Cloud’s Rest vs. Half Dome: Which Yosemite Hike Is Better for You?

Half Dome

Yosemite National Park is one of the best places for hikers and campers in the United States. Known mostly for its waterfalls, the park offers a vast area of wilderness and some of the best hiking trails for adventure lovers. That being said, which Yosemite hike is best suited for you: Cloud’s Rest or Half Dome?

The Cloud’s Rest hike is for those who like a relatively safe adventure while fully enjoying hiking through the mountains. In contrast, the Half Dome hike is one of the hardest, if not the most strenuous hike in Yosemite and will surely give you an adrenaline rush.

Both of these hikes are highly sought out by adventure lovers around the country as they are two of the best hikes in the whole of Yosemite. But, a detailed understanding is needed for preparing for either hike to be able to enjoy them to the fullest. I will try to guide you through both hikes and help you decide which one is the best option for you.


Whether you’re going on a quick day hike or a multi-day backpacking trip, you’ll need a reliable hiking backpack to help you carry and store your hiking gear. If you’re not sure about which pack you should get, check out our article about the best hiking backpacks to see which ones are our favorites.


Cloud’s Rest Hike

The Cloud’s Rest hike is one of the most visually stunning hikes in Yosemite. It offers a wide 360-degree panorama of Yosemite National Park, getting an extending view of many landmarks in the area. The whole hike is about enjoying the beauty that lies within the park’s wilderness and experiencing Yosemite in the most visual way possible. Let us get to know some of the vital information regarding this hike.

Distance and Elevation:

The entire round trip is 14.5 miles (23.3 km) long. The trailhead’s elevation is 8,150 feet (2,450 meters), while the Cloud’s Rest’s elevation is 9,926 feet (3,025 meters). The elevation gain is around 2,000 feet (610 meters).

Time Required to Complete the Hike:

About 6-10 hours are needed to hike to the Cloud Rest’s summit and back, depending on your pace and the amount of time you need for breaks. You can even complete the whole hike in about 5 hours if your body allows you to.

Best Time to Visit Cloud’s Rest:

The Cloud’s Rest trail is located along Tioga Road. Therefore, to visit Cloud’s Rest, Tioga Road has to be open. Hence, the only time you can visit it is between June and October. Otherwise, I highly recommend hiking when there isn’t rain nor a thunderstorm in the area. Also, you should avoid heading there if there is snow at the top of the mountain.

As its name suggests, there will be a lot of floating clouds around the area. Although, it is ideal to visit the place when there is no cloud in the area as it can easily block the view, which makes this hike worth every sweat.

The Hike:

The hike is very straightforward and uncomplicated. However, it is lengthy and a bit difficult considering the elevation, but you can easily find your way through the walk.

You can start this hike from multiple locations. But, the Sunrise Lakes trailhead is the best place if you are looking for a comfortable walk. South of the road leading to Sunrise Lakes, you will find a small parking lot. Although, you better start early to get a parking space because it can get very crowded. You can also park by the road, but be careful about the no-parking zones.

Then, you can start the hike from the Sunrise Lakes trailhead, near Tenaya Lake. You hike straight through the trail that leads you into a forest. Hike until you find the river crossing. The water level of the river mostly depends on the season. You can easily cross the river, but it will surely get your shoes wet. So, you better pack an extra pair.

After crossing the river, there is a flat trail you have to walk through. Then, you will walk through a very steep mile, with about 300 meters of elevation gain. While coursing through the uphill, you will reach one of the two forks. Here is something to remember: head toward the right for the easiest route in both forks.

After heading right, you will find yourself around the wilderness and will discover a fantastic view along the way. You will even get to see some streams and a lake until you reach your second fork. As said earlier, make a right again. At this point, you are very close to the summit, yet a few difficult paths are still lying ahead.

After climbing through a steep uphill route, you will go through a flat surface for some time, until you find yourself climbing up another steep surface. Then, you will reach the base of the granite formation.

Now, the only obstacle between you and the summit is a narrow ridge that gets steeper along the way. You should be careful here and concentrate on walking slowly and safely. After that, you will reach the long-awaited summit.

The View:

The view throughout the hike will keep you excited enough, but the ultimate treat is when you reach the summit. You can see the whole of Yosemite National Park’s wilderness and a lot of its remarkable landmarks. The 360-degree panorama will let you peek at Hawaii in the west, to Nebraska in the east.

Difficulty Level:

The hike is not very difficult in terms of the risks you have to take, but it is very tiresome and can get you physically exhausted quickly. It is highly suggested not to try this hike if you are not good at walking for extended periods. The elevation is relatively high, so it will require some physical abilities to complete this hike properly.

Is It Dangerous?

The hike itself is not very dangerous apart from a few difficulties along the road. The stiff way at the top of the summit is the only dangerous place where you must be extremely careful. The air gets thinner as you go up, so you should be aware of that as well. Also, I recommend not to engage in this hike if you are acrophobic because it has a very high elevation.


