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.
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.
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)
A nice way to get back to Tenaya Lake is to
Video from the top of Clouds Rest