With a name like Clouds Rest you expect this hike to rise pretty darn high. And boy does it deliver! Yosemite’s Clouds Rest sits at 9,926 feet, 1,000 feet higher than Half Dome’s top and offers a bigger panorama. You don’t need a permit, either—just fill up your day-pack and go. (Sorry, Half Dome. We’re not judging you.) You’ll burn a lot of calories on this 14.4-mile round-trip, so stuff your pack with snacks. Start at the Sunrise Lakes Trailhead just west of Tenaya Lake.
The first 1.8 miles follow a moderate grade, but the next mile gains a butt-kicking 1,000 feet in brutal switchbacks. Keep the faith—the grade eases up at the Clouds Rest/Sunrise trail junction at 2.8 miles. Adrenaline kicks in on the final summit ascent as you climb a series of granite “pancakes” that mark Clouds Rest’s precipitously narrow ridge.
Famous landmarks fill the head-swiveling view: Tenaya Canyon, Yosemite Valley, Mount Hoffman, the Clark Range, plus a fascinating angle on Half Dome. Instead of the iconic vertical face of the sliced-in-half granite block, you see its distinct diving-board profile. Tip: On your return, hang a right at the Clouds Rest/Sunrise trail junction. A 0.25-mile detour delivers you to Lower Sunrise Lake for a bracing swim (or a soothing foot bath).
The trailhead is off of Tioga Road at the west end of Tenaya Lake. Park at the Sunrise trailhead. No dogs.