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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Clouds Rest, CA

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Guide 16 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List CA > Sierra Nevada
5 of 5 by 7
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 13 miles
Trailhead Elevation 8,168 feet
Elevation Gain 1,637 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,214 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 7 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 29.07
Interest Seasonal Creek & Peak
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Dogs not allowed
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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22  2019-05-22
Yosemite Mist Trail- Clouds Rest- Merced River
12  2017-09-09 trekkin_gecko
15  2017-09-09 Tortoise_Hiker
5  2016-06-20 DallinW
39  2016-06-08 uphill_junkie
28  2016-05-29 Lucyan
6  2015-09-19 Crzy4AZ
25  2014-06-11
Yosemite - Tenaya Lake to Happy Isles
Page 1,  2
Author John9L
author avatar Guides 6
Routes 170
Photos 4,848
Trips 1,619 map ( 11,024 miles )
Age Male Gender
Location Scottsdale, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jul, Aug, Sep, Jun → 8 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Autumn
Sun  5:42am - 6:01pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Walk among the Clouds
by John9L

Likely In-Season!
The Clouds Rest Trail is one of the premier hikes in Yosemite that does not get the crowds you'll find on Half Dome. This is an excellent alternative if permits are not available for Half Dome. The trail starts on the southwest side of Tenaya Lake at the Sunrise Trailhead. There is a fair amount of parking available. You can also park along Tioga Road. Bear Storage Lockers are available at the Trailhead as well. Don't leave any scented items in your car or it will be at risk to a bear. They are known for breaking into cars.

The trail starts off on pavement but turns to dirt soon after. You'll cross a creek and continue on relatively flat ground. The first mile meanders into the forest. You'll be treated to a magnificent view of Clouds Rest a little less than a mile into the hike. Continue on and the trail will start heading uphill. This portion is the longest climb of the hike. It's good to get it out of the way early. As you make your way up the switchbacks you'll be treated to nice views to the north of Mount Hoffman. Also keep your eye out for Yellow Bellied Marmots. I saw four of them throughout this hike.

At the 2.5 mile mark, the trail reaches a saddle where you come to a signed trail junction. The Sunrise High Sierra Camp heads to the east. Continue straight for Clouds Rest. The trail immediately starts descending downhill and continues for roughly a half mile. Things level off and you'll eventually come to a small pond. This is your best opportunity for treating water. This is also a good area to camp. The trail continues through the forest with limited views.

You reach the next junction at the 4.5 mile mark. This is a signed junction as well but there is no mention of Clouds Rest. A trail takes off to the left and leads to Little Yosemite Valley. You'll need to continue heading straight. As you proceed the trail starts to gain elevation again. Keep in mind your hiking at roughly 9,000 feet so you might find yourself winded. Take a moment to catch your breath and continue when you're ready. Your almost there!

The last stretch involves a mixture of flat hiking and uphill. You'll have some brief glances of the summit as you near. Finally you emerge from the forest and can see the final climb. The climb to the top follows a granite staircase. There is no set "trail". Just head up whatever route you choose. There is a drop on both sides but I never felt any anxiety along this stretch. There was a light wind blowing. Strong winds will make this stretch a little dangerous. After a few minutes you'll reach the summit and are greeted with 360 degree views of Yosemite. Half Dome lies below you to the west. You look down on the cable route. The Clark Range lies to the south. You're starting point, Tenaya Lake, lies to the west. Mount Hoffman lies to the north.

