Yosemite National Parks Half Dome

Even With Reduced Permits, Hiking Yosemite’s Half Dome Just as Dangerous

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Yosemite National Parks Half Dome

Yosemite National Parks Half Dome

Susanne J Spano MD, FACEP, FAWM
Associate Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine
Director, Wilderness Medicine Fellowship
UCSF Fresno
Medical Director
Department of Continuing Medical Education, Community Medical Centers
Fresno, CA

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome is a popular day hike and climbing area, and to improve safety, a lottery to issue permits to visitors to hike up the dome was started in 2010.

While the permits lowered the number of hikers in the area by 66 percent, it made hiking the region no less dangerous.  

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Trailhead quotas are often used in national parks to limit the number of visitors and provide opportunities for solitude, but it’s less common for permit policies to be created in order to protect the health of hikers and backpackers. If people are getting hurt, it’s important to figure out why. Limiting day-hiking access to only a few hundred people may not be the best strategy for the public, or the park, unless preventing resource degradation is the key objective of a permit intervention.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Yosemite, like several other national parks, has recently experienced rising numbers of tourists and increasing popularity. If people are getting hurt, it’s important to figure out why, but the optimal experimental design to get at this question is not currently evident. Expanding the data set to a larger scope than the summit of Half Dome, especially very popular hiking areas in the same park, might identify “low risk” trails. Appreciative inquiry of low risk areas might provide more useful information than drilling down on features of “higher risk” areas.


Impact of a Half Dome Cable Permitting Process on Search and Rescue Activity, Hiker Mortality Rates, and Operational Costs Above Little Yosemite Valley
Susanne JSpanoMD1John ASeymerBS2Desiree HCraneDO1Paul SAuerbachMD, MS3

Wilderness & Environmental Medicine
Volume 30, Issue 2, June 2019, Pages 113-120

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Last Updated on June 27, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD