Clouds Rest from Yosemite Valley
Bill Wiley · Oakville, Canada · September 11, 2013
Just a couple of weeks ago was my first visit to Yosemite and I was determined to hike to Clouds Rest from the valley floor. While I thought my conditioning and spirit would get me there, I fell short by 4 miles. The heat was overwhelming and I was exhausted to my limit, which has never happened to me before.
I took the Happy Isles trail and stayed right as soon as I saw a sign for Clouds Rest. This route (John Muir trail) is 1.5 miles longer than going left on the Mist Trail, which I didn't know at the time, but it's less aggressive vertically. On my descent I chose to take the Mist Trail, which has a lot of steep stone stairs that pounded the heck out of my knees. I must note that I'm an active 52 year old and my knees have never been a problem, but by the time I got 1-2 miles from the valley floor, my left knee was threatening to give out.
I'm going back in a couple of weeks, as determined as ever, to conquer this hike but I've learned a thing or two that will help. #1, give myself more time and start at 5:30am. Be sure to stop frequently for rests early on even though you don't feel you need them...you do! #2, do a better job conditioning myself before the trip. This is not an easy or moderately easy hike, especially from Yosemite Valley, and that's what will make it so rewarding to complete. #3. take the steeper and shorter Mist Trail (stay left at the first sign which points to Clouds Rest as being to the right) and take the longer John Muir trail on my descent. It be a lot easier on my knees. #4 get a better hiking shoe. Something light but with a harder sole and better cushioning. #5. get a water purifying system because you will need to fill up from a stream.
To sum up: Do extra conditioning to be prepared and Mist Trail up, John Muir Trail down.
Not as hard as I thought.
Dan · Los Angeles · August 4, 2013
I just got back from finally hiking Cloud's Rest (8/3/13) After studying this website's description of the trail and other reviews, I made it to Sunrise parking lot at 7:30AM and found parking across the street. BTW I am a 45 y.o. male and the last strenuous Yosemite hike I did was the last time I hiked Half Dome 10 years ago. I was mentally prepared for the granite stairs 1000 ft in one mile, and the narrow ridge, so I took off. If you prepare for the big wall of switchbacks, no prob. Beautiful view from the top of the peak, the narrow ridge wasn't that bad, the only bummer was all of the smoke in the valley. Very hard to see even Half Dome. The hike took me 7 1/2 hrs with 30+ minutes on top and I'll do it again as it was not that hard! Just watch out for the trail signs at the second trail junction up the mountain that DON'T MENTION CLOUDS REST! Do NOT take the trail to the left! (Actually I noticed that someone etched into the sign on the right with a rock the words "clouds rest" with an arrow, so that should help.)
I found a time machine!
Jim · Berkeley · August 2, 2013
I did the Half Dome hike in 1964 and saw maybe a couple dozen people the whole day. A couple of years ago went again (I think the last year before the permit system) but turned around when we saw the horde at the cable, barely moving. This year we went on this hike and in terms of the (non) crowd it was as if I had been transported back to 1964.
I won't repeat the glowing reviews, just add a couple of suggestions.
Start early so you're going up in the cool of the day
As everyone says, plenty of water
Parts are pretty rocky, so boots beat tennis shoes
Bring poles, particularly if, like me, your joints aren't what they used to be. I didn't and wished I had.
As to the fear factor, unlike others I found the Clouds Rest ridge more intimidating than my recollection of the HD cables. But that might just be the difference between being 16 and 64.
Clouds Rest Rocks!
Alan Banning · United States · July 30, 2013
Great description of a beautiful hike. I took the Lake Tenaya to Clouds Rest route and I loved every mile. You described the trail perfectly. Thank you.
No matter how you get there, get there!
Mike Wellington · New Hampshire · January 12, 2013
Did this hike in 2011 with my wife and again in 2012 with my family (70 year old in-laws and kids ages 12, 16, 18). 2011 saw us starting at Happy Isles and hiking up through Little Yosemite Valley where we dropped our tent and cooking equipment and on up to Clouds rest. We saw 2 rattle snakes in the trail right after the half dome trail junction. The views from Clouds rest are the best with a close second being Yosemite point (we had done that hike 2 days earlier). On top we met a group of hikers that had come up from Tenaya lake. One woman had vertigo after going across the ridge. She went down the horse trail around the peak. Got back to LYV to find a Rattle snake going through our camp. Long day but great. We planned on catching sunrise on half dome the next day but were turned back by rangers sleeping in the trail before the sub dome as someone had fallen off the top the evening before. 2012 was great to bring the family to the top. Great day! We went at a manageable pace with an early start. Stayed on the top for over an hour. Got back to the car and had time to stop for a fish taco at the Exxon station in Lee Vining. Doesn't matter what route you take. you should bag this hike!
