Soaring high above Yosemite Valley floor, Clouds Rest is a large granite ridge left over from when glaciers moved through the high country and carved out Tenaya Canyon. The top of Clouds Rest is 9,930 feet above sea level, and when Sam and I hiked to the top of it today, it felt like we climbed every one of those feet! In reality, the elevation gain was more like only 3,000 feet, but at this altitude, and in 80 degree weather, these two flatlanders from Maine were certainly challenged.
We started the hike at 8:30am, and were able to reach the summit by noon. The first 1.5 miles or so of the hike lulls you into thinking this isn’t going to be so bad. After wading knee deep across Tenaya Creek, we followed a wooded path alongside the water, but soon we started to climb, and climb quickly. The next mile had us navigating uphill switchbacks that despite the generous staired trail, absolutely tear at your legs and lungs. Things flattened out a little after that, and we were treated to a wide variety of beautiful wildflowers in bloom, the ever majestic and sometimes gigantic Yosemite trees, and a lovely quiet pond nestled in amongst the landscape.
The final push to the summit of Clouds Rest was long, hot, and dusty as the remainder of the 7.1 mile trail steadily climbed to where we were exposed above the trees on the granite that is synonymous with Yosemite. At the summit, we enjoyed the expansive views of the park, especially of the valley floor some 5,000 feet below – we also had an amazing view of the back side of half-dome. As you can see, Sam had no qualms about getting to the very summit, but with my fear of heights, I was quite content to admire the view from the wider “summit” part of Clouds Rest.
After a brief rest and a chance to refuel, we reversed direction and started the descent, confident in the knowledge that going down couldn’t possibly be as hard as coming up. Though we certainly moved along at a better pace going down, the length and elevation difference in this hike made for one of the more challenging experiences I certainly have had hiking. On our return to our starting point, the cool water in Tenaya Creek felt sooooo good on our feet and legs, and we were quite relieved to have finished this hike. It took us a total of 7 hours to complete, and that includes a 45 minute rest on the summit… not bad for two boys from Bangor, Maine.