I'm hoping to tackle Half Dome in Yosemite National Park this year ... any suggestions on best time to hike, things to take, places to say or things to avoid?
Hey, good for you! Hiking Half Dome was one of the most unforgettable, amazing hikes I have ever done in my life. It really is best to begin it EARLY in the morning during the late spring - summer months, since it will take all day (no matter how in shape you are) and you can't hike it until cables are installed on the granite (these are how you get to the top). Also, you are required to obtain a permit to hike - you can apply in advance during the month of March online. The park only lets a certain amount of hikers on the trail each day, so it's important to reserve your hike.
If you're camping, try to reserve a site near Yosemite Village - again, a reservation should be made as early as possible because sites fill up fast months in advance. I stayed at Lower Pines Campground, which I think was a really nice place to crash in a tent but I was honestly so tired and achy I barely remember. There's also lodging right around there (The Majestic Hotel, which is super pricey, and Half Dome Village) . There's backcountry camping, too, but you will need a permit.
Bring all the stuff you would generally bring when exposed to the elements: sunscreen, a hat, a light rain jacket, a small first aid kit and plenty of water (as much as you can carry - I carried 3 liters in my CamelBak and drank it all). Some people bring gloves for climbing the cables on the rock and a flashlight is a good idea if you start to lose daylight. Bring lots of lightweight, high nutrition (energy bars, trail mix, fruit) because you will need the fuel - the hike is seriously strenuous and long. It is also spectacular and SO worth it!
Wow! Great feedback @Shannon Savage!