Yosemite NP – Cloud Rest Hike


What? : Cloud Rest is probably one of Yosemite's best 360-degree panoramic views in the park and as a bonus, a unique, from above, view of Half Dome.

There are few trails that reach this mountain top location, and, in this blog, I will describe the “easiest” and shortest popular option, Starting from Tenaya Lake in Tioga Pass.

This is 13 miles out and back with 3,100 ft elevation gain where the mountain top is at elevation of 9,926 feet (3025m).

I consider this trail to be a strenuous hike !

Include 30 minutes rest at the top it took me total of 5:45 hours. I’m relatively fast hiker (av 3 miles/hr) please plan at list 7-8 hours for more relax hiking.


Where? : The trailhead is located just before reaching Tenaya Lake, it name in google map is “Sunrise Lakes Trailhead”. You will see the large parking lot on your way down from Olmsted Point.

Google Map Link


When? : You can do this hike only when Tioga Pass road is open to traffic. Usually, it is open late May to mid Nov.

Even if the road is open the trail may be covered with snow into the season so check snow and ice conditions in advance.

I do not recommend to hike this when the mountain is covered with snow. Another thing you need to consider are clouds that can hide the view completely.

See Tioga road conditions at:




Due note 1: Plan for 7-8 hours of hiking, make sure you have enough daylight time, it is not fun to hike here after dark, at summertime when it is hot start early for more cool temperatures hiking.


Due note 2: there are plenty of water sources along the hike, so you do not need to carry a lot of water with you. Make sure that you have purification filter system with you and do not drink water without it. Bring with you light trail snacks or your preferable trail food for the day.


Due note 3: Check weather conditions at the park website before you are heading up the trail, this is high exposed area and weather can change fast (especially later fall), bring proper clothing with you.


Due note 4: This is relatively popular hike so do not expect to be the only one here, but this is not overcrowded, and the top of the mountain is relatively flat with plenty of room to all hikes.


Due note 5: You may have problem to find a parking spot at the trailhead, keep driving and immediately get into the second parking lot near the lake, the trail is connecting the 2 parking lots.


Due note 6: You can find toilet and food bear locker at the trailhead parking lot.


Due note 7: You may see Black Bears in Yosemite, but they really be dangerous or aggressive, Bear Spray is illegal to carry in Yosemite (and in California).


Due note 8: No permit is needed for day hike Clouds Rest trail.


Due note 9: You may here that this is a dangerous hike with narrow path over cliffs. This is not correct!

Yes, the top of Clouds Rest is relatively narrow rocky exposed ridge where there are on both sides sheer hundreds of feet drop-off but safely wide (10’s ft) and if you are not intentionally walking to the edge there is no danger of falling. This is much wider compared to Angels Landing trail in Zion NP and a lot less steep trail compared to the Half Dome cable route.


Due note 10: Be careful when you are taking your pictures and selfies on the edge of the cliff, especially when there is a strong wind blow.


Due note 11: If there are thunderstorms, it’s not safe to be in in the exposed mountain top.


Due note 12: In clear sky sunny days sunscreen is highly recommended.


Due note 13: In early summer bring mosquitoes repellent with you.


Due note 14: Tioga Road does not have cellphone coverage, but you may have a cell phone reception at the mountain top (there is an antenna at Glacier point).


Due note 15: Dogs are not allowed on most trails in Yosemite National Park.


Due note 16: The Tuolumne Meadows Grill & Store is closed.


Due note 17: At my last visit during Dec. 2022, they were finally near the finish of Tioga Pass Road renovation. This improves the road and driving conditions but reduce the numbers of available parking spots on the roadside.


Due note 18: For the most experience and in shape hikers you can hike to Cloud Rest from Yosemite Valley. You will start at Happy Isles trailhead (the main Half Dome trailhead). It's a 20 miles round trip from the valley floor with almost 6,000 feet of elevation gain so know what you are doing and come prepared for the challenge.



