El Capitan Trail (historical) is a 14.1 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Yosemite National Park, CA that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible from April until October.
Wonderful hike. Great views, intense workout if you huddle. The end is a bit tricky, so heads up on that. It's a fairly steep downhill to the edge of El Capitan. I went during a fairly wet time, so it was a bit slick. After the long day, it can be pretty grueling to go back up the slick rock hill at the summit.
Views are nice. Solid, but not phenomenal. I give 4 stars instead of 5 because I did Clouds Rest on the same trip, and the view on El Capitan doesn't even come close to comparing. If you have to pick one or the other, Go the Clouds Rest route. That said, if you have the time, do both!
I did the other peaks in the area. All said and done it was about 22 miles and 10,000 feet of gain. Took about 7 hours or so, though you may want to budget a bit more if you don't have a lot of experience.
Check out some of the photos from this hike on Instagram: ahaler1
Accidentally deleted my trail recording up to El Capitan. Boo. Luckily, I remember the statistics by memory:
Mileage: The trail is roughly 16 miles, and it turns into 18 miles w/ Eagle Peak Summit (which we did)
Elevation: 4,616 feet of elevation from trailhead to El Capitan, 5,730 feet w/ Eagle Peak Summit
Preparing for this trail had the makings of disaster. Last-minute hotel reservation in a quaint town called Groveland, unorganized and frantic purchasing of supplies at REI, outdated hiking boots... it's not the perfect scenario when you're preparing for an 18* mile hike.
Somehow, it went well.
My father and I departed from Groveland (stayed overnight at Big Creek Meadow Ranch) at about 4:30 in the morning, for the trailhead for Yosemite Falls is roughly an hour away from our hotel. We were fortunate enough to begin hiking at around 6:00 AM. The visitor parking spot is virtually empty before sunrise, and there's few souls on the trail.
The first set of switchbacks (before Colombia Rock) is located within a forest. The trail itself is what you'd expect in Yosemite: granite dust and rocks protruding from the trail. Fortunately, the trail up to Yosemite Falls is extremely well maintained; there are granite "staircases," properly placed switchbacks, and landmarks to guide you. My father and I were able to navigate it in the dark easily (with headlamps, of course.)
Just before the second set of switchbacks, you'd usually hear a roaring Yosemite Falls and see a cascade of water free falling from a cliff. But since the snowpack has long since receded, and the precipitation levels aren't high yet, the falls are completely dry. All that remains are streaks of black indicating where water falls in the spring.
The Yosemite Falls trail is easily one of the best in California, if not the nation, when the falls are active. The falls are active intermittently, but the trail's other attraction- the views- are available year round. On the second set of switchbacks, we witnessed the sun rising over Half Dome and illuminating the valley (see "photos" for this picture.)
The total climb (according to my since-deleted recording) is roughly 2,700 feet from the trailhead to the top of the falls. This is best done in the morning, preferably just as the sun rises, so you don't overheat in the sun-drenched second set of switchbacks. We breezed through this section of the trail in ~50 (Fahrenheit) degree weather.
The hike up to Yosemite Falls is strenuous enough for most. However, my father and I wanted to make this hike a full-day adventure, since we had driven a couple hundred miles to Yosemite. The choice between North Dome and El Capitan was tough, but I ended up choosing El Capitan because I had watched people try to scale it when I was young, and I never envisioned I could one day stand at the top of the peak.
The traverse over to Eagle Peak Junction (1.6 miles from El Cap) is strangely unique for Yosemite. The general rockiness you see in Yosemite's trails fade into lush, green meadow with various types of vegetations and trees. Moreover, the trail is mainly flat the entire way to the Eagle Peak Junction. It offered amazing diversity and a welcome break from the relentless Yosemite Falls Climb.
The rest of the way to El Capitan is either on slide granite rock or through a similar meadow. It's an easy stretch of trail (compared to the first section of this hike) with one or two tough ascents. Before you know it, you'll be standing at the highest point of El Capitan, with 180 degree views of the valley- including Half Dome- below you.
Our summit took about 4 hours : 15 minutes, or 3:30 if you do not include breaks. Due to slippery conditions (not "wet" slippery, just "loose rock" slippery) you won't be able to travel much faster on the descent back from El Cap. Hiking shoes are indispensable and hiking poles make it exponentially easier to descend the Yosemite Falls trail.
Additionally, while El Capitan has jaw-dropping views from the top, Eagle Peak is simply unbeatable. If you have the time, it's definitely worth the extra mile (literally) to summit. We shared El Capitan's summit with three other people, but we had Eagle Peak's summit to ourselves.
Bring four liters of water per person, minimum. My father and I brought 7.5 liters of water and 2 liters of gatorade- and we were down to just 1.5 liters during the final descent. It may or may not have had something to do with the fact that we consumed the saltiest beef jerky possible, but still, bring a lot of water.
Wonderful trip, nice view over Yosemite. It's good to start very early
Amazing hike. Hard-but worth the effort. Took the trail from our camp at Tamarack. It starts off easy, then steadily climbs. And climbs. And climbs. Beautiful views everywhere, not to mention the exhilaration of walking in the middle of Yosemite. For all your climbing efforts, you end up at the summit with views that will make your jaw drop. My husband and I enjoyed the view and sat under the ancient trees-older than I can imagine, and watched as an eagle flew over us no higher than the tree top, and glided close for quite a while. Amazing experience. Will do it again. But this time I will pad my shoes/toes for the hike back down.
Brutal but wonderful
Started my ascent from tiago road on the north side of the mountain. Brought 1.5 liters of water, 2 gatorades, and 5 protein bars per person. Begins easily and then passes through a campground. After that our hike became more advanced once we left to trail and did some alternate routes, which include some pretty decent rock climbing. Eventually, reached the summit after 5.5 hours. In October, unless you plan to camp on the mountain, it is crucial to begin decent before 2 pm. Or you will end up like we did and lose to trail in the dark and wonder around the forest blindly in the dark. Which actually got pretty intense. (HINT: If lost in dark follow wolf creek north until you eventually reach tioga road.) Very beautiful and physically intense hike from north end.
pretty good trail. amazing views, easy hike, found a bass jumpers pack on the nose. it was pretty cool. :)
We hiked to El Capitan from Tamarack Flat Campground and I must say this was a very enjoyable hike from beginning to end. The hike starts off very easy with a lot of flat or slight downhills then gradually picks up to a demanding hike towards El Capitan itself. You'll pass many water sources, the rim of El Capitan to the breath taking view over the Yosemite Valley below and either proceed on towards Upper Yosemite Falls or back track back down. This hike was one of my favorites and I intend to go back there again this year and include a few new people on the trip.