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Tenaya Lake-Clouds Rest-Half Dome-Yosemite Valley

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Tenaya Lake-Clouds Rest-Half Dome-Yosemite Valley

Postby LVAdventures » Wed Apr 18, 2018 11:50 am

I want to do this hike but I am having difficulty getting all the information. Maybe someone can help me.
I would first set up a shuttle at the Happy Isles TH the night before the hike. Then drive up and camp near the Tenaya Lake or somewhere near the Tioga Meadows area or near the Tioga park entrance.

Next morning, hike to Clouds Rest....then to Hlaf Dome (climb)...then hike down to Happy Isles trailhead. Get in the shuttle and drive back up to Tioga Meadows.

Questions:
1) How long is this hike and can an average hiker do this in one day (dawn to dusk) in May?
2) How long would it take to drive from the Happy Isles TH to the Tioga Meadows Visitors center?
3) Instead of setting up a shuttle, is there a bus I can take back to the Tioga Meadows? (Park Shuttle or the Hikers Bus?)
4) Where would be a good place to camp overnight near the Tenaya Lake? We would have to take down the tents and pack up in our cars before the hike.....so dont want to be too far from our cars.

Any advice?
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Re: Tenaya Lake-Clouds Rest-Half Dome-Yosemite Valley

Postby WanderingJim » Wed Apr 18, 2018 6:13 pm

You won't be able to camp at Tenya lake or just anywhere. With a wilderness permit, you can stay the night before at the backpackers campground in the Tuolumne Meadows campground (I think it's $5 per person per night for that). If you're not planning on backpacking and camping between Tenya Lake and the valley, then you have to get a campsite at the Tuolumne Meadows campground (if you can). No other non-wilderness campgrounds up there.

A lot of people do Tenya Lake to Clouds rest and back in one day.

You could probably do Tenya Lake > Clouds Rest > Valley in one day if you're in good shape, get an early start, go at a good pace, and are prepared to finish after sunset if needed (bring a headlamp). It's all downhill after Clouds Rest.

Trying to go to the top of Half Dome on the same day may be pushing it unless you are in great shape and really book it (or are a trail runner). Most Half Dome day hikers that I've seen come up from the Valley and return there.
You'll need a permit for Half Dome if you want to go to the top.



1) About 13 miles without half dome. About 4-5 extra miles if you go to the top of Half Dome.
2) Depends on traffic. 2 hours or more.
3) There is a hiker's shuttle from the Valley to Tuolumne Meadows in the summer. But only one per day (unless they change that this year), so you'd probably need to arrange for accommodation in the Valley and Tuolumne Meadows on one of the nights (or both nights around your hike).
4) See above. Only in Tuolumne Meadows Campground.
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Re: Tenaya Lake-Clouds Rest-Half Dome-Yosemite Valley

Postby Phil » Wed Apr 18, 2018 6:31 pm

OK, yes, you definitely need some clarification on many things.

First of all, we have to be on the same page: It's Tuolumne Meadows, not Tioga Meadows.

Secondly, there's no camping allowed at Tenaya Lake.

Third, do not count on shuttle service of any kind running in May. As a matter of fact, depending on your dates, Tioga Rd might not even be open to traffic yet by then as the road needs to be plowed. Later in May, maybe. First half of May, the road will still be closed, definitely.

Camping- In May, no campgrounds will be open yet anywhere along Tioga Rd. You might be able to get in at somewhere like Tamarack Flat, but that's still 30+ miles away from your trailhead, and very questionable. What will be available and your most likely best/only option is to get your wilderness permit the day before, if it's available, and then use your one night before your scheduled departure date to stay at the Yosemite Valley backpackers campground. Until the season evolves a little more and we all see where things stand, this is your best and maybe only option.

The next morning, drive to your trailhead, and plan for it to take about an hour and a half or so to get there, traffic and road work dependent.

Your Hike:

No, I would not call your schedule realistic for most people. Uber hikers that like pain, have no aversion to altitude, and walk fast, sure, it can be done, but not dusk to dawn with a full pack on (maybe less than a handful out of 100 people?). Additionally, in May, without me seeing the conditions myself, generally plan on encountering some snow along the trail in some form or another. Early season in most years, lots of people get up into that area and get lost when there's snow on the ground, so think through that really well. Brutal mosquitoes everywhere!!!! Also, the cables up to Half Dome won't be up until the end of the month, Memorial Day weekend. So, taking Half Dome out of the equation in May, you might be better off just day hiking up to Cloud's Rest and then returning to the car the same day, treating your camping as an entirely separate issue. Since there's going to be no campgrounds nearby your trailhead, and without a wilderness permit, no backpackers campground, Camp 4 in the valley might be the way to go. All said and done, logistically, if you can schedule your trip a month later, the whole thing (just not your time/distance expectations) becomes so much better and easier.
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Re: Tenaya Lake-Clouds Rest-Half Dome-Yosemite Valley

Postby WanderingJim » Wed Apr 18, 2018 6:42 pm

Ah... I missed the May bit.

That pretty much makes it unlikely Tioga Road will be open and the Half Dome cables will be up.
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Re: Tenaya Lake-Clouds Rest-Half Dome-Yosemite Valley

Postby Phil » Thu Apr 19, 2018 6:38 am

I just wanted to mention a couple other things in your considerations, whether you backpack or day hike.