Every Rose has its Thorns
mrblister · Nebraska · September 21, 2012
Did this from Happy Isles the day after a 23 mile hike, so you know where this is going....
Summit is as advertised. 360 degree view, including the bald head of Half Dome, makes this a great peak to bag. Rocky and narrow, with chilling dropoffs on either side, the summit ridge is no place for wimps like me. Throw in the 9900+ foot elevation, and this can be a slightly hostile place. And, I didn't want to leave.
Now....about the trail. If you are considering doing Clouds Rest from the floor, with less than a full tank of energy, don't. Above the Half Dome junction, scenery is less than breathtaking, even as the increasing elevation makes the scenery breathtaking. Rest stops will become more and more frequent, while snails, glaciers and Notre Dame running backs pass you by. I met 3 hikers on the way up and zero on the way down.
I give this hike full marks; a place like this SHOULD be tough to get to. Next time, I'm starting at Tenaya Lake, before the last brain cell goes pffffffffffft.
Most beautiful day hike ever
Kat · Pittsburgh, PA · August 21, 2012
This is an amazing hike -- we didn't quite make it to the summit due to a rapidly-approaching thunderstorm (we turned around on the razor's edge), but we will hopefully be back someday and finish the job! In late August, the stream crossings were not at all problematic -- the water was so low we didn't even get our feet wet. Views are as spectacular as promised, and this guide is accurate as to trail conditions.
Beware the signposting!
Pete · Leicester, UK · July 23, 2012
My son AJ and I set off from Tenaya lake early morning on 16th July 2012 in cool (<60F) conditions and he set a cracking pace as far as the switchbacks, at which point he blew up & I took the lead up to the Sunrise fork; well signed, no problem so a brief rest and drink. Downhill was fine, the next couple of miles went OK then suddenly we were faced with a choice - Yosemite Valley, Nevada Falls, Half Dome to the left - or - Yosemite Valley, Nevada Falls to the right. No easy way to determine the best way to Clouds Rest (still invisible from the woods) but I knew that Half Dome could be reached from Clouds Rest so we took the left-hand path. Wrong! It took nearly a mile to realise that the peak appearing on our right was our objective and that we had to reascend the generally descending path I had chosen. It was obvious as soon as we took the correct (right-hand) path that we were now on the right track, and if I had studied recent trail reviews better I would have been prepared for this, but I think it is reckless of the Parks authority to not mention Clouds Rest at this point (especially when the name is used again within a few hundred yards of the obvious summit). We were not the only party this day to make this mistake.
Anyway, we made it up in 3hrs 10min including 45 mins wasted off-route (so 2hrs 25min if we had not gotten lost) and spent a chilly half hour or so on the summit with the expected wonderful views into The Valley. The summit ridge of solid granite was great but easy and good fun. The descent was uneventful and quicker, getting down to the lake in 2hrs exactly. The Garmin measured 6.4 miles in each direction (when corrected for the mistake) so the total distance is only 12.8 miles if the proper trail is followed. A great viewpoint and a good trail (with marmots!) except for the signposts...
Scary as hell, lovely as heaven
Don, Bill, and Ken Scott · the West · July 12, 2012
We did this hike -- Tenaya Lake to Yosemite Valley -- when Bill and Ken were 12 and 11. 1981. In one day. Thanks to a friend who'd hiked up from the Valley, we had transportation back to the Tenaya Lake Walk-in Campground. We've done a lot of hikes in Yosemite, and we'd all agree that this was the both the most terrifying and most exhilarating hike of them all.
The ridge and the top just scared the hell out of me -- the boys were too young to be scared, so I had to strongly convince them to GET BACK FROM THE EDGE. We survived, but I learned that, yes, I can get vertigo.
