El Capitan Hike
El Capitan is one of the most famous landmarks in Yosemite National Park, rivalled only by the neighboring Half Dome. A demanding feat, this trek attracts intrepid hikers from all over who are eager to tackle the legendary monolith. Not for the faint of heart, those who conquer the climb are rewarded with breathtaking panoramas.
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Route Description for El Capitan Hike
Hiking El Capitan is an unparalleled experience. Immerse yourself in the rugged terrain of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range as you climb up the renowned granite monolith. Though daunting, the El Capitan Trail can be completed as an epic day hike that will take anywhere from 8.5-12hrs out-and-back. It is important that you head out at dawn to avoid descending the vertiginous terrain in the dark, and it is always a good idea to bring a headlamp as backup! Bring the trail GPS, wear sturdy footwear, pack plenty of water and snacks, and bring a pair of microspikes when hiking outside of summer. Though not necessary, it is always a good idea to prepare enough rations and bring gear for an overnight expedition, just in case. Only to be tackled by intrepid experienced adventurers, the views along this trek are well worth the sweat. Note: the park charges an entrance fee, check out the NPS website for more information.
The sense of achievement once you tackle the El Capitan Hike is unlike any other. A revered rock-climbing and hiking destination, this trek attracts eager, fearless spirits who seek the adrenaline rush—and this hike delivers just that! Not only will the uphill climb have your heart racing, but the vertigo-inducing overlooks along the way will make your knees buckle. Those who make it to the summit of the mountain are granted expansive panoramas of the Yosemite Valley and Sierra Nevada Mountains, including the Half Dome, Taft Point, Dewey Point, Clouds Rest, and North Dome.
Embark on your epic expedition along the El Capitan Hike from the Yosemite Falls Trailhead at Camp 4. From here, track northwest along the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail that leads you up a seemingly never-ending set of switchbacks. Navigate the winding terrain under the shade of the tree canopy, before following the path as it reroutes you east to Columbia Rock. From the exposed outcrop, you will be rewarded with sights of North Dome and Half Dome. Continue trekking along this route to another overlook that offers views of Yosemite Falls surging over the sheer granite cliffside. Revel in the grandeur of the cascades and continue trekking.
Now hiking north, you will be astounded by the sights of Upper Yosemite Falls. Let the incredible views motivate you, as you ascend another set of tightly wound switchbacks. From the top of Yosemite Falls, the views of the valley and granite peaks will overwhelm you. This is a great place to rest and rehydrate before continuing your adventure. Keep left here and veer left again at the next junction. Now wandering southwest, you will pass Eagle Peak Meadows and quickly reach the northern slope of Eagle Peak. If time permits – and you have the energy – head out to the summit for some more epic views.
Continue trekking southwest and you will eventually reach El Capitan. A sense of bewilderment will overwhelm you, as you take in the sights of the granite monolith. Revel in the grandeur of the dramatic landscape that encompasses you, and take notice the other hikers admiring El Capitan from Taft Point and Dewey Point. You could spend hours overlooking the beauty of Yosemite, but don’t forget you have to get back down before dawn! Admire the dizzying vistas of the valley below and panoramas of the legendary Half Dome. When you are rested and ready, retrace your footing along the path back down to the trailhead.
El Capitan is a granite monolith in Yosemite National Park. Perhaps the most famous feature in the park, El Capitan looms 914 m over Yosemite Valley. Attracting intrepid adventurers from all over the globe, El Capitan is a popular free solo, rock climbing, hiking, base jumping, and destination. A photographer’s dream, you will often notice daring spirits scaling the southern face of the granite outcrop.
In recent years, rock has gained popularity as the ultimate free solo feat, and only a few have successfully conquered the monolith. The 2018 documentary Free Solo about free climber Alex Honnold shone a light on the epic community eager to tackle the sheer vertical rock face. When visiting Yosemite, a trip to the legendary El Capitan is a must.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is El Capitan a day hike?
Yes, the El Capitan hike can be completed in a day, but it usually takes anywhere between 8.5-12hrs. Depart before dawn and bring along a headlamp in case you must descend in the dark.
How long does it take to hike to the summit of El Capitan?
It can take anywhere between 8.5-12hrs to hike El Capitan.
How hard is the El Capitan Hike?
The El Capitan Hike is an extremely strenuous adventure in Yosemite National Park.
Insider Hints for El Capitan Hike
- Bring a headlamp just in case your climb takes longer than expected, you’ll need it on the way down
- Microspikes are necessary in the winter and off-season treks
- Keep an arm’s length from the cliffside atop El Capitan
- The terrain becomes incredibly slippery after rainfall, so mind your footing
- The trail GPS may prove useful along this route
Getting to the El Capitan Hike Trailhead
The El Capitan Hike departs from the Yosemite Falls Trailhead in Camp 4 off Northside Drive.
El Capitan Hike Elevation Graph
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El Capitan Hike Reviews
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