Backpack Sunrise Lakes to Clouds Rest

Yosemite Tenaya Lake Trailhead

  • Activities:

    Camping, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Summer

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    15.5 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    1775 Feet

Family Friendly
Forest
Picnic Area
Scenic
Wildlife

Enjoy spectacular panoramic views including Yosemite Valley and Little Yosemite Valley from Clouds Rest. Make this an overnight with a scenic stay Sunrise Lakes.

Start out at the Tenaya Lake Trailhead, where you can head directly onto the trail for Clouds Rest or you can branch off after 2.7 miles to Sunrise Lakes. This allows you to break up the hike, spend a night relaxing and help you have an early start back on the trail.

Once re-connected to the Clouds Rest trail you begin a brief descent before you come across the only lake on the CR Trail. You do have to hop across some trickles and streams along the duration of the hike as well.

The second checkpoint has no sign pointing to Clouds Rest, but helpful hikers have created a rock CR that usually has an arrow pointing to the right. Follow that until you clear the treeline and can really take in the views.

The final trail sign is at the base of the scramble which last the final 10 minutes of your ascent to the summit. From the summit you can see the evidence of the aptly named, Little Valley Fire. Half Dome and the valley comprise the other view that stretches to the horizon.

If you decide to continue on towards Little Yosemite Valley you are back in the land of opportunity and can try and get to the top of Half Dome, or spend some time at Merced Lake. Make sure you brings lots of water for this because if you are a superhuman and choose to continue hiking you're going to be putting in a seriously long and grueling day. The other option is to turn and follow the trail back out to the Tenaya Lake trail head which would take 2-3 hours.

Pack List

  • Sunscreen
  • Hiking Poles
  • 3-5 liters of Water per person depending on route
  • Meals
  • Sunglasses
  • Layers
  • Hat
  • Camera
Read More

Reviews

Overall rating: 

Leave a Review

This is one of the best trails in Yosemite, and it has much less traffic compared to other trails. I've camped at the Sunrise Lakes several times, and I usually have the surrounding area all to myself. Half Dome get's all the attention but the views at Cloud's Rest are PHENOMENAL. I definitely recommend reaching the summit for a beautiful sunrise! You can actually submit for a permit to Half Dome and hit that on your way back to Yosemite Valley if you have time. Either way you cant go wrong with this back-country trip.

10 months ago
10 months ago

Met a lot of people day hiking to Cloud's Rest. Definitely recommend taking your time and making it into a bit of a trip. Sunrise Lakes is a beautiful detour and in the solitude of the High Sierra, you can't go wrong. The third (and farthest) lake is the most beautiful. Don't miss the granite ridge northwest of the lake. Connect with the landscape before (or after) you take in the majesty of Cloud's Rest.

11 months ago
11 months ago

Don't forget your Wilderness permits if you're backpacking! Sunrise trailhead is notorious for out-of-bounds camping and hefty fines. A fantastic backpacking trip from Tioga to the Valley, then take the YARTS bus back to your car. Cloud's Rest is also a manageable day hike as a Half Dome alternative.

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

Did a backpacking trip that took me to Sunrise Lakes and then Clouds Rest in 2013. Lots of people camp at Sunrise Lake so don't expect to be alone and also expect there might be some bear activity since its heavily used. Clouds Rest is one of my favorite views in the Sierra. Seeing those granite slabs fall into the valley 5,000 ft below while looking down on half dome was just awe-striking. I found it even more memorable than the half dome cables.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Make it an overnight by camping north of Clouds Rest. There's a flat area off the trail with great view of sunset over Yosemite Valley. Bonus: you'll be the first ones on top of Clouds Rest the next morning, and you'll have it all you yourself. You'll need to carry all your water up with you, as there are no water sources up there. Make it a longer trip by taking the bus to Tuolumne Meadows and taking the John Muir trail toward Sunrise Lakes and then to Clouds Rest, and finally back down to the Valley via the Mist Trail

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

I completed this hike in the summer of 2014 with my uncle. We started the from lake tenaya around 6:30 am. The initial part of the hike involves a fair bit of elevation gain of around 1000 feet. There were also a lot of mosquitos during this part but as you gain elevation they begin to disappear. The trail then flattens out for a bit and then another portion of elevation gain begins. The ascent to the summit gave me a bit of vertigo because of the shear drops of thousands of feet on each side but I felt safe the whole time. The summit itself has spectacular views of Yosemite as a whole. The descent down to Yosemite valley was also beautiful and you get great views of the back side of half dome. Numerous waterfalls are also on the way down as well. Overall we finished the hike around 4 pm.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

My mates and I did this back in July! What a great experience! We actually started in Tuolumne Meadows on the John Muir Trail. The first night we stopped at Cathedral Lake and didn't quite make it to Sunrise Lakes the first day. We stopped to setup camp in a meadow that had fire circles set up by previous backpackers. I think it was about 3 miles before reaching Sunrise Lakes. The next day we set off to Sunrise Lakes and it was absolutely amazing! The water was cold, but a much needed refreshment. Most of this hike is up hill and with elevation gain, so we definitely took a slower pace. We set up camp right before the big incline to Clouds Rest. The third day we set out to Clouds Rest. The incline to Clouds Rest is not long at all, but it was tough for me (this was my first multi day backpacking trip). The view from the top is so stunning and definitely worth all the sweat in my eyes. We continued on to Little Yosemite Valley from Clouds Rest. There weren't many hikers on the trail to Clouds Rest, but once we got to Clouds Rest there were quite a few day hikers coming from Little Yosemite Valley. One the way down to Little Yosemite Valley, we saw a lot of day hikers going to Half Dome. Definitely recommend mosquito repellent on this hike and/or a mosquito net. Stay hydrated since you sweat a lot and are breathing heavier at the higher elevation. We had lots of Shot Bloks to replenish electrolytes and energy.

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

Nathaniel Polta

A man with no plan

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

Nearby Adventures

Hike to Balsam Forebay

Yosemite / Balsam Meadows Sno-Park

Access to the forebay starts at the trail head from the parking lot 6,700 ft up, also from the parking lot there is access to two different sets of boulder patches separate from the ones encountered .

13 Saves

Camp at Buckeye Flat in Sequoia National Park

Yosemite / Buckeye Flat Campground

Entering Sequoia National Park at the Ash Mountain Entrance near the small city of Three Rivers, follow Highway 198 (Generals Highway) through the park until you see a sign for Buckeye Flat Campgroun.

22 Saves

Snowshoe to Cooney Lake

Yosemite / Virginia Lake Trailhead

When it's winter time, one of the best things you can do is experience the snow in the Eastern Sierra! If you've ever been hiking and/or backpacking in the Sierra, you know it's one of the most beaut.

3 Saves