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Bucket list! Run Clouds Rest and Half Dome, two of the most epic spots in the USA!

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9,777' 2,980 m


4,059' 1,237 m


4,111' 1,253 m


8,216' 2,504 m



Avg Grade (7°)


Max Grade (33°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Commonly Backpacked · Views · Waterfall · Wildlife

Yosemite Wilderness Permit, Half Dome Permit


Sunrise Lakes to Happy Isles is a great way to experience the Yosemite Wilderness. You'll enjoy world class views of the Sierra Mountain Range from Clouds Rest and beat the crowds to Half Dome. Along the way, you'll see wildlife, Nevada Falls, Vernal Falls, beautiful sunsets and sunrises.

Wilderness run (Entry Trailhead: Sunrise Lakes, Exit Trailhead: Happy Isles).

This is normally a 3 day hike and more manageable as such. If you plan on spending 3 days (which is how you must reserve your wilderness permit (any travel through Yosemite Valley requires 2 nights in the wilderness)), I would recommend the following itinerary:

Day 1: Sunrise Lakes over Clouds Rest and on the Clouds Rest Trail ~1 mile after you descend from Clouds Rest. It has a great view of Half Dome. You must carry water to this point as there is none until the junction of the John Muir Trail (JMT) and Clouds Rest Trail.
Day 2: Hike up Half Dome and spend the night at Little Yosemite Valley.
Day 3: Descend to Yosemite Valley via either the Mist Trail or the JMT to Happy Isles.

If you are highly motivated, the hike can be done in 2 days by camping at the junction of the JMT and Clouds Rest Trail. Ascend Half Dome without packs the next morning before descending to Yosemite Valley via Happy Isles as described below.

Need to Know

Wilderness experience. There are no bathrooms until top of Nevada Falls.


Wilderness Hike (Entry Trailhead: Sunrise Lakes, Exit Trailhead: Happy Isles). Though you can do this as an overnight like we did, if you're quick you don't have to.

Sunrise Trail to Cloud's Rest (7.1 mi, elevation gain 2600 ft). This run is every bit as advertised. Yes, it's strenuous but beautiful. The steepest part is the tough switchbacks during mile 2 before reaching the fork to Sunrise Lakes. There is a small lake after you turn right at the Cloud's Rest Trail and several streams around this point so you can pump water and save weight (June 14, 2021).

It took us about 4 hours to reach the summit with packs. We proceeded down Cloud's Rest Trail to the junction of the John Muir Trail (JMT) and camped near Sunrise Creek (~3.7 mi). This was about a 10.5-11 mile day that took us ~8 h. Sunrise Creek is the last place to pump water on the way to Half Dome.

Day 2: JMT to Half Dome then Happy Isles. We just brought limited water and food to the summit of Half Dome (2.5 miles). It is absolutely insane. Both my teens were fine on the cables. We did a lot of research so we knew what to expect. Neoprene gardening gloves were perfect. Take small steps and take your time going board to board. We returned to the campsite, packed up, and left for Nevada Falls. In retrospect, we could have saved 1 mile by packing up camp in the am and bringing our packs to the junction of the JMT and Half Dome Trail.

We left the campsite at 6:00. There were less than 10 people on the cables/summit while we were there. We topped out about 8 am and spent about 30 minutes on summit. We were off the subdome by 9 am and several groups were approaching. Don't forget your obligatory picture from "the visor." The run from the JMT/Half Dome Junction to the top of Nevada Falls is about 3.4 miles.

There's plenty of room above the falls to relax, pump water, and cool off before making the 4.1 mile descent to Happy Isles via the JMT which has great views of Nevada Falls. Exiting via the Mist Trail is only 2.5 miles but the steps are steep and harder on the knees although the advantage is you're right next to Vernal Falls. Total distance was 13 miles but at least 5 miles was without packs.

Flora & Fauna

Brown bears inhabit the area


Land Manager: NPS - Yosemite

Shared By:

Jason Biederman

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242 Since May 15, 2022
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The top of Nevada Falls is the best place on earth.
Mar 31, 2017 near Yosemit…, CA
John Muir Trail Vista, Yosemite National Park
May 7, 2015 near Yosemit…, CA
Such an incredible spot in Yosemite. Clouds Rest is appropriately named with 360 views of the park including Half Dome.
May 26, 2016 near Yosemit…, CA
Nevada Fall, Liberty Cap and the back of Half Dome pose for a photo from the John Muir Trail in Yosemite National Park.
Jan 25, 2017 near Yosemit…, CA
The ice-cut, running under Panorama Cliffs, is part of the Muir Trail that closes in the winter due to ice and other hazardous winter conditions.  This was after a snow fall in early November that blanketed the valley.
Mar 8, 2016 near Yosemit…, CA
Looking roughly north from the John Muir Trail toward Liberty Cap and Nevada Falls.
Sep 5, 2016 near Yosemit…, CA



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