At the end of August David and I visited Yosemite National Park for the first time ever (even though he lived in California for over a year and hadn’t gone before then COUGHstupidCOUGH). While we were unsuccessful in the Half Dome permit lottery for all of the days we tried (darn you, thousands of other people trying to climb Half Dome!), our “consolation” hikes didn’t leave much to be upset about!
Clouds Rest was our first consolation hike, a 14.5-mile roundtrip, ~1800 feet of gain journey to a crazyyyy viewpoint, overlooking Yosemite Valley and High Sierra scenery!
We were staying in Mariopsa, and our access road in to and out of the park happened to be closed between 8am and 4pm for fire-related repairs, so we got our butts up at 5am and headed out. We got to the trailhead on Tioga road at around 7:30am, and there were already lots of cars filling the small lot and lining the road! What the heck, Yosemite? Apparently the “people are lazy” rule does NOT apply here!!!
We stored all of our car food in the trailhead bear boxes and started a hikin’. The trail was definitely busy, but not busy enough to start bottlenecking. About an hour into the hike we stopped on a rock to eat some breakfast, and watched as group after group trickled by, really illustrating how many people were out on the trail that day!
Since this trail has ~1800 feet of gain spread out over 7.5 miles, I was hoping it’d be a magical gently sloping incline, barely perceptible to the naked eye or booted foot. While you certainly couldn’t call it steep, the trail will still probably get your heart rate up! The hike can be divided into 3 general sections: the beginning flat-ish part, the prolonged moderate staircase, and the rolling hills. The prolonged moderate staircase is where you do most of your elevation gain for the day, but those rolling hills will get you! Especially since you descend several hundred feet after the staircase section, and have to go back up at the end of the day… womp womp!
During the “moderate staircase” you get extensive views to the north, but for that grand panorama of Yosemite Valley, you have to wait until the very end! Although this trail is obviously quite long, it is, for the most part, easy to walk on. So that 7.5 miles one-way seems a lot shorter than it would in some other locations ::coughWhiteMountainscough::.
A quick jaunt up a wide rocky ridge gets you to the summit, and BAM! Yosemite Valley in your face! When we were there it was very hazy due to the heat and fire smoke, but the views were still extensive and my polarizer cut through some of that haze, in the pictures, at least! Clouds Rest has a bird’s eye view of the Half Dome cables route, but unfortunately, David forgot his binoculars so we couldn’t watch the little ants marching up the granite (THE LITTLE ANTS THAT SOMEHOW MANAGED TO GET A PERMIT). Do as YosemiteHikes tells you and remember those binoculars, y’all!
We ate lunch with 500 of our closest friends and listened to the many, many conversations about hiking Half Dome and other famous Yosemite landmarks. After spending an hour taking the same picture of Half Dome a million times, we decided it was probably time to go. On the way down, there are multiple sections of gentle uphill, including the prolonged uphill section with several hundred feet of gain. Those uphills do a number on the psyche, and we found ourselves taking lots of sanity/snack breaks, along with everyone else!!! At any rate, we made it back to the trailhead and I was only about 6/10 on the long hike crankiness scale… #winning?