From almost any place in or around Yosemite valley, you can look up and see Half Dome‘s distinctive shape.
There’s one place where the view is different though. Clouds Rest isn’t the highest place in the park, but it is the highest place that is close to the valley. It’s about 1,100 feet higher than Half Dome. So if you want to see Half Dome from above instead of from below, then Clouds Rest is the place to go.
There are a couple of trails which lead to Clouds Rest. We took the one which starts at Tenaya lake and heads towards Sunrise High Sierra Camp.
The trail gets steep early. It gains 700 feet or so early on through a steep boulder field. Through a lot of this section, you are climbing up granite steps. After that it gets pretty nice though. I thought that this trail would involve a lot of bare granite, but there’s actually a series of beautiful alpine meadows in the middle with ponds like this one.
We were also surprised by the variety of wildflowers which were still blooming here in late August.
After several miles of this you do head out onto the bare granite though. The views of the high country are pretty amazing.
Then the fun starts. The last stretch is very steep, and only about as wide as a sidewalk. Chris and Tom got pretty uncomfortable through this part.
The dropoff on each side of you is thousands of feet and the rock you’re walking on is rough and cracked. But then you finally reach the top.
The view down into the valley is amazing. That’s Half Dome down below us. If you zoom in, you can see the traffic jam of climbers struggling up the cables, while there were only 5 other people with us on the top of Clouds Rest.
We really enjoyed this hike.