• Activities:

    Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Advanced

  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Point-to-Point

  • RT Distance:

    21 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    4000 Feet

Forest
Lake
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildlife

Starting in Yosemite's High Country, this trail will take you to the top of Clouds Rest (10,000ft) and to the top of Half Dome (9,000ft). Along the way you will get 360 degree views of never ending granite, hike through high elevation forests, and cool off as you pass the Merced River on the Mist Trail.

Because this is not a loop, you will need to figure out a shuttle situation.  There are two options for this:

1. Drive your car to the Tenaya Lake Trail Head, and leave it parked there.  Once you reach the Valley you will be car-less, but then the next day you can take one of the free shuttles up to Tuolumne to retrieve your car.

2. Leave your car in the Valley, and take the first shuttle up to Tuolumne.  This will give you a bit of a later start to the day, but then once your return to the Valley your car will be waiting for you. 

Now for the hiking portion. 

Starting off at the Sunrise/ Tenaya Lake Trailhead, the trail will take you through the forest as you begin your ascent to Clouds Rest.  This section of the trail is a gradual uphill for 7 miles, and you increase in elevation form 8,000 to 10,000ft (and make sure to stay right when you reach forks in the trail).  Once on the summit of Clouds Rest, take in the expansive 360 degree views and look down on Half Dome (your next destination).

Now the trail descends off the other side of Clouds Rest as you take winding switchbacks that lead you all the way to Little Yosemite Valley.  Here is where you will now get on the Half Dome Trail and begin the ascent to your next summit.  Make sure to have your Half Dome permits now, because there is usually a friendly ranger nearby waiting to check it out.  Stairs, switchbacks, and cables, take you on a steep climb until your reach the summit.  Hopefully the top of Half Dome isn't too crowded, and you'll get the chance to rest your legs (cause you've just finished hiking 14 miles), eat a snack, and take in the views without too many people in the way.

Now you just have 7 miles left, and it's all downhill.  So join the crowds and make your way down switchbacks and uneven stairs and you pass Nevada and then Vernal Falls.  The mist trail tends to be busy, but if you run down the stairs people tend to step out of your way.

After reaching the Valley, I suggest heading to the nearest ice cream shop and indulging in a nice cold treat.  Then hang out on one of the beaches next to the Merced River and stick those tired toes in the water.

Pack List

  • Water (bring a lot). We ran out and ended up filling our Nalgenes in the Merced River, but I don't suggest doing this because giardia is not fun.
  • Camera
  • Lots of Snacks
  • Sunscreen
  • Layers
  • Hiking Boots
  • Energy
  • an adventure buddy
  • Half Dome Permit
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Breanne McNitt Explorer

Smile. Laugh. Live a good story. Love unconditionally. And Adventure hard.

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