But what a beautiful hike. Varied ecosystems, from the lodgepole forest to the Valley oaks. Magnificent views -- I think the view coming down the west side of Clouds Rest must be one of the greatest in the world. You gently switchback down through low ground cover, Half Dome in the distance -- closer all the time. Like a very slow and safe paraglide down, by foot.
That night, dinner was on me. And for the first time, I told the boys, "Eat all you want and everything you want" and they did. Then slept as our friend drove us back to Tenaya.
The next summer, I decided that it was time for them to have a Grand Tour of the US -- but when they heard that, they were upset. Those boys wanted to do that hike again.
A day like that makes a life worthwhile. We'll carry the memories, I'm sure, through whatever comes after this life. Wish I were in good enough shape to do it now. But the point is -- we did it.
Clouds Rest 06-23-12
Philip C · Sacramento,CA · June 23, 2012
We started @ Sunrise trail parking lot on Tioga Road. Weather was great, about 55 degrees at @ 8:15 am, and I don't think it went past 70. First off, I am 43, and not in the best of shape, so this review is for all of you in my shoes.
The first obstacle is the water, about 5 mins in. We were lucky the water was low and we were able to cross over the stones. Then the trail starts a pretty mellow pace, the next stage is the granite stairs and grueling switch backs, for at least a mile all up hill, had to take a few breaks to make it to the top. The views on the way up are awesome and really just tease you for what is yet to come. After the incline, the trail does tend to mellow out, there's the descent to cloud rest trail sign that tested my will, but once I hit the trail head sign, I blasted all the way to the summit. The views were out of this world, and ones that no pictures can ever replace. We stayed for about 30 mins before making our descent. The descent back down was easier, but I will omit the back at the switch backs, I thought they would never end. Total time for this out of shape 43 yrs old novice hiker was 9 hrs round trip. Oh yea my tip, take plenty of cliff-bars and trail mix, I also pretty much went thru my 2.5 liter hydro pack.
Would I do it again..........absolutely
Clouds Rest - Ridge is not scary at all!
Lisa · El Dorado Hills, CA · June 1, 2012
We started our hike to Cloud's Rest from Happy Isles. One very long hike but worth it! It is a much longer hike than Half Dome but the view from the ridge is incredible. I was worried about the ridge but it was a piece of cake.....not scary at all just take your time. This hike is about endurance but well worth the reward when you reach the top!
Clouds Rest to Yosemite Valley
Greg Harris · San Diego, CA · May 26, 2012
My brother Tony, my son Michael and I were dropped off at the trailhead and we hiked up to the top of Clouds Rest then down to Happy Isles. It was a monster - in part because there was still a lot of snow on the ground in some areas and it was a chore getting through it safely - not recommended! But we had been dropped off so basically we had no choice, it was forward or become stranded. Coming off Clouds Rest we lost the trail briefly, but then found it and continued. Amazing view from up there but be careful, that first step down can be bad news if you take it in the wrong direction! Found a guy sleeping up there with no water left - so be sure you bring plenty if you go!
Worth the pain -- The ridge wasn't all that scary
Amela O'Gorman · Michigan · May 20, 2012
I've done a few hikes here in Yosemite and Clouds Rest is definitely an AWESOME day hike. I was surprised that there weren't a lot of hikers on the this trail. There were only about 3 other people on top of Clouds Rest by the time our group summited.
Our trip started at the Sunrise trail parking lot on Tioga Road. It was Spring time (May 19th) and our first obstacle was crossing the lake to continue onto the trail. The water was f-ing cold and it was almost waist high. We continued on the trail for a few miles following footsteps through the snow and eventually we lost the trail for about an hour. We met up with some more hikers after backtracking for a while and decided to team up with them the rest of the way up. It was great because one of the hikers noticed that the trail was marked on the trees (something that we had not noticed). We got to the junction where the trail splits off in two but neither of the trail markers said Clouds Rest. We had to pull out a map and take the trail to the right. We made it to the top and it was a great feeling. The ridge wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. If you can do the Half Dome cables, this should be easy for you.
This hike definitely ranks up on top of my list with Half Dome. The ridge wasn't as scary as the cables of Half Dome but the hike was definitely strenuous. The description of the hike should say "snow shoes optional" because we had to walk though a lot of snow. It was tough going back down because it was very slippery.
