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Smoky Clouds Rest Hike

For my second hike in Yosemite, I had picked Clouds Rest. It had been long on my list and on our previous Sierra visit in October 2014, I couldn’t hike it because of a fire. This time, a fire also limited the hike somewhat – it was extremely smoky in Yosemite that day.

In the lower section of the hike the smoke was so dense, it was almost like fog that had accumulated in the valleys and canyons over night. Luckily, as I got higher, the air quality improved, the smell of smoke disappeared, and the hike was more enjoyable. It’s nice that the steepest part of the hike is within the first 2.5 miles – once you’ve made it up to the saddle where the trail to Sunrise Lakes branches off, the worst is already behind you.

I felt good when I reached that saddle (much better than on the first day) so I continued on the Clouds Rest Trail. Unfortunately, the trail loses some elevation again as it goes down to a little meadow with a nameless lake, but it’s not much elevation that you lose there. The little nameless lake was really pretty and I stopped to make a photo. A group of other hikers had also stopped there for a pause and a snack and we chatted a little bit. It turned out that they were also from San Diego! We continued the hike together, chatting about hiking, San Diego’s craft beer scene, food, and whatnot.

Hiking with company was great and made the miles pass much faster. We took another break before the final ascend to the peak. And Clouds Rest’s peak is really special. It is a narrow and airy granite ridge, to the north/west it falls down in a vertigo-inducing drop to Tenaya Canyon, with nothing but bare granite cliffs for what looked like at least a thousand feet. Impressive! Iconic Half Dome lies far below from Clouds Rest, its elevation is about 1500 feet less than Clouds Rest’s.

The views from Clouds Rest are pretty awesome… if it isn’t smoky. The photos below are all processed quite heavily to get some detail and contrast out of the extremely hazy, low-contrast material that the camera captured. At first I thought nothing else but black & white would work for the photos, but after working with them I think the color rendition that I found works quite well.

On the way back I stopped by Lower Sunrise Lake – it’s only about half a mile from the trail intersection, and that isn’t explicitly mentioned on the signs. It’s a really beautiful lake and quite inviting – I should’ve brought shorts! Swimming in the lake after that hike would have been wonderful.

For more data about the hike, you can have a look at my tracklog on GaiaGPS and the hike description on


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