Few peak-bagging efforts begin with a photographing frenzy, but this 6-mile hike to Clouds Rest starts right off with can’t miss photo-ops. Be careful not to sprain your shutter finger at Tenaya Lake, a beautiful, crystal-blue tarn gouged by glaciers eons ago. Hop on the Sunrise Trail for a flat, 1.6-mile warm-up to the glittering azure of Sunrise Lakes. Then, let the climbing begin.
From here on, you’ll gain nearly 1,500 feet over 4.5 miles and climb, literally, into the clouds. Don’t worry about throngs of summit-hungry hikers: Clouds Rest lacks the crowds that nearby Half Dome attracts. Climbing along evergreen stands, isolated, alpine lakes and the eroding curvature of Tenaya Canyon, you may begin to feel you’re the only person left in the world.
Five miles in, the route steadily ascends to a ridgeline. The back end of Cloud’s Rest appears to the west. Hug the eastern edge of the mountainside and muscle your way through the 500-foot climb to the summit. All the glacier-carved wonder of Little Yosemite Valley and the surrounding peaks unfolds at the top of Clouds Rest (9,926 ft.). 360-degree views stretch for hundreds of miles. Even better: you’ll likely be looking down on Half Dome (8,836 ft.). Soak it all in and then backtrack to the trailhead.
MORE INFO: Yosemite National Park, (209) 372-020; nps.gov/yose/
-Mapped by Dave Miller
TO TRAILHEAD: From Groveland, CA, head northeast on Kelley Grade/Marshes Flat Road. At 1.7 miles, make a slight left to stay on Kelley Grade/Marshes Flat Road and continue for 2.2 miles. Bear left at CA-49. After 0.7 miles, turn right onto CA-120 and continue for 40 miles. Turn left onto CA-120. After 30.8 miles, follow the road east to Sunrise Trailhead on the south end of Tenaya Lake. CA-120/Tioga Road is a seasonal road that closes in November and reopens on May 21.