Those that are afraid of heights or not in decent shape, should probably seek to do a different hike. You won't make it. I'm 5'4, weigh 125 lbs, exercise 3-4 days a week and this hike was difficult for me. The air was so thin that I was getting winded just walking up a mild incline.
Half Dome's much more difficult sister adventure
Calival · Sunny San Diego · May 8, 2012
Upon attempting for the second year in a row to make it up to Half Dome while also avoiding crowds, my two girlfriends and I began the ascent from Camp Curry's cozy tent cabin cots at 5:15 AM on May 6, 2012. We marveled at the grandiosity of the sunrise as it lit the Vernal and Nevada falls staircases. We felt as if we were fairies or way cuter hobbits on the Stairways to Mordor. ( not sure of the spelling but you get it ) Anyhow, When Crystal looked toward the looming Half Dome which was 4.7 miles behind us and at a much lower elevation, I being the one who had done a year of research and who had planned and prepared us all for the trip (to honor my birthday and to make up for last year's birthday trip to Yosemite when I woke up in tears because I could not feel my legs from the knees down because some time in the night they had been replaced with blocks of molten goo) stated confidently : "Well, it may LOOK like Half Done but it cannot be Half Dome because there are lots of mountain tops in the area which look like that. But it doesn't seem to be the right angle to tunnel view"...so we hiked up and on. And on. And UP...Our stops became more frequent...the switchbacks more switchy, the air much airier...we met some back country campers who gave us the good and bad news. We HAD indeed passed Half Dome and its approach. Our harnesses, our leashes our carabiners and our leather gloves would again wait another year! The good news? We had switched trails and accidentally ended up hiking to Clouds Rest. A way more impressive story for IPA time at the bar later. So we included the treacherous climb up the mist trail, connected with the Muir trail and finished higher and mightier than we had originally set out to accomplish. The entire cable route on Half Dome will still be there next year for my next birthday adventure and next year we can avoid sprained hips, ankles, knees, excessive estrogen and next year we may not be followed out of the trailhead by a small brown hungry bear!!!!
All in all, an excellent, very difficult steep hike littered with wonderful strategically placed acres of mild to moderate hiking for rests betwixt the steep, wet rocky ledges and 45-60* parts which have ALL my parts and pieces screaming today. Everyone agrees, no photograph will ever do Yosemite justice. You HAVE to experience it in person over and over again...bucket list material at its finest.
just as rewarding from the other direction!
Claire · NY · March 24, 2012
My boyfriend and I hiked to Clouds Rest from Happy Isles since Tioga Road was still closed in mid-June last year. Talk about cramming a lot into a day! We got an early start (think 5:30 AM), and we only saw a couple small groups of hikers along the way. We went up the Mist Trail, through Little Yosemite Valley (where we got our first views of Half Dome), and up another 4 miles or so to Clouds Rest. There was still quite a bit of snow on top, but nothing beats looking down at Half Dome from 1,000 feet above. This hike was >20 miles with several thousand feet of vertical rise, so it's not for the out-of-shape. I'm very athletic, but after doing Snow Creek Falls the day before, I was hurting after CR.
But, if Tioga Road is closed, this is an excellent alternative if you don't mind a longer hike!
Great hike, but too much snow in December (unsurprisingly :) )
Igor Z · Orange County · December 25, 2011
I did this hike on December 23, 2011. 90% of the trail was covered with snow, but luckily the last climb was dry and free from any snow and ice. I met no one during the entire hike, which is a nice difference after the crowded Valley trails. However with so much snow it felt like a little too much and took a long time. Hiking poles and a flashlight were a must. Great hike overall; and sitting at the top and looking around was priceless.
Hike of my life
Elaine McLachlan · Glasgow, Scotland · October 6, 2011
I undertook the Tenaya Lake to Clouds Rest hike as my second hike ever(!) while on a hiking holiday in the South West September 2011 (yes I booked it, having never hiked before). It was tough going due to its steep rocky trail and the altitude, but the view points during the ascent boost you to keep going and it is just breathtaking at the summit. This was a huge achievement for me, keeping up with my holiday buddies who were all experienced hikers and I would urge anyone who is reasonably fit to do it - we were lucky and had a clear sunny day and it was out of this world!
It does not get much better than this...