After you have your fill on the summit, return the way you came. You can also continue hiking west. This will lead you to the Half Dome trail. You can summit Half Dome (Permit Required) or head for Yosemite Valley. Whatever route you choose will be rewarding. After completing the hike, you'll look at Clouds Rest in a different light.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2012-07-15 John9L
  • Yosemite Campgrounds
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    Yosemite Campgrounds
  • Yosemite Park Map
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    Yosemite Park Map
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Clouds Rest
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one of the two main hikes denny picked out for the trip
off to a shaky start when i couldn't find any place open for coffee coming up from mammoth lakes
took a chance and drove into tuolomne meadows lodge, which wasn't open yet
knocked on the window, scaring the lady inside
she was kind enough to get me a cup of coffee, best one of the trip and free :)
order restored, we drove on to sunrise trailhead
met up with fletch and mike, who are on a two week climbing trip
got going around 0650, with fletch setting a solid pace
a gradual first mile, then a series of switchback at a steeper grade
this trail links up with several others along the way, leading off to sunrise lake or half dome
moderate grade through beautiful forest
eventually came to a cool granite ridgeline with steep drops and awesome views to either side
we spent quite a bit of time on the summit
only two people there when we arrived
took pics, checked out landmarks, snacked and noticed how much smoke was in the valley
eventually descended and took a little side trip to tenaya lake just before finishing
lots of hikers and backpackers heading up as we went down
glad we got an early start
fun to meet up with my climbing partners for this one
a very enjoyable classic hike with good company
Clouds Rest
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Wow - unfreakingbelievable - the view from the top. The nervousness along the fin at the top.

Chumley said the drive is worth it -- doubted him big time hung over leaving Mariposa at like 4 in the morning before any coffee places were open. And man oh man was he right! This was nothing short of spectacular. Trudging up and up and up and up and up. Shedding layers then adding layers.

Lunch on the narrow fin at the top. I called Caroline on her watch phone from the top - told her to make the grandparents google Cloud's Rest to show her where we were. No internet but I had phone. She was focused on issues with fairness and George - kind of hilarious juxtaposition - but she understood that we were up in the clouds and almost where airplanes fly.

She asked if I could bring a piece of a cloud home for her....

Don't I wish
Clouds Rest
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I once again was fortunate enough to be included in a Chumley adventure; these consistently include tons of laughs, beautiful landscapes and always end with great food!! I was excited to be part of this group before we even left!!

Typically, "Hunter" Chum will bring one beautiful girl along for our journeys. This time he upgraded and brought two...Now if I could only convince him to drop 9L and Boots and make it four!!! :PMIC:

The group of 5 picked me up in Kingman in a spiffy new Town & Country Van rented for the distinct purpose of comfort, efficiency and Sirius Sex Talk radio. I met Clair and Liz, who politely said hello and after getting gas, we hit the road for Vegas where I had setup the group with a delightful, air-conditioned home to sleep in that night. The next morning, after free coffee and protein shakes we once again hit the road for Yosemite.

The real adventure started with demonstrations of Liz's great willpower along with Chumley's Parnelli like driving skills as we sped through the twisty passes to Big Pines, California - it was either have an accident IN the van...our OUTSIDE the van. After those crazy movements (pun intended) we grabbed Subways while Claire took over driving doo-ty until we reached Lee Vining :scared: (nuff said about that).

Ben(foot) (Liz'es friend) meet us in the Park and we were soon prepping up at the Sunrise trailhead near Teneya Lake. I was very, very excited to be back in Yosemite as the trip the year before was just so freakin' fantastic!!! However, this joy quickly dissipated as the mosquitos completely annihilated me along the watery Cloud's Rest Trail!! I'll bet I had 30-40 bites that first day alone - filtering water was like sitting in a Red Cross Bloodmobile. It was truly my first experience with BAD mosquitos and I was ill prepared with NO long hiking pants and "all natural" non-DEET spray. Much to Chumley's delight, I wore my sexy black tights and survived the next two days by covering up. (and I hardly griped at all, right guys?)

That next morning as I mercifully scratched within my tent - I counted mosquitos on the outside mesh (15 at one point) and dreaded the thought of my early morning regularity. After quickly getting ready for the day and with fresh bites on the buttocks, we started off for the summit of Cloud's Rest. The 360 views at the top of this peak are the best I've seen in my two trips to Yosemite!!! Before descending, Chumley presented us with the Quarter Domes off-trail option before setting up at Sunrise Creeks for our second night. Kyle, John and I quickly were on board!!! It was well worth the extra bit of effort to reach these tremendous vantage points!! Highly recommend!

On the return from Quarterdomes, Chumley [pulled a BobP and] completely disappeared (to look for Liz & Ben I think) leaving John, Kyle and I to find the trail and campsite....Chum and I had previously mentioned using the same sweet camp-spot as the year before and we soon reunited with everyone at that location!!

