Clouds Rest from Happy Isles

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Today we feature a guest blog from Dean M. who hails from across the pond – the Kingdom of United. He is a long time blog reader and Half Dome aficionado. He visited California in July and did a hike up Clouds Rest.

“I decided to hike Clouds Rest because I’ve hiked Half Dome twice before and wanted a different view of the valley. I chose the longer trip from the valley because I still wanted to hike Vernal, Nevada and Little Yosemite Valley. I started out at about 6.15 am not realizing how light it would be – could have set off sooner. The trail was quite busy with mostly Half Dome hikers – one did ask if I had any spare permits. First bonus wasthat there was actually some mist on the Mist Trail – my first time!

I like to check the sky as I go and was happy to see nothing but blue, no clouds and Glacier Point bathed in sunshine – perfect!  Lots of water roaring under the bridge upstream of Vernal and a decent flow coming down Nevada, not the trickle I’ve been used to on previous trips.

I reach the top of Vernal about an hour after setting off, and the Nevada rest room about another hour later so I’m making good time. One of my favorite sections of the hike is heading into Little Yosemite Valley – it’s so tranquil and the little descent followed by a flat trail are most welcome after the previous ascent. The calm before the storm mind as I still need to gain about 5000 feet. I can see the western prominence of Clouds Rest from Little Yosemite Valley and it seems a long way away.

Then it’s uphill through the forest looking out for the John Muir Trail Junction which was a lot further up than I imagined. It’s 9:20 am when I eventually arrive – still on schedule though. There is a short flat section along the John Muir Trail with a terrific view back across sub dome and Half Dome before I reach the final junction. From here on,  it’s a long uphill stretch through forest before opening out onto a set of switchbacks that lead to the western dome-like prominence I saw earlier way down in LYV.

The trail leads around the southern side of the ridge and leads to a wide open area with a fantastic view out across towards Mount Starr King and beyond. Some cairns mark the way but I’m not certain if I’m supposed to stay on the trail here or if I should be branching off towards the ridge – in fact, following the trail is correct and I reach a “0.6 mile to go” marker.

I’m surprised to see another hiker and even more surprised to see it’s a ranger. We have a brief chat and she gives me some good news – I’m nearly there. The last stretch seems to go on forever but eventually the trail reaches the ridge and the view opens out down the valley and across to what appears to b ea gigantic waterfall of granite – it’s quite stunning.

There is a short scramble up to the summit with a little bit of exposure but nothing too bad – the views are amazing up and down the valley. I can see the sun glistening off cars at Olmsted Point. It took me about 5 1/2 hours from Happy Isles, hard going at the end in the heat, lots of rest stops. A group who came in from Tenaya Lake are already on the summit, and they sound relieved they made it across the narrow ridge traverse to the east. 

After a rest and some lunch I head off back down – I took Rick’s advice and I have my Leki’s. I make great time on the way down without crushing my knees and get back to Happy Isles about 4 ½ hours after leaving the summit. This was a terrific alternative to Half Dome if you don’t mind the almost constant uphill from Little Yosemite Valley. The views on the way up and from the summit are worth it and you get some of the Half Dome hike highlights thrown in. A very satisfying hike, glad I did it.”


Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…”  – John Muir 

*MrHalfDome™ – Rick Deutsch –

About Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch

Mr Half Dome. Has written the only half dome hiking guide, One Best Hike: Yosemite's Half Dome. Has hiked it 31 times to day. Lives in San Jose, CA Available for presentations. Carpe Diem Experience, LLC
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2 Responses to Clouds Rest from Happy Isles

  1. Jim says:

    I attempted this hike with a friend about 10 years ago. I was 55 and he was 58. It was the second week in May so the waterfalls were spectacular. After the turnoff to Half Dome the trail gets serious since you need to gain a total of 5500′ from Happy Isles. We made it to tree line but were driven back by a thundersnow storm. Fortunately, we were prepared for cold wet weather. What a wonderful place!

    • Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch says:

      Good decision to turn around. The rise from the main valley is 4800 feet…but it’s hard regardless. Time for you to do it again.

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