Andrew Senelick · San Diego, California · September 3, 2011
This was my first time hiking Clouds Rest. At the time (depends on when the reader checks this out) I was 56 and a bit overweight. This was the hardest event I had done this year (including three 1/2 marathons in 2011).
Ensure you have a topo map of the area. This helped considerably in a couple of areas where the trail was not marked (or other folks had gone off-trail). Also have plenty of water. I went through a two-liter hydration pack PLUS my extra three 1/2 liter bottles (total of 3.5 liters) and food. This IS NOT easy by any means. There were a lot of people on the trail thinking this would be an easy day hike and they found out different as they were ill prepared... The hike was completed (round trip) in 7.5 hours.
We (my lady's 21-year old daughter and I) started this hike at 8 am with the ambient air temperature being 41 degrees F. Weather wise, fairly clear. But once on the trail, you heat up fast and if there are no clouds, you feel the heat of the sun quickly. In other words, it gets hot out there. I am glad we started fairly early in the day. Folks that started even an hour after us were subjected to major heat, even though it was not over 75 degrees F.
First portion was fairly easy, then came to "part 2" with a gain in elevation of 1000 feet. OY VEH!!! Once we came to the saddle where the trail junctioned, it was back to being easy again. That said once we passed the trail junction, the views were fantastic! Once we got over the hill and through the woods and seriously started for Clouds Rest, the views got better. Once we were at the top we stayed about 45 minutes eating a trail lunch, taking pictures and chatting with other day hikers up there. It took us 3.5 hours to get there. And we were in the vehicle and on our way out of Yosemite by 3:30 pm.
Once we got to the Clouds Rest sign, it looked like a short easy climb to the top. Very deceiving as the rocks hid the rest of the way... BUT at the sign looking back towards Tenaya Lake was beautiful. The 360 view... HOLY SMOKES! WOW! Go there and choose your own adjective!!!
On the way back, any uphill put me to ultra dead slow pacing (old and fat) and more great views that you would not notice on the way up (breathing hard, keeping eyes on trail or whoever is in front for motivation, etc.).
GREAT DAY to be alive and hiking in Yosemite. IF I could figure out a way, I would post photos.
Brandon · Roseville, CA · September 2, 2011
This hike was amazing. The trails are very well maintained. And the payoff is well worth it. You are at one of the highest peaks in the park, you can see everything from here. Don't let the winding stairs at the beginning of the hike stop you. If you can make that it's all down hill from there. (Not Really) but definitely easier.
Clouds Rest - Spectacular
Steve · Fremont, CA · August 29, 2011
This is a "must do" hike for any Yosemi-phile and it provides one of the most dramatic views the park has to offer. It is a 14.4 mile round trip, with about 1,766 feet of elevation gain, so all but the most fit hikers will feel it in their legs and lungs, but the pay-off view at the top is beyond description.
The hike begins at the Sunrise trailhead on Tioga Road and meanders the first mile and half through flat serene meadows. When the switchbacks hit and the climb begins, the work really starts. I started early, around 6:30 AM, on a slightly overcast morning and it didnt feel too harsh. If you pace yourself and stop to enjoy the views of Mount Hoffman and Lake Tenaya and take a few breathers, it really isn't that bad. But if you are not in decent shape or hike it later on a hot day, this section might take its toll. I ran into a few disgruntled travellers on my way down, one of which was alternately vomiting and cursing, convinced that there was no end to the switchbacks and that the summit was a "mirage". In reality it is only a mile or so, but you gain about 1,000 feet in that mile, so it is a decent climb.
Once at the top of the ridge the trail forks. To the left is the Sunrise High Sierra Camp. The Clouds Rest trail is off to the right and immediately descends down into some gorgeous forest. At the right time of year there are wildflowers everywhere. There are also a few ponds and creeks on the way and the mosquitos are both numerous and persistent - every time I stopped to take a photo I was attacked like a human buffet line. The trail continues on through more sparsely forested areas with subtle elevation drops and gains until the final rise to Clouds Rest.
Clouds Rest itself is pure joy. Maybe I am biased because I love Yosemite so much, but I dont think its hyperbole to say that this is one of the most spectacular vistas the known Universe has to offer! The scale of what you are looking at is immense and you get glimpses of so many Yosemite icons - North Dome, Basket Dome, El Capitan. But of course, as is most often the case, Half Dome is the star and her profile from Clouds Rest is striking. Plan on spending at least an hour or so. The views are hard to pry away from and you'll enjoy the rest after the 7 miles you just hiked to get there.
