Backpack Sunrise Lakes to Clouds Rest

15.5 miles 1775 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Nathaniel Polta

Enjoy spectacular panoramic views including Yosemite Valley and Little Yosemite Valley from Clouds Rest. Make this an overnight with a scenic stay Sunrise Lakes.

Start out at the Tenaya Lake Trailhead, where you can head directly onto the trail for Clouds Rest or you can branch off after 2.7 miles to Sunrise Lakes. This allows you to break up the hike, spend a night relaxing and help you have an early start back on the trail.

Once re-connected to the Clouds Rest trail you begin a brief descent before you come across the only lake on the CR Trail. You do have to hop across some trickles and streams along the duration of the hike as well.

The second checkpoint has no sign pointing to Clouds Rest, but helpful hikers have created a rock CR that usually has an arrow pointing to the right. Follow that until you clear the treeline and can really take in the views.

The final trail sign is at the base of the scramble which last the final 10 minutes of your ascent to the summit. From the summit you can see the evidence of the aptly named, Little Valley Fire. Half Dome and the valley comprise the other view that stretches to the horizon.

If you decide to continue on towards Little Yosemite Valley you are back in the land of opportunity and can try and get to the top of Half Dome, or spend some time at Merced Lake. Make sure you brings lots of water for this because if you are a superhuman and choose to continue hiking you're going to be putting in a seriously long and grueling day. The other option is to turn and follow the trail back out to the Tenaya Lake trail head which would take 2-3 hours.

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🥇Top Contributor

almost 4 years ago


This is one of the best trails in Yosemite, and it has much less traffic compared to other trails. I've camped at the Sunrise Lakes several times, and I usually have the surrounding area all to myself. Half Dome get's all the attention but the views at Cloud's Rest are PHENOMENAL. I definitely recommend reaching the summit for a beautiful sunrise! You can actually submit for a permit to Half Dome and hit that on your way back to Yosemite Valley if you have time. Either way you cant go wrong with this back-country trip.


🥇Top Contributor

almost 4 years ago

Highly recommend at least night in the backcountry

Met a lot of people day hiking to Cloud's Rest. Definitely recommend taking your time and making it into a bit of a trip. Sunrise Lakes is a beautiful detour and in the solitude of the High Sierra, you can't go wrong. The third (and farthest) lake is the most beautiful. Don't miss the granite ridge northwest of the lake. Connect with the landscape before (or after) you take in the majesty of Cloud's Rest.

🥈 Contributor

about 4 years ago

Better than Half Dome

Don't forget your Wilderness permits if you're backpacking! Sunrise trailhead is notorious for out-of-bounds camping and hefty fines. A fantastic backpacking trip from Tioga to the Valley, then take the YARTS bus back to your car. Cloud's Rest is also a manageable day hike as a Half Dome alternative.

Best View of the Valley

Did a backpacking trip that took me to Sunrise Lakes and then Clouds Rest in 2013. Lots of people camp at Sunrise Lake so don't expect to be alone and also expect there might be some bear activity since its heavily used. Clouds Rest is one of my favorite views in the Sierra. Seeing those granite slabs fall into the valley 5,000 ft below while looking down on half dome was just awe-striking. I found it even more memorable than the half dome cables.

Make It An Overnight

Make it an overnight by camping north of Clouds Rest. There's a flat area off the trail with great view of sunset over Yosemite Valley. Bonus: you'll be the first ones on top of Clouds Rest the next morning, and you'll have it all you yourself. You'll need to carry all your water up with you, as there are no water sources up there. Make it a longer trip by taking the bus to Tuolumne Meadows and taking the John Muir trail toward Sunrise Lakes and then to Clouds Rest, and finally back down to the Valley via the Mist Trail

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