North Dome is something of a hidden gem in Yosemite National Park, offering unrivaled views of Half Dome at a level height only 1.5 miles across Yosemite Valley that are accessible within a day's hike from the valley floor. North Dome may be approached via Yosemite Falls (described here), Snow Creek (also in Yosemite Valley), Porcupine Flat (on Tioga Road), or fifth-class climbing up the face of the dome. The Porcupine Flat approach is the shortest and flattest of the three, but it is accessible only when Tioga Road is open for overnight parking. A wilderness permit must be obtained for overnight trips.
The approach to North Dome from Yosemite Falls is straightforward, if grueling. Climb the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail out of Camp 4 to the summit of the falls and on to Yosemite Point for expansive views of the valley. Nearly all other hikers turn around here and return to the valley floor. To reach North Dome, however, continue east along the north rim trail for an additional 3 miles to the base of North Dome. Numerous dispersed camping sites are available along this trail whenever your party decides to quit for the day. However, it is recommended to press all the way to North Dome, as there are a few premium camping spots right at the base of the dome with simply unbelievable views of Half Dome. Water is available in creeks along the hike and sometimes in pools of rain water or snow melt on the dome itself.
Half Dome is in view for most of the hike but disappears after Yosemite Point as the trail turns away from the valley. The rolling ridges on the final approach to North Dome, though, eventually reveal Half Dome once again with a magnificence that cannot be imagined before experiencing. Finding yourself suddenly level with the huge monolith and only a short distance away gives a perspective and sense of scale that is not perceivable from the valley floor. It is a big reveal that will take your breath away.
Return either the same way you came or continue on to the Snow Creek trail to return to the valley floor and take a shuttle back to Camp 4, reveling in the rare gem you have just experienced.