I think the talk of the Clouds Rest footpath being perilous is a little overblown. I am a bit of an acrophobe myself, but I didnt find it intimidating at all. There is plenty of space and it never felt like gravity was tempting me to discover the bottom of Tenaya Canyon. Take your time and watch what you're doing and it is perfectly safe. By the time I was leaving there were probably 40 or so people coming up and down the ridge and there was room to spare.
All in all this is one of Yosemite's premier hikes. It is physically rewarding in that it covers close to 15 miles at alititude (9,926 ft at the top) but the spiritual/emotional experience of sitting on top taking in the 360 degree panorama is something that will never leave you. It is truly a memorable experience. Enjoy!
A lot of fun
SpursFan · San Antonio, Tx · August 15, 2011
You have to do a lot of work getting up those first set of switchbacks to gain the first 1000 feet, but a start around sunrise makes that a lot easier. Make sure to turn around every so often to catch the views of Mount Hoffman and Tuolumne Peak on that ascent. Once you get those switchbacks out of the way the trail becomes dramatically easier. You lose the great views for a while, but pass a cool pond and get in some nice shaded and relatively level forest hiking for a while. As you get near the summit ridge and the trees thin out you get some nice view back north towards Hoffman. Then going up the summit ridge is spectacular. A huge dropoff into Tenaya Canyon on your right that looks like the view from an airplane. Another large dropoff to your left. Turn around and you can see Tenaya Lake 1500 feet below you, as well as Tenaya Peak and Mount Conness. Near the summit you'll get to see Half Dome below eye level, in addition to North Dome, Basket Dome, Glacier Point, and Sentinel Dome. To me the real star of the show is Mount Clark though, to the south. It's the most prominent feature you can see from there (though Conness is quite a bit higher; I don't recall if you can see the giants Maclure and Lyell from there, but if so they'd be a ways away). All in all, it's a hell of a hike if you're not scared of heights. If you are, then it's one to be missed, as the summit ridge can get to about 6 feet wide with huge dropoffs on both sides in parts. I think the author of the page makes the summit ridge sound scarier than it is though; my pants managed to stay dry.
No pain, no gain...
Tak Asami · Mission Viejo, CA · July 27, 2011
I've done most of Yosemite Day Hikes rated "strenuous", but this one tops them all. Half Dome might beat it, but it's not a day hike. It is late July, 2011. The weather is warm, so "snow resistant" apparel wasn't really needed. The first "fun" is to cross the knee deep creek at the start of the trail. The water was not chilly, it's most annoying to take out the hiking boots. OTOH, the way back, which was almost 7PM in my case, the water was getting considerably cooler. Much later than that, it could be nasty.
It was rather pleasant, a nice cool breeze when you take a break. And breaks you should take frequently, as first 2 mile climb is very steep. The presence of snow doesn't help, either. I say water proof shoes and a walking stick is a requirement. After you reached the first peak, it flattens out but it's still 5 more miles walk. By the time you get to the base of the peak, you feel you exhausted all your energy. Then you have this narrow, rocky, scary climb (actually going down is even scarier). Then you really reached the top. A wonderful 360 degree view that makes it all worth while. Take your time there and enjoy. Scream at the people at Glacier Point across the valley that they are missing all the fun. Then it's time to go back. The rocky trail doesn't make it easy on your legs even when you are going down. Combined with the fatigue during the climb, the trail feels twice as long. Take your time. From Sunrise Lake junction, the sign says 2.5 Miles to Tenaya Lake. That was the longest 2.5 miles I've ever walked.
I did this hike in 8.5 hours (5 hrs climb, 3.5 hrs down). Budget at least that much time, and perhaps more, if you are not a strong hiker. After this ordeal, you will feel pretty good about yourself. Reserve about 3 days for your body to heal...
CYA Boilerplate: The opinions on this page are those of the reviewers themselves, and are not official advice from or the responsibility of yosemitehikes.com. You're responsible for your own safety when you're hiking in Yosemite. Wi nøt trei a høliday in Sweden this yër?