Cloud's Rest from Tenaya Lake









Distance Comments: 

Round trip distance

Distance in Miles: 

14.40 miles

Trip Type: 

Out and back


Tenaya Lake West (Sunrise)

Trailhead Elevation: 


Elevation Gain/Loss: 


Elevation Min/Max: 



Steep, but not too rough and rocky (3 out of 5)


Highlights? Well, you're 1000 feet above Half Dome, looking down with disdain on all the hordes of people in the Mountain Dew generation who simply won't settle for anything other than Half Dome. Meanwhile, you have stunning views that actually include a view of Half Dome and you are relatively unmolested by crowds. I've seen ten people on top of Cloud's Rest and I've been there virtually alone (just my hiking partner). Meanwhile, just across the way on Half Dome, even in the middle of January 2012 we arrived at the summit to find another party relaxing up there. If you can manage to arrange transportation (in the summer months, there is a hiker's bus from the Valley), you can do this as the first half of a wonderful hike through the heart of Yosemite.


Park or get dropped off at the west end of Tenaya Lake on Hiwghway 120. You begin with a relatively flat walk. The only difficulty on the first part is that in the early season, the stream crossing at the Tenaya Lake outlet might be quite deep and quite cold. Once Tenaya Creek is forded, with more or less difficulty, it's a gentle walk through the woods for a mile or so. Then you begin to climb and gain some altitude.

It's a decent, steep climb up switchbacks through lodgepole forest typical of Tuolumne, eventually decreasing in angle and giving way to a really nice, almost pure, stand of white pines. White pines are a special treat in that it is a majestic tree that you pretty much won't see from the road (unlike ponderosa and sugar pines that are majestic, but frequently along the road, and whitebark pines that are rarely along the road, but tend to grow in short, dense krumholz formations often little taller than me, and I'm not tall).

Once you reach the whtie pine forest, you're almost there. Soon the forest gives way to rocky slopes and eventually the narrow and vertiginous ridge that leads to the summit of Cloud's Rest. The first time I was here, I saw a fit, muscular man shaking and almost on his knees. I thought a guy like this would never accept help, but I offered him my hand up the summit ridge and he grabbed it with a look of relief and gratitude and held my hand, gentle as a child, while he made it to the top, then thanked me profusely. Don't get me wrong, this is not the Half Dome cables. It's not exposed like that, but the ridge does drop off hundreds of feet to the south and thousands of feet to the north. It may be intimidating if you have an intense fear of heights.

The ridge quickly behind you after a couple hundred feet, you stand on one of Yosemite's great summits (which ones are not great?) and enjoy views of a large swath of the park — Hoffman, Clark Range, Yosemite Valley, Half Dome and more. A great place to enjoy lunch before you turn around and head back to Tenaya Lake or continue on down from Cloud's Rest to Yosemite Valley, via the Mist Trail or the John Muir Trail.

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