Proceed on California Highway 120 to the Tenaya Lake area of Tuolumne Meadows. Park at the trailhead for "Sunrise Lakes", which is southwest of Tenaya Lake, on the southeast side of the road.
The first mile of the route winds through swamps and willows to the southwest of Tenaya Lake. It then climbs a steep, sometimes-open, sometimes-wooded trail to a ridge at 9200 feet elevation. At this point, you encounter the signed spur trail to Sunrise Lakes (left) and Sunrise High Sierra Camp. Continue to the right, over and down a 300-foot descent into a swampy region. For the next couple miles, the trail winds through pleasant and lush alpine forests, before finally beginning the steady ascent of Clouds Rest's northeast ridge. The final climb along the ridge requires a bit of boulder-hopping and boasts some mild (no, I'm not sandbagging here) exposure. Around mile 7, you top out on the summit of Clouds Rest at 9926'.
Message from flyman
: "The exposure on the final summit ridge is moderate for those of us who climb, but it is quite thrilling for anyone who can only reach this summit via a trail. Hikers will be very impressed with the 5,000' drop into Tenya Canyon over their shoulder."
Go light and your feet and body will thank you. Unless you're making an overnight backpacking trip, you can easily get away with tennis shoes on this well-beaten trail. I saw more than one guy hiking in Teva sandals.
Running out of water on this 14-mile round trip is really never an issue. You can easily fill up at the southernmost of the Sunrise Lakes, as well as from the small springs around the halfway point of the hike. I strongly
recommend treating/filtering any and all water you drink from this area. The presence of the High Sierra Camp means mule trains, and their associated shit, along with the still waters, make for ideal Giardia conditions.
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