Choosing the right footwear for your hike is very important. Wearing the wrong footwear could lead to sore feet and blisters which will prevent you from enjoying your hike to the fullest. Lucky for you, we have a list of the best hiking shoes for men, women, and children all in one article.


Half Dome Hike

Half Dome is the ultimate hike for people who are looking for some challenges while hiking. It is one of the most sought out hikes in the national park and one of the most dangerous ones as well. It is also a strenuous hike to take on, so you need a lot of preparation. I am here to guide you through this difficult yet beautiful hike with some essential information.

Distance and Elevation:

The distance is about 14.2 miles (22.7 km) round trip along Mist Trail, 16.5 miles (26.5 km) round trip along John Muir Trail, 20 miles (32 km) round trip along Glacier Point, 23 miles (37 km) round trip along Tenaya Lake, and 7 miles (11 km) round trip from Little Yosemite Valley Campground.

The Half Dome elevation is 8,846 feet (2,696 meters), and the total elevation gain is 4,800 (1,600 meters) from Yosemite Valley.

Time Required to Complete the Hike:

It might be a long hike depending on where you start from, but the real difficulty is climbing through the cables, which consumes a lot of time. So, depending on your pace, it might take you 10-15 hours to complete this hike properly.

Best Time to Visit the Half Dome:

The Half Dome is not accessible without the cables, which are not up year-round, but rather from late May to October. Still, it is best to go during the dry season, usually between September and October. As for the Cloud’s Rest hike, you should consider not climbing when you are likely to encounter rain or a thunderstorm.

The Hike:

Firstly, you will need a permit for the Half Dome hike. The amount of permits is very limited, so you will have to be early to get one. You can either try to reserve a permit, in which case you will have to go through a lottery, or get one of the minimal daily first-come, first-served passes. It is always better to opt for the lottery.

There are different routes for the Half Dome hike, but I would choose Mist Trail, as it is the shortest trail and a little less complicated than the others. The course starts with a hike towards the Vernal Falls. It is a very steep road and only gets steeper along the way. As you get near the waterfalls, you will reach massive sets of stairs.

It is better to fill up your water requirements from the falls. The stairs are very slippery, so you should be careful while climbing them as slipping from there might make you land down the river below. The water from the waterfall will sprinkle all over your body, so you must have dry clothes for later. The stairs will take you to the top of Nevada Falls, where you will find restrooms. You can take a break there and freshen up.

The trail gets a little flatter after this as you walk along the Merced River, although this might be the only flat ground you will encounter during this trip. You will soon have to walk a few miles uphill until you reach the Sub-Dome base, which is a slight peak before the Half Dome Peak. You will have to climb up the cables from the Sub-Dome, which is 400 feet up from the granite face.

This trail is the most complex and most dangerous part of the path, so you have to be careful while climbing it. It is recommended not to force yourself if you are not confident about it and fear heights. By the end of the cables, you will reach the Half Dome summit.

The View:

The view throughout the whole journey is fantastic. From the start, you will find a lot of old-grown trees, flowers, and waterfalls. You will get to enjoy the river running through the falls, and will see beauty throughout the whole climb. You will find yourself amongst natural beauty from the wet stairs to the cable climbing. It makes the entire strenuous experience worth it.

Difficulty Level:

It is quite difficult. It is indeed one of the most challenging hikes in Yosemite, and you have to be strong to pull it through. You will need climbing training and enough strength to get through the whole trail. The hike itself is very lengthy, and if you lose your breath quickly, this hike is not for you.

Is It Dangerous?

Unlike Cloud’s Rest, Half Dome is dangerous. People have actually died on this hike. The slippery stairs and cable climbing are in no way an easy feat. There is danger written all over it, and you have to be extremely careful if you choose this hike. Also, bear attacks remain possible in the wilderness, so you have to take precautions to tackle the situation. Like the Cloud’s Rest hike, you must not try this if you are acrophobic and have difficulties breathing.


If you are new to hiking, you have probably heard about the different types of hiking, like backcountry hiking and frontcountry hiking. What’s the difference between the two and which kind of hiking is for you? Read our article to learn more about the differences between backcountry and frontcountry hiking


Cloud’s Rest Vs. Half Dome: Which Hike Should You Choose?

Let us sum up some key points to compare the two hikes.

Categories Cloud’s Rest Half Dome
Hike Distance 14.5 miles 14.2 miles (Mist Trails)
Elevation 2,000 feet (610 meters) 4800 (1,600 meters)
Time Required 6-10 hours 10-15 hours
Difficulty Level Moderate Extreme
Is It Dangerous? Not Much Yes
Physical Training Not Required Required
Required Physical Capability Moderate High

By now, I think you understand that if you have the physical capabilities and are willing to face the risks and challenges of the Half Dome hike, you should definitely go for it. It will be one of the best experiences you can ever get while enjoying the wilderness like never before.

However, if you are not much into the extreme challenges that come with the Half Dome hike but still want to experience a long hike full of scenic beauty, Cloud’s Rest is the all-in-one package for you. The beauty of Cloud’s Rest will surely make it one of the most memorable days of your life, and you might want to come back, again and again, to keep experiencing it.

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