My thoughts: No doubt this is strenuous day hike but one of the most rewording I did in the park. Although it is not extra-long trail (13 miles in total) there is a lot of uphill climbing, and you start from a relatively high altitude; you need to sweat before you can enjoy the view.

I was here several years ago as part of a few days’ backpacking hike in the park. At that time (late fall) there were a lot of wildfires not so far that covered the mountains with smoke, the view was rewording but covered with smoke, this time after the first rain and snow the sky where clear and the weather was perfect.


I did this Hike as a one-day trip from San Francisco Bay area, start to drive at 5:30am, reach the trailhead parking lot after 4 hours and start to hike at 9am. After the 6 hours hike, I went and hike in Tuolumne Meadows and only then I drove back home, arriving home at 9pm. Very long but rewarding day.


The Hike:


Like most other main trails in Yosemite NP this is also well-maintained and to navigate trail, “just”, walk, follow the signs and you will be in Cloud Rest in 3 hours or less.

You will start your hike from the parking lot and immediately after crossing the short wooden deck you will need to cross Tenaya Lake river.

By mid-summer you can usually cross it without wetting your shoes, and by late summer it will probably be dried., In the spring, when the snows are melting, you'll have to cross it in the water. Usually, the current is not strong, and you can use the rocks and hiking pools for stabilize yourself.


For the first 1.4 miles the trail climbs moderately, slightly turning to the left into the ridge and away from Tenaya gorge. From here you will start the first climb of your hike, in 1.2 miles you will climb 1,000 ft of elevation. In this steep section the rocky trail zigzags the mountain in a constant climb.

At the top of your climb, you will reach a trail junction, turning left here will lead you to sunrise lake and Sunrise High Sierra Camp, you need to keep walking straight and start to hike down on the other side of the ridge.

In this relatively exposed section, the trail descending steeply at first and later it leveled. From the trail junction you will walk for 1.1 miles until you will see a small pound on your right.

After the lake the trail start to climb moderately for another 1.1 mile. Here you will see high above your left side Sunrise Mountain peak, do not worry, the trail is not climbing this mountains 😊.

Keep walking in straight direction and after additional climbing in the forest you will reach another trail junction, you need to turn to the right, from this point to the top is another 2.6 miles.

The landscape change into more open old forest, and the trail start to climb. Here you will start to see the view to your left, the huge deep canyon of the Merced River that flow into Yosemite Valley.

At some point you will be able to see your destination between the trees to your left.

The trail climbs and once you are getting out of the tree line into the exposed rock you know you are getting closer to your destination.

This is probably the most challenging section of the hike. The trail finds it way over the rock and at some point, it starts to walk where you can see the view from both sides.

Here you will have few relatively narrow sections to cross, keep heading straight up while taking the left side of the spine, away from the right-side cliff. You will cross few rocks and once you will approach the summit it gets less steep and wider.

After 6.5 miles from your starting point, you will reach the top of Cloud Rest, walk to the west side of the high point and only from here you can see Half Dome over 1,000 feet below you.


Take a rest and enjoy the amazing 360-degree landscape in every direction.

If you have with you a binocular or a camera with a good zoom (I carry my 1500-600 mm zoom) you can see the Half Dome cable line and people climbing it.


Take your time to identify many of Yosemite famous landmarks.

Infront (southwest) you can see Half Dome and below Yosemite Valley, far away on both sides you can see El Capitan on the right and Cathedral Rocks East on the left.

Turning clockwise you can see North Dome below you, on the direction you can from you can see towering Mt Hoffmann and Olmsted Point, Tenaya Lake.

Keep turning and you will see all the mountains that are surrounding the deep long canyon of the Merced River … Johnson Peak, Vogelsang Peak, Mt Florence, Mt Clark, and Mt Starr King…

If you look carefully at straight line below Half Dome face cliff you can see on the mountain above Yosemite Valley Glacier Point, large house and viewing deck.

It can be windy here so if you are getting cold do not hang here too long.


Now you need to walk back the same way you hiked too here.

Except one steep climb after the pound this is mainly downhill or flat trail so you will walk much faster on the way back.