USA Yosemite, California 2001.08.31 - 09.02

Clouds Rest

Yosemite National Park is located in the Sierra Nevada mountain chain near the middle of California. The most popular area is Yosemite Valley with well known natural wonders like Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and El Capitan. The park extends about 60 miles east-west and 50 miles north-south. Wes and Masami went on a 14 mile round-trip day hike from Route 120 to the top of Clouds Rest (elevation 3040 meters / 9975 feet).

The trailhead starts at the western end of Tenaya Lake on Route 120. From there, signs direct the way to Clouds Rest. Elevation gain from start to finish is minimal, and someone with a reasonable level of fitness can reach the top in 3 to 3½ hours (round trip is 5 to 6 hours). Clouds Rest looks down upon Half Dome and Yosemite Valley to the west and provides a 360° view of the surrounding Yosemite mountains. Since Clouds Rest is an elevated and completely exposed block of rock, there is a potential danger of lightning strikes on overcast days. Hikers are advised to reach the summit by noon because the weather can turn poor in the mid-to-late afternoon.

Facts for the visitor
Yosemite National Park is only accessible by car or tour bus (and if you enjoy hiking, we wouldn't recommend the tour bus). Before driving to Yosemite, contact the Caltrans Road Condition Hot Line (Tel: +1-916-445-7623) to verify that the roads are open. Route 120 from the east sometimes stays closed the entire year because of snow or avalanche danger.

A park entry fee (US$20 per vehicle as of May 2000) is collected at ranger toll booths located at each of the 3 roadway entrances to the park.

Most of the popular hikes are moderate and require nothing more than light hiking boots and 2 liters of water per person per day. Camping in the backcountry (not in proper camp grounds) requires a wilderness permit which can be obtained free of charge from a permit station near each park entrance. If you want a wilderness permit, get one early in the morning because the number of people allowed to camp in each area of the park is limited.

If you choose to park or camp illegally in Yosemite, be prepared to be woken up by a park ranger in the middle of the night and fined. Campground reservations during the summer months are highly recommended.

Campsites can be reserved in advance online at with a credit card. As of this writing, the online campsite reservation system works, but the wilderness permit reservation system is broken and always responds that the requested backcountry route is full.

An excellent online hiking resource for hikes in the US is The GORP Trail Finder provides detailed trail descriptions and topographical maps free of charge.

Tenaya Lake is clear, shallow, and warm enough for swimming in the summer. The Clouds Rest trailhead starts here.

Masami walks along the final ledge before reaching the Clouds Rest summit. Smoke from controlled surrounding forest fires obscured the distant mountains in the background.

Wes eats a banana for lunch at the summit of Clouds Rest. In the background is Half Dome and Yosemite Valley.

HomePrevious PageNext Journal PageJournal Index 2001

  Copyright © 2000-2002   Wes and Masami Heiser.   All rights reserved.