This site once again did not disappoint! Located on top of a small hill near the creek, a gentle breeze blew hard enough to keep us cool and helped with the skeeters (which THANKFULLY were not as thick). We also were entertained by 3 doe nibbling around the bushes within our site. It was pretty awesome. Other wildlife included a pesky squirrel who swiped my empty snickers wrapper, forcing me to chase him down 20 yards or so in order to retrieve (LNT) When he came back for seconds, he was very unwelcomed and I darn near nailed it with a stone; I had every intention of skinning and roasting squirrel for dinner that night!

The second evening was filled with another campfire and more laughs, but with much less beer...(Chums did come through with his patented Kool-Aid libation) Two other small groups decided to setup camp near me that evening; staying up later than me of course and causing a restless night (ear plugs will now be staple on my list). Chumley woke me up at 3am for our night climb of Half Dome hike (my next trip-log).
Clouds Rest
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Yosemite - Tenaya Lake to Happy Isle
After a very long commute the six of us started hiking the Clouds Rest Trail around mid-afternoon. The going was very easy with the solid hill climb roughly a mile in. After that the trail levels off and we made our way to our preplanned campsite roughly a mile below Clouds Rest. We arrived at camp and found the mosquitos to be extremely annoying. We got settled as we set up camp and then started a fire. The mosquitoes tapered off soon after. The temps got chilly that night but were tolerable.

We woke on day two and took our time in camp. We eventually headed out and made our way to the summit of Clouds Rest. I agree with Chumley it’s one of the best views in Yosemite! We spent a solid hour up there admiring the sights and eating some lunch. From there we followed the trail down the west side of Clouds Rest. Along the way we detoured over to Quarter Domes which had more amazing views! After that we hiked down to Sunrise Creek and set up our second night’s camp. The plan was to wake early and head for Half Dome under the full moon.

I got to sleep around 10pm and had a hard time falling asleep. I eventually fell asleep and then heard the group starting to stir around 3am. I’ll be honest I did not want to get out of bed. I was warm and comfy and wanted sleep. Chumley unsuccessfully tried to get me out of bed. After a few minutes Liz came over and talked about regretting this opportunity. I knew she was right and I got up soon after. The group then headed out and I was a few minutes behind. The time was roughly 3:15am. I’ve never hiked this early in the morning. The going was slow at first as I slowly woke up. As I hiked I felt the adrenaline start to kick in and my pace sped up. I reached the group and continued on up toward Half Dome. It was very cold out but I was soaking wet with sweat. I had to stop at one point to remove my Smartwool base layer. I continued up and had to use my headlamp because the trail winds through the trees. The moonlight wasn’t much help. I eventually hit Subdome and took my time hiking up. This was my third time on Half Dome and I knew exactly what to expect.

I found myself at the base of the cables around 4:25am. I thought I should be in bed! Anyways I originally planned on waiting for the others. I looked back and no one was to be found. I started to get cold standing still and more adrenaline kicked in so I started climbing the cables. I had to use my headlamp because the moon was out of sight on the west side of Half Dome. I took my time as I climbed from plank to plank and took numerous short breaks. I would look back during these breaks to see a truly magnificent sight behind me. Clouds Rest and eastern Yosemite was lit up with moonlight. And then there were roughly a dozen headlamps making their way towards Half Dome. It was a magnificent sight that I will never forget!

After about 15 minutes of climbing I reached the summit and found I was the only one up there. It was a little tough to enjoy because it’s 4:40 in the morning and its windy & freezing cold. I had a short walk around and waited for the others to join me. I took a few pics but they didn’t come out too well. After that Larry and Kyle summited and then Liz & Chumley followed soon after. The sky slowly lit up as the sun started to rise. After roughly an hour Kyle, Liz and I started the climb down the cables. By this time it was light out and people were making their way up. We took our time as we went down and all of us were glad to be back on Subdome. From there the three of us hiked back down to Sunrise Creek and went back to sleep. This was a hell of an experience and I’m grateful to Liz for motivating me to get out of bed! Thanks Liz!

