• Activities:

    Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    24 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    6000 Feet

Swimming Hole

Clouds Rest is the highest point in the Valley sitting at 9,931 feet, 1,000 feet higher than Half Dome. It has panoramic views of the high country and westward views down the Valley passing by Illilouette and Nevada Falls.

Start from Glacier Point around 7,200 feet leaving on the Panoramic Trail. Head down 2 miles to Illilouette Falls (5,800 feet). Once you cross the bridge at Illilouette Falls you go up Panorama Point and head back down to Nevada Falls (5,971 feet). Once you reach Nevada Falls fill up on as much water as you can. There will not be any water beyond this point!

Once you have got all the water you need and had a quick break, continue upwards to Little Yosemite Campground 0.6 miles, now walking on the John Muir Trail. There will be a fork in the path before you get to LYC. Stay to the left to continue towards and past LYC to the next fork 0.5 miles. Once you see the signs for Half Dome right after you pass LYC continue up 1.3 miles before you get to the junction to split right to Clouds Rest or left to Half Dome. This is where the fun begins!

Once you you take a right at the junction for Half Dome, continue 0.5 miles to your next junction. You will be getting off the JMT trail at this point. These next 4 miles are grueling! It is steep and feels like it is never going to end. Might not feel like that if you are day trekking it but with a 50 pound pack it feels like eternity. You will head 3.2 miles up some switchbacks and get to a point where it clears out and looks south. From here there is not great signage but turn left and go back into the woods. There are some fire rings here with a couple options to camp if you wanted to set camp there. You will see the trail when you walk about 200 feet up. Continue on before you get to your final junction. At this point you want to stay to your left and you have 0.6 miles left before the summit!

For the last 0.6 miles the trail seems to disappear towards the top. Follow the small cairns towards the summit. The last 0.2 mile is a stone staircase to the top. Just keep charging! Look behind you on these stairs, the view is amazing and worth the agony of this hike and it feels great to be standing at the summit! Crack a victory beer!

There are places below the summit in either direction to camp with fire rings set up if your interested in having a fire. When you reach the summit and have had time to enjoy it, you can either hike back down to the .6 marker where you turned left to head to the summit. Or you can continue east towards Tenya Lake. If you head east, walk about a 1/4 mile down the trail. Around this time break right off the trail (heading south towards where the fire happened in 2014) and do some easy bushwhacking and start searching for the backcountry spots. They will be easy to locate once you find a fire rings or two in the area. If you don’t see the fire rings no need to worry. Just locate a good flat spot that is 200 feet off trail. Just make sure you get back to the summit in the morning because the sunrise was well worth it. Beautiful panoramic views of the high country and Tenya Lake to the east and west views down the valley.

Once you are ready to leave, head back out the same way you came. Or if Tioga Road is open, I would leave a car there and continue the hike towards Tenya Lake as it will be less miles out and you get to see more of the park. In total you gain around 6,000 feet of elevation there and about 4-5,000 feet on your way back to Glacier Point.

This is a very intense hike and I strongly suggest staying well hydrated and eating plenty of food! You will need as much energy as you can get.

To pick up a permit without going into the Valley to the Wilderness station you can get one at Wawona Lodge (if you are coming in from 41). Once you pull into the Wawona Lodge parking lot there is a smaller building to the left. Out front of the house there will be a sign with permits. Follow the instructions on the board and continue to Glacier Point.

To hike to Clouds Rest from Tenaya Lake, check out Hike Clouds Rest. For an overnighter from Tenaya Lake, check out Backpack Sunrise Lakes to Clouds Rest.

Pack List

  • Backpacking attire - shoes, pants, shirts, jackets, etc.
  • Backpack
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Bear box
  • Food
  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Water bottles - at least 3 liters per person
  • Water purification
  • Map
  • Wilderness Permit
  • Victory beer!
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Austin's totally right, climbing the last few miles on the west side of Cloud's Rest with a multi-day backpack are gruelling. No other word for it. But once I reached the top, my body forgot every single ache. It was that majestic. Made it there at midday, would recommend catching a night on the ridge to the east or west and being at Cloud's Rest for sunrise and/or sunset.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

We were issued a permit to camp near Cloud's Rest, but upon having our permit inspected near Half Dome, were told that camping anywhere about the JMT toward Cloud's Rest isn't permitted (no camping off of the Cloud's Rest trail). Either keep mum about your plans or stick to the area to the right of the JMT at the Cloud's Rest junction for campsites with fire rings back about 50 yards from the trail. Also, permits are tough to reserve and all trails have quotas. Fortunately, 40% of the total quota is reserved for walk-up permits. Permit issuing starts at 8am for day-of entry and 11am for next-day entry. We arrived at 8am on a busy July Saturday morning and were first on the list to get our permit for Sunday/Monday. There is a list of trailhead quotas for Yosemite. https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/trailheads.htm When you receive your backcountry permit, you'll be able to spend the night before your trip in the backpackers campground near North Pines for a small fee. Super rad. Eat some pizza in Half Dome Village!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Austin Trigg

Austin Trigg is an outdoor lifestyle photographer based in San Diego, CA. With the passion for the outdoors, Austin finds himself in search for the perfect space and time waiting to be captured. Austin's approach is about living simply, communication and timing. He finds his creativity within his photography by bringing all those attributes to his imagery. Drawn to the wilderness and its climates, Austin plays with light to portray scenery in a more detailed and technical perspective. His passion for sharing his message with photography constantly pushes him to new heights, whether on Mt. Whitney at midnight, hanging over Taft Point at sunrise or driving throughout the night, all to get the shot.

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