This is the easiest way to reach magnificent Clouds Rest
, but it is still very strenuous with challenging switchbacks. To reach the Clouds Rest viewpoint, you must also navigate an exposed knife-edge of granite plates that is not for the faint of heart. All that sweat makes the views only that much sweeter: Tenaya Lake, Sentinel Dome, North Dome, Basket Dome, Mount Hoffman, Mount Lyell and of course, Half Dome. With good binoculars, you can even spot hikers clinging to the cables on Half Dome.
Weather can change rapidly here, so bring warm layers and rain gear. If a late afternoon thunderstorm approaches, get down asap so you don't get zapped.
Leaving the parking area at the west end of Tenaya Lake, cross the lake's outlet (can be deep in spring, dry by late summer). The Clouds Rest Trail
winds its way through wildflower-covered meadows, forests and rocks before it starts the steep switchbacking (at times stair step) climb. At about 2.5 miles, you'll reach an intersection with the Sunrise Lakes Trail
that heads off to the east. To stay on the Clouds Rest Trail
take the right fork and head downhill to the south. Upon entering an alpine meadow with ponds, relax for a bit in serene wooded groves and make use of the last reliable water supply.
Continue to ascend through higher elevations where the forest is less dense and much dryer with views of distant peaks. Arrive at a final trail junction with the Pack Trail (that eventually joins the JMT: Segment 1 - Happy Isles to Tuolomne Meadows
) and proceed straight towards the southwest. Now the ridgeline narrows and you'll be traveling over an exposed skinny fin of granite, which might give some visitors a feeling of vertigo. At the summit you command a 360-degree view with Tenaya Canyon falling away to the west, Yosemite Valley below, and a fantastic angle for viewing Half Dome
. The Cathedral Range and Clark Range create a breathtaking skyline to the east and south. The peak at Clouds Rest
is wider than the approach so there is room to rest comfortably before retracing your steps back down to Tenaya Lake.
Lupine, lily. Lodgepole pine, hemlock.