After a very slow morning our group started the hike to the valley floor via the Mist Trail. We took a break near the top of Nevada Falls and then fought our way down to the Happy Isles Trailhead. There were lots of people out as it was mid-afternoon. Once back in the valley we went over to Curry Village where we met Claire near the bus stop. We all regrouped for pizza and a much needed shower. Our first trip was over. The plan was to spend the night in the Backpackers Campground and then head to the Ten Lakes Basin the next day.
Clouds Rest
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Yosemite - Tenaya Lake to Happy Isles
This was a very leisurely and relaxing two night trip from Tenaya Lake (Sunrise TH) to Happy Isles. We camped a mile below Clouds Rest the first night after getting started in mid-afternoon. I did an evening summit of Clouds Rest while the others stayed in camp. The next morning we all summited Clouds Rest together, which is perhaps the most scenic spot in the entirety of Yosemite National Park. From there we descended to Sunrise Creek, taking an off-trail route that brought us out to the spectacular views of Quarter Domes.

That night we camped near the creek, and got up to summit Half Dome at night under the full moon (separate triplog). Friday morning after a short nap, we made the final descent into the valley, enjoying the constant flow of the Merced River, but irritated by the crowds of people.

Pizza and showers in Curry Village followed by a bear-filled night at the backpackers camp in the valley completed this trip before we headed out on another Saturday morning.
Clouds Rest
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Yosemite - Tenaya Lake to Happy Isles
This was the first of two fantastic backpacks that Chumley put together for us:

We got to Yosemite early Wednesday afternoon and headed out of Tenaya Lake. It was a short and easy first day to our campsite below Cloud's Rest. We had a creek flowing near by so water was easy. Mosquitoes on the other hand were out of control-- 100% DEET was necessary.

We woke up the second day and headed to Cloud's Rest. Its not long before the views start opening up and its worth every step of the climb. We all headed up at our own pace and 9L was nice enough to let me summit first since I'd never been up there before. Amazing views-- absolutely amazing. We all snapped tons of photos and spent a good amount of time up there. We then headed down the other side which is even better than going up the other way. Chumley wanted to head off trail and check out Quarter Domes so we hit those on the way down. We found the loosest and steepest way to get there but their views were worth every shaky step. We then headed to Sunrise Creek where we would camp the second night.

At Sunrise Creek the deer were plentiful and didn't seem to be scared of people at all. We went to bed early to prepare for the most anticipated part of our trip-- a full moon summit of Half Dome. I woke up at about 2:30 am and waited to hear others stirring. Chumley forced everyone up. 9L decided he didn't want to wake up and Liz had to coax him out of his tent. We headed off as 9L finally dragged himself out of his tent but of course he soon overtook us all. We reached the intersection with the Half Dome trail and met another headlamped group who had the same idea as us. Chumley and Liz brought up the rear as Liz is nursing an injury, 9L of course was in front and out of sight, and Larry and I stuck together in the middle. Making it up Sub-Dome is steep but I think the dark made it easier. I hadn't really done any research and had no idea how the approach to Half Dome would be so I just chugged along until the climbing ended. On top of Sub-Dome, we could see 9L's headlamp ascend the cables.

We made it to the cables and it's as crazy steep as it looks. There are a pile of gloves that people leave but I put mine on and headed up behind Larry. I should have grabbed a pair of work gloves from the bottom because as the cables got steeper, my gloves started slipping. I had a little moment of panic about a third of the way up. In the dark, all I could see was Larry's headlamp which appeared to be directly above me. There was no end in sight. I calmed myself down and decided to power through. I finally made it to the cold and windy top. We had the summit all to ourselves for a little while which I think is a rare thing on Half Dome. Chumley and Liz then made the summit and other night hikers started trickling up the cables. The sun began to rise and it was time to brave the cables again and head down. Nervous at first, I quickly found a comfortable method to maneuver down. As people were heading up, it became mildly amusing to see the look of fear on their faces as we passed. Needless to say, I was really happy to be done with the cables. We headed back to camp and tried to get a couple hours of sleep before heading out.

On day three, the plan was to head into Yosemite Valley and finish via the Mist Trail. It was a nice easy hike and quite pleasant until you start hitting the crowds at the top of Nevada Falls. From there down it gets more and more crowded. After making it through a bottleneck of people at Vernal Falls, I was done. I shot down the rest of the trail as fast as possible. Its a beautiful hike but the people kind of ruined for me.

