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Hike Cloud's Rest - Yosemite National Park

Mariposa County, California



22 miles

Elevation Gain

6300 ft

Route Type



Added by AJ Johnson

If you're going to do just one hike in the Yosemite Valley, consider this one - Cloud's Rest is a real gem of the western U.S.

Man. I've been exploring California with a modicum of intensity and vigor for a few years, and it took me a hot minute to find my way to Cloud's Rest. The reason? I really don't know. I don't think I have one. Not a good one, anyways. The summit at a half dozen meters short of 10,000 offers the most incredibly panoramic vistas I've seen in the Golden State insofar. What a divine treat.

Nice workout, too. My mate and I started on the Valley floor at the Vernal Falls trailhead in the morning at about 9:00 AM, moving quickly to start taking significant chunks out of the 10.5 mile one-way leg. I don't often say this, but I'm pretty into 'this new app,' and recording our trek vis-a-vis Strava proved a nice move.The total distance for that day's work ended up being 11.3 miles, with 6,355 feet of elevation gain. It took about 4.5 hours, plus an hour to pitch tent, change clothes, drop off our packs, and collect ourselves before making the final push to the top around sunset for some photography superfun. We secured a wilderness permit for two back-to-back nights in May, and packed up a pair of 60-liter backpacks that I would guess weighed in the neighborhood of 40 pounds/20 kilos (Backpacking with an overnight stay is definitely the way to do this hike/climb). We decided to ditch those near the edge of the treeline that surrounds Cloud's Rest as the shoulder of the mountain crests into its peak/summit near 10K. The forecast was for rain, and frankly, my pack was in better shape than I was at mile 9. So I grabbed pants, gloves, and a hat, shoved my camera into a dry sack, slung my tripod over the daybag, and we marched on to sit on top of the world as the sun went down. We figured this way, we don't have to fight the additional weight of the pack, and we'll get 50-70 minutes of daylight after sundown to navigate back to our camp, which was about a mile from summit.

Nailed it. Sweeping and complete 360 degree views from Half Dome to Tuolumne Meadows during golden hour. Literally, as far as your eyesight will take you. Breathtakingly cool. It was mid-May, and there was still snow at the top. We rocked Yaktrax/crampons for the last 100m or so, and staying on the south side of the summit was less sketchy than its northern counterpart. You could definitely fall off the latter towards certain death if things got careless.

Anywho, after a brief 'this is why we do this' moment and a few hundred pictures, we reached our camp about 3 minutes after turning on our headlamps. At that point we exchanged a quick high five only to realize there was a bear in the tent, trying on our sweaters. He looked pretty good. A second thereafter, it became clear we parked our belongings at the epicenter of a bear community, our two-person vestibule at the base of their home tree. There were multiple (black) bears, ID'ed only by their silhouettes against the new night and cheshire cat eyes. They were out for an early family breakfast, and though we'd stashed all our dry goods in our bear vault (placed approximately 70 feet from camp), a scented trash bag for wet/soiled items in one of the packs was the center of their attention.Good news is they meant no harm, and neither did we. After a terse exchange, we got them back up in their domiciles, and quickly gathered our items to relocate. We hiked about a mile down to a clearing we'd ID'ed on our way up as a back up campsite option. That worked, though somewhat inconvenient.

Making our way back to the valley floor via the John Muir Trail the next morning was refreshingly easy and most enjoyable. For natives of and visitors to the western U.S., particularly northern California, put this hike all the way up on your to-do list. It's well worth it. Cloud's Rest is the best-kept 'secret' in Yosemite. Pack efficiently, and happy trails!

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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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