Clouds Rest, Yosemite
July 26, 2019
And here we go…
Doing Clouds Rest as an in-and-out day hike isn’t easy no regardless of which approach you choose1 but the views at the top and the relative lack of crowds (especially by Yosemite standareds) make the effort incredibly worthwhile and rewarding.
Starting from Tenaya Lake it’s about 20km and 950m of elevation gain round-trip, although in our case we lost the trail early on in the dark (we set out before sunrise) and so ended up wandering around an extra 4.5km2 which we really regretted as we started running out of energy the last half of the return leg of the hike.
The biggest challenge (besides the mosquitos) when approaching Clouds Rest from Tenaya Lake/Sunrise trailhead is a series of switchbacks that start about 2.5km into the hike and rapidly gain around 310m of elevation in less than 1.5km - around a 21% grade on average. We started out strong but the combination of the climb + mosquitoes + elevation definitely had us panting by the time we made it to the top!
After this point, the rest of the hike was quite straightforward until the final scramble to the top of Clouds Rest - the thrilling knife’s edge ridgeline flanked on either sides by sheer drop offs into what is admittedly one of the prettiest absysses to choose from when plummeting to ones death is simultaneously thrilling, breathtaking and slightly leg-quivering.
But after that final scramble… oh my. The view at the top makes it all worthwhile as the memory of the hike in fades from your mind and one is lost, for a little while, in the majesty and glory of nature. Completely awe-inspiring, and truly emblematic of its namesake.
One of the interesting things is that even though we hauled our Sony A7riii + FE 24-105mm f/4.0 all the way to the top, it turns out that at least for the purposes of this site (and honestly, most uses) the images out of our iPhone were “good enough”3. Of course there’s some tele shots that we couldn’t have gotten with our phone, but when you’re at the top of the world like this, it almost begs to be shot wide and deep4.
Also interesting - almost every shot in this post (save the hero square crop out of the A7riii at the top) are virtually unretouched in post save some minor resizing. The lesson being maybe, when it comes to the majesty of nature, all the hard work comes in just getting to the right spot. Beyond that, all you really need to do to get an awsome shot is just get out of the way and push the shutter.
After about an hour at the top and a quick lunch we hit the path again for the long journey back, making it back to the trail head about 8 hours after we started, just ahead of a thunderstorm that was rolling in over the mountains, and jumped into the car for the two (2!) hour drive back to our lodge. Exhausted, happy and feeling lucky to have witnessed the beauty of nature.
There’s two general choices - start from Tenaya Lake or from Yosemite Valley, the latter being nearly twice the distance and twice the elevatio gain. We chose to start from Tenaya Lake because we’re not insane. ↩
We had a Fenix 5x with us for navigation but it was being stupid and failed to alert us that we were off course in the beginning when we really were off course, but then on the way back when we most certainly were on course, it kept beeping that we were off course every 30 seconds, then back on course, then off course. Sigh. We have such mixed feelings about Garmin stuff. The Fenix 5x series is superior to the Apple Watch as a navigational/outdoors watch for so many reasons (the above not withstanding) but Garmin then undercuts it with a series of stupid / unpolished / greedy decisions. We may write more about this later. ↩