Yosemite Park

Notes by piero scaruffi | See Back to Yosemite | See Other California destinations

Yosemite Valley to Clouds Rest

Clouds Rest is the largest exposed piece of granite on Earth. Clouds Rest (3025 m) has probably the best view of Yosemite Valley, and a view that includes Half Dome (unlike the ugly view from Half Dome that has the parking lot as its main feature). It can be reached from either Tioga Rd (see below) or Yosemite Valley. From Yosemite Valley you take the same trail as if you were going to Half Dome: the Mist Trail. As of 2020, you don't need a permit to hike to Clouds Rest from that side.

  • Start at Happy Isles trailhead (1232m high)
  • To Vernal Falls: 30 minutes (2.4 kms, 300m elevation gain)
  • To the steps: 15 minutes
  • To Nevada Falls: 30 minutes (5.6 kms, 570m elevation gain, end of the Mist trail)
  • To Little Yosemite Valley: 15 minutes
  • To the Half Dome fork: 1 hour (10kms)
  • Clouds Rest 5h
Video from the top of Clouds Rest

Tenaya Lake to Yosemite Valley via Cloud's Rest and Half Dome

Note: Because of the shuttle and of the snow, the one-way hike is feasible only between July and September. But because Tenaya canyon is so dangerous (countless hikers have lost their lives in the canyon) the best time to hike this way is end of summer, i.e. september is the best month.

There are shuttles from Yosemite Valley to Tenaya Lake. In 2010 the shuttle reached the Sunrise trailhead in Tenaya Lake around 10am. As of 2010, there was also a YARTS bus.

The hike starts at the Sunrise trailhead and parking lot, near the south-west shore of Tenaya Lake. It is 11.8 kms from Tenaya Lake to Cloud's Rest. Initially, it is almost flat, but then it starts climbing up. The very last 300m require some very very very easy climbing over rocks (no need to use your hands) with a few meters of scary exposure.

The summit is a great place. On your right handside is a colossal drop into Tenaya Canyon, with great views of Yosemite Valley (North Dome, El Capitan, Glacier Point, Half Dome). On your left handside is a colossal drop into a forested canyon (this is actually more vertical). In the distance one can see Little Yosemite Valley. Behind (north) one has a view of Mt Hoffman, Cock's Comb and Mt Dana. In front (south) is Quarter Dome.

Walk straight through the summit down into a very narrow descent that leads to a trail of long switchbacks in the woods. The trail physically runs below Quarter Dome, so one can technically just walk straight down aiming for the left handside of Quarter Dome. Below Quarter Dome one can walk straight down on a granite slab and avoid a few more switchbacks.

It is 6.5 kms from Cloud's Rest to the junction with the Half Dome trail. Half Dome is a (very steep) 3.2km detour up and down (which now requires a permit).

From that junction with the Half Dome trail to the bottom of the Half Dome trail (Happy Isles, Yosemite Valley) is about another 10-11 kms. The grand total is 28.6 kms plus 6.4kms if you do the Half Dome detour. (But signs posted on Half Dome give a different distance: 16 kms to Tenaya Lake and 8kms to the Yosemite Valley, which makes 24 kms total). All the signs in miles are wrong.

Pictures of the hike

Milestones, distances (and 2006 time)

  • Tenaya Lake (10am)
  • Lake Merced junction 4.5km (11:05)
  • Second junction 7km (11:50)
  • Foot of Cloud's Rest 10.5km (12:15)
  • Summit of Cloud's Rest 11km (12:36)
  • John Muir junction 17km (14:06)
  • Half Dome junction 18km (14:28)
  • Bottom of steps 20km (15:10)
  • Bottom of cables 21km (15:35)
  • Summit of Half Dome 22km (15:58)
  • Bottom of cables (16:25)
  • Little Yosemite Valley (17:40)
  • Mist Trail (18:15)
  • Yosemite Valley - Happy Isles 35km (19:15)

A nice way to get back to Tenaya Lake is to
  • Hike Tenaya to Happy Isles
  • Take the free shuttle to Mirror Lake
  • Hike from Mirror Lake to Olmstead Pt (about 16 kms)
  • but then you have to find transportation (i.e. hitchhike) for the last stretch of road

Video from the top of Clouds Rest