Yosemite National Park, California
Clouds Rest from Happy Isles
Clouds Rest from Happy Isles is a 23.8 miles (55,000-step) route located near Yosemite National Park, California. This route has an elevation gain of about 6136.9 ft and is rated as hard. Find more routes like this on the Pacer App.
Clouds Rest may not be the highest point in Yosemite. But it is the highest point in the Yosemite Valley area. The views from Clouds Rest are nothing short of stunning. Clouds Rest is the only place in the valley area where you can both see the entire valley along with a bird’s eye view of the TOP of Half Dome. Best of all, unlike Half Dome, no permit or lottery is required to climb Clouds Rest.
There are two ways to climb Clouds Rest. You can start from either Tenaya Lake along the Tioga Pass Road or from the John Muir Trail in Little Yosemite Valley. Little Yosemite Valley can be accessed from Glacier Point or the Happy Isles Trailhead. This route covers the hike to Clouds Rest from Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley.
From the trailhead by the Happy Isles Bridge, start hiking up the John Muir Trail toward Little Yosemite Valley. The first landmark along this trail is the Merced River Footbridge, about three quarters of a mile in. At this point is a drinking fountain, which is the last source of potable water on this hike (water can be filtered from streams beyond this point). There is also a restroom here. A short distance beyond this point is the junction with the Mist Trail.
The Mist Trail is shorter and more spectacular alternative to the John Muir Trail from this point to the top of Nevada Falls. It is also much steeper, involves climbing lots of steps (some very wet), and (early in the season) possibly getting drenched by the waterfall mist that gives this trail its name. Most people prefer the Mist Trail for ascent and the John Muir Trail for descent.
If you choose the Mist Trail, you will soon find yourself at the base of Vernal Falls climbing a rather long set of steps to the top. If the falls are flowing well, the mist from the waterfalls will be quite heavy. This mist, along with wind generated by the falls, can drench you like a rainstorm. Rain gear may be helpful. But on a summer day, the water can feel nice. You may, however, want to have a second pair of socks in case your feet get wet. After climbing the steps and walking along a narrow path on the edge of a cliff, you will find yourself at the top of Vernal Falls (about three quarters of a mile from the beginning of the Mist Trail). There is a restroom here.
Continuing beyond here, the trail follows the Merced River as it gently climbs up to the base of Nevada Falls. Along the way, the trail crosses another footbridge across the Merced River.
The climb up Nevada Falls is longer than the climb up Merced Falls, but generally less steep. Also, Nevada Falls seems to be less misty, at least along the trail itself. Once at the top, the Mist Trail ends and you rejoin the John Muir Trail. There is a restroom here.
The next 1.2 miles of trail is much more level than what you have already climbed. Some of it is even downhill. Along this section of trail, you will find the last reliable water (from the Merced River). If you have a filter, this is a good place to stock up on water. At the Little Yosemite Valley Campground, you will also find the last restroom on this hike. Shortly after passing the campground, the trail starts to climb once again.
The trail switches back and passes in and out of the forest as it climbs the ridgeline that connects Half Dome with Clouds Rest. At a little under 1.5 miles, you will pass the junction with the Half Dome Trail. At this point, you are about half a mile from the junction with the Clouds Rest Trail and 4.3 miles from the summit of Clouds Rest. You are also about halfway from the valley floor to the summit of Clouds Rest in terms of elevation gain.
At the junction with the Clouds Rest Trail, there is sometimes a stream on the right side of the trail. This is a good place to fill up with water if you have a filter. At this point, a sign will show that you are 3.8 miles from the summit of Clouds Rest. Take the trail to the summit.
The trail starts to climb more steeply that before as it climbs up through the woods to Clouds Rest. After a mile or so, things open up as you climb some switchbacks. These switchbacks climb up to a large rock, which you will pass quite close to at the top of the switchbacks. You will then make a hard left at an open area, where you get a fantastic view of Half Dome, Little Yosemite Valley, Liberty Cap, and other area landmarks. You are at an elevation of about 9000ft at this point - just a hair less than 1000ft below the summit.
Beyond this point, the trees thin as you continue to climb toward the summit. After a little over half a mile, you come to the last trail junction, which indicates the summit is only .6 miles away.
From here, you climb a few switchbacks. And then the trail becomes increasingly rocky as you approach the summit. After climbing some steps, you will find yourself ob the summit! Spend some time up here to enjoy the views before heading down.
You can head down the way you came. Or, from the top of Nevada Falls, take the John Muir Trail.