At the very beginning of your hike, about 200 ft from the parking area, you encounter a ford of Tenaya Creek. Early in the season, depending on the speed at which the thaw and runoff are going, this can be both fairly long and deep...and cold. The water won't have much flow to it as it's basically just and extension of Tenaya Lake itself, but it wouldn't be out of the question to have it be over 100 ft wide and waist deep or better at that point in the season. There will be no other crossings downstream that are even worth bothering to look for, as it just gets wider, deeper, and faster. What you have right there is the best it's going to get. If it's something you decide to tackle and don't want to spend your day wet, cold and miserable, I would suggest that you almost fully strip down, remove your boots and change into water socks, at least unbuckle your pack's waist and sternum straps so you can get out of it fast if you slip and go down, and then have a towel handy to quickly dry off on the other side. And then, immediately be ready to pull out your repellent and head net for the voracious and mind-numbing swarms of mosquitoes that, if they aren't already on you, you're about to encounter.

If there's snow on the trail, either that you can see or that the ranger tells you about, it's also a good idea to bring trekking poles and some sort of traction devices like microspikes. If the snow is deep and the cover relatively consistent, even if it's tracked over, half your realistically anticipated mileage. And remember one other thing about following tracks on otherwise obscured trails; just because someone walked there before, it doesn't mean that they followed the right trail or knew where they were going.

You're not really going to be very far into the wilderness, but with enough things stacking up on you, just far enough to get into trouble...or at least enough to where it isn't particularly what you thought it would be.
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Re: Tenaya Lake-Clouds Rest-Half Dome-Yosemite Valley

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Apr 19, 2018 7:00 am

I know people that would do that in a day without an issue. They hike at higher elevation at least once a week.

Don't kill yourself. Don't suffer for this. There are on average six SAR operations per day in Yosemite because people get "peak fever." The views you get from shorter, easier hikes are really great, too. For example - North Dome has a great view of Half Dome, in 8 miles round trip. Mt Watkins is about six miles RT from Olmstead Point, spectacular view of Clouds Rest. And the top of Sentinel Dome is nearly the same elevation as the top of Half Dome, with just a couple miles of walking.... unparalleled views of HD, Clouds Rest, the falls, and Yosemite Valley.

You do not need to do foot-killing, exhausting, grueling things. They are all fantastic.
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Re: Tenaya Lake-Clouds Rest-Half Dome-Yosemite Valley

Postby balzaccom » Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:39 am

Boy are you getting great advice on this trip. I particularly loved Phil's remarks about crossing Tenaya Creek. It's not cold. It's icy, deep and a long, long walk. No fun at all.

And to AT's suggestions of other hikes with stunning views, I would suggest that only a few miles away from Tenaya Lake is the trail to May Lake---and the new trail up to the top of Mt. Hoffman--Just maybe the best view in all of Yosemite. It would be a great alternative...

For example here is what Clouds' Rest and Half Dome look like when you are on top of Mt Hoffman:

Image

And here is Mt. Dana and Tuolumne Meadows from the same hike:

Image

PLEASE bear in mind that these were taken in September. May would fill these views, and your trails, with lots of snow.
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Re: Tenaya Lake-Clouds Rest-Half Dome-Yosemite Valley

Postby Justin-T » Thu Apr 19, 2018 12:46 pm

Haven't seen that shot from the top of Hoffman before, that really is pretty spectacular. Don't want to sidetrack the thread, but if I may ask a quick followup, there's a new trail to the top? My chances of persuading my wife to do that hike as a wilderness warm-up this July will be greatly enhanced if I can tell her there's a well-marked trail. Some comments I've read in the past made it sound less than easy to follow.
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Re: Tenaya Lake-Clouds Rest-Half Dome-Yosemite Valley

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Apr 19, 2018 12:49 pm

There's been a use trail for some time, but the parks are starting to encourage those trails with cairns and instructing folks to follow them to decrease damage to the alpine regions - the trail to Langley is also considered a new official trail because there's been so much use.

Hoffman is the geographical center of the park - it's a great hike. I much prefer destinations like it, to the hammered, overused, over-advertised places.
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Re: Tenaya Lake-Clouds Rest-Half Dome-Yosemite Valley

Postby Justin-T » Thu Apr 19, 2018 1:35 pm

OK, thanks AT. So you would describe it as a pretty safe bet as long as visibility is good? I'm pretty confident with map skills and we will certainly be carrying a good old-fashioned compass.

Just to add to the original question, I've done exactly the route described and we actually camped 4 nights so we could enjoy an evening beside Sunrise Lake, a sunset from the summit of Clouds Rest, 2 hours on the top of Half Dome and countless stops to be awed by the views and take photos. The straightforward route is about 17 miles, but it goes from 8600' to 10000' (with a steep extended climb in one section), down to 7000', back up to 9000' then down to 4000'. So, I agree with the others that its technically possible in a day, but you'd have to be in very good shape and acclimated to the elevation, as well not being bothered to wait and absorb the beauty of your surroundings. So, even if there's no snow and no waist-deep crossing, I think you'd regret it and wished you'd taken more time to see it properly. And, I would NOT describe this as OK for "an average hiker".
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Re: Tenaya Lake-Clouds Rest-Half Dome-Yosemite Valley

Postby Phil » Thu Apr 19, 2018 2:07 pm

Justin-T wrote:My chances of persuading my wife to do that hike as a wilderness warm-up this July will be greatly enhanced if I can tell her there's a well-marked trail. Some comments I've read in the past made it sound less than easy to follow.


I wouldn't call the trail up to Hoffman "easy", but it is easy to follow. The only time you might lose it is if it's covered in snow. It clearly begins on the south end of May Lake at the far end of the backpacker's area, just the other side of the outlet (Snow Creek).
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Re: Tenaya Lake-Clouds Rest-Half Dome-Yosemite Valley

Postby balzaccom » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:00 pm

The Yosemite Conservancy "built" the trail to Mt. Hoffman about five years ago, over the route of the existing use trail. It is VERY steep in places, and the last 100 feet of elevation is a scramble up rocks....but it's hard to get lost.
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