Perched on the rocky flank of 9,980-foot Sunrise Peak, and overlooking a sprawling alpine meadow, Sunrise High Sierra Camp (HSC) is one of Yosemite’s five high country camp areas, and renowned for its spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Situated at an elevation of 9,350 feet, and surrounded by polished granite, the camp lies near a busy junction on the acclaimed John Muir Trail (JMT). There are two main routes for accessing the Sunrise camp area. The most commonly used approach is hiking the JMT south from the Cathedral Lakes Trailhead for 7.3 miles. From the western Tuolumne Meadows area, this route gains 1,660 feet of elevation to cross 9,940-foot Cathedral Pass before dropping into the Sunrise area. A shorter, albeit more strenuous, route from the west side of Tenaya Lake climbs 1,880 feet over 5.1 miles. Whichever route you take to get there, the views are equally stunning along the way.
The HSC at Sunrise offers nine tent cabins that can accommodate a maximum of 34 guests. Cabins are equipped with bunks, but campers must provide their own linens or sleeping bags. Camp guests are provided family-style breakfasts and dinners by the camp host and chef. A vault toilet is available, as well as backcountry shower and laundry basins. Scoring an overnight stay in one of Sunrise’s cabins requires entering the annual HSC lottery, which takes place the winter before the next summer hiking season. Due to high demand, limited space, and the 2–3 month accessibility season, camps sell out quickly. If you don’t get a cabin space, you can tent camp nearby with a valid backcountry permit. This is primitive wilderness camping, so you should follow Leave No Trace guidelines. You can still opt to purchase meals at the camp so you don’t have to cook in camp. HSC cabin rates are $159/person/night; meals only are $80/person/night; kids rates are available.
The Sunrise HSC is the perfect basecamp for exploring the Sunrise and Cathedral Lakes areas, or as a convenient campsite on part of a larger HSC loop. Due to its location right along the popular John Muir Trail, however, you should expect lots of company—this is not where you go to find solitude in Yosemite. This is where you go for spectacular High Sierra scenery, including the horn-shaped, 10,600-foot Tresidder Peak, the craggy, 10,970-foot Echo Peaks, and the dual-pronged, 10,910-foot Cathedral Peak. If you’ve got the gumption for a 12.4-mile round trip that gains another 1,880 feet of elevation, you can use Sunrise as the launch point for a hike to the top of 9,930-foot Clouds Rest. The view from this skyscraping perch takes in the entire Yosemite Valley, with all its iconic landmarks: Half Dome, North Dome, Glacier Point, Sentinel Dome, Cathedral Rocks and El Capitan.