙂

Hiking Half Dome