We all met up in Curry Village where our friend Claire was waiting for us with the rental van and we could all enjoy pizza, beer, and showers. We camped that night at the backpackers' campground. Soon after going to sleep, the camp was under siege by bears for about an hour. Every time I was about to fall asleep, I would be woken by a camper yelling. The final time was Liz-- I sat up and could see the shadow of a bear cast by the moon against my tent. Things then quickly settled down.
Clouds Rest
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This hike was my number one goal for this trip. I've been up Half Dome before and couldn't help but notice Clouds Rest looming above in the distance. I decided to make a day trip from Bishop where I was staying with my GF's at her Aunt and Uncle's house.

I left the house around 6:15am and the made the hour drive north to Lee Vining. From Lee Vining it was another 30+ minutes to the Sunrise Lakes trailhead that sits on the southwest side of Tenaya Lake. I parked and hit the trail around 8am.

The first mile is a fairly level hike through the forest. There are a few nice views and one epic view of Clouds Rest. It looks like it's a hundred miles away! I continued on and the trail starts climbing for the next 1.5 miles. My pace slowed as I worked my way up the switchbacks. Along the hike I saw several Yellow Bellied Marmots. I love the little guys! I took some photos of them and kept ascending the trail.

At the 2.5 mile mark I arrived at a saddle and the junction for the Sunrise High Sierra Camp heading the left. I continued straight for Clouds Rest. The trails in Yosemite are well marked for the most part...more to come. After the junction the trail drops down as you continue hiking in the forest. There are some spectacular views along the way and I was constantly taking pics. After a mile or so I arrived at a small lake with some nice campsites. I kept going.

At the 4.5 mile mark I came to another junction that was a little confusing. I knew from my map that Clouds Rest was straight ahead. There was a trail taking off to the left for Little Yosemite Valley. The funny thing is the sign to continue straight said nothing about Clouds Rest. It mentioned Nevada Falls and Yosemite Valley. I knew it was the way so I went ahead.

The trail started gaining elevation and sporadic views open up. After some hiking I caught a solid glimpse of Clouds Rest. It looks a lot different from the east. It looks a little intimidating like the first time I hiked to the top of Half Dome. I knew this was going to be fun! I kept going and the trail levels off as you near the final ascent. At this point I was around the 6.5 mile mark and I've only seen a handful of hikers. I finally caught some backpackers and a solo hiker who were also heading to Clouds Rest. I said hello in passing and starting feeling the adrenaline for the final climb.

I came out of the forest and could see the final climb before me to the summit of Clouds Rest. For some reason the thought "Stairway to Heaven" came into my head. The route to the summit looks like a perfect staircase. I was a little concerned about the wind but it was mild as I ascended the granite staircase. The going was very easy and there is some mild exposure. After a few minutes I arrived at the top and peered down on Half Dome and Yosemite Valley. I was in awe! Half Dome looks small. After all, Clouds Rest is over 1,000 feet higher. From the summit you have 360 degree views in all directions. Half Dome and Yosemite Valley to the west. Mount Hoffman and Tuolumne Peaks to the north. Tenaya Lake to the east. The Clark Range to the south. I could go on and on.

While I was admiring the view, the solo hiker arrived at the summit and we struck up a conversation. Up until this point, I was the only one on the summit. She was from Boston and was in San Francisco for a wedding and was spending the day in Yosemite. We had a great conversation and ended up hiking back to the trailhead together. It was nice sharing an experience like Clouds Rest with a total stranger. I got back to the car and we said our goodbyes and then I returned to Bishop.

This was an epic hike I will never forget! Clouds Rest needs to be on everyone's Yosemite top five. If permits are not available for Half Dome, check out Clouds Rest. The views are better and the hiking is excellent!

Permit $$

Yosemite National Park
Entrance Fees
Wilderness Permit
Half Dome Permit - Currently required 7 days a week. Check the link for the most up to date information.

2014 - 300 permits issued daily, 225 for dayhikers.
2013 - 400 permits issued daily, 300 for dayhikers.

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
From Fresno, follow the 41 north into Yosemite National Park. Continue heading north and turn right on Big Oak Flat Road and follow for roughly 10 miles. Turn right on Tioga Rd CA-120 and follow for 31 miles to Sunrise Trailhead on the southwest corner of Tenaya Lake. Note the Tioga Rd is open seasonally during the summer. Check current conditions before making the trip.
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