Clouds Rest has been on my radar since the first time I’d been to Yosemite. Its airy summit ridge, its enormous northwest face, its centrality within the park, and its views of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley make it a must for any Yosemite adventurer. Its ease of access, though, has always put me off. Clouds Rest gets a lot of visitors, and because of that, it’s taken years for me to make the trek.
George and I crossed the Tenaya Lake outlet, typically one of the deeper creek crossings that one faces in Yosemite. This year, though, because the snowpack was so low, we were able to hop over rocks across the stream without getting our feet wet.
After a mile of hiking or so, the trail turns uphill. This is the biggest climb of the day, and lasts for only another mile or so. We only encountered three or four small patches of snow, quite fewer than expected for the month of June. After topping out, we followed the trails and signs for Clouds Rest, mostly rolling up and down small rises along this ridge.
After a few more miles of this, we came upon Clouds Rest. The peak itself is actually quite a bit more exciting than the trail that precedes it. As we approached the summit proper, the ridge tightens to about four feet wide. And even though the peak is rated class-1, there were plenty of opportunities to scramble and climb around the rocks on the way up to the top.
Clouds Rest has one of the most spectacular summits of any peak in Yosemite. From it you can see almost every major Yosemite landmark from El Capitan to the Sawtooth Range. Of course, this being such a popular peak, throngs of people ate lunch, smoked cigarettes, and generally made lots of noise here, so we tucked ourselves into a little area in the back while we snacked on dried fruit. It wasn’t long before most of the people left and we could enjoy the huge views in every direction.
The hike back was quick. We made a stop at this area that we called “the lunch spot.” It’s a little ledge that hangs over Tenaya Canyon only a few hundred feet from the Sunrise trail fork. We took a few pictures here, then continued on our way back. At the parking lot we met up with our friend Steve, then drove over to the May Lake trailhead. We hiked up the mile-and-a-half of trail and made camp for the night at the lake, staying up just late enough to watch the mountains turn red and the sky turn dark.