El Capitan Loop

HARD 17 reviews
#72 of 246 trails in

El Capitan Loop is a 21.5 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Yosemite Valley, California that features a waterfall and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking and backpacking and is best used from May until October.

Distance: 21.5 miles Elevation Gain: 5,213 feet Route Type: Loop

backpacking

hiking

forest

river

views

waterfall

wildlife

muddy

rocky

scramble

snow

The start of the hike is a fairly popular trail for Yosemite visitors. As soon as you hit the split to Eagle Peal/El Capitan the crowds disappear. When the forest floor is snow covered it helps to be able to rely on GPS but the trail is also marked with red tags. Where the trail starts heading east again the road you want to take is not signposted because the trails (old road) is not maintained. You will clearly see it is an old mountain road so it is easy to spot. Halfway into that last sections expect some serious rock scrambles over rock slides that have wiped away the road. The road is also littered with fallen trees.

hiking
19 days ago

WARNING: DO NOT TAKE OLD BIG OAK FLAT ROAD The first two thirds of the El Capitan Loop is absolutely incredible! HOWEVER, do not finish the loop. Once you get to Old Big Oak Flat road, turn back and DO NOT finish the loop by taking this unmaintained trail. There are fallen trees everywhere, which is a lot of fun to traverse, but there are 3-4 areas along the trail which have been destroyed by a rock slide. It is DANGEROUS to say the least and I will never do this portion of the loop again. Those who went before left some stone markers to help guide others across, but they are difficult to find and there’s no clear route across. There’s a very real chance of hurting yourself severely. Other than the rock slide area, everything about the trail is gorgeous and I highly recommend taking it to El Cap and back, but I will never finish the loop again.

hiking
1 month ago

Very very tough. Going clockwise, you’ll have to deal with the switchbacks going up to Yosemite Falls. Fine. You pass Eagle Peak, El Cap (only encountered one very very small source of water at his point). About 12-14 miles into the trail, you’ll encounter a sign for the different miles left. We made the mistake of going straight up the very marked trail, but it’s a completely different trail. At the sign/post, you’ll want to make a left and there is a trail but it is very very unclear. Lots of fallen trees that can make you get lost. The absolute worst part is the three sections of scrambling rocks which also make you question if you’re on the right path or not. For the most part, just try to go straight. I believe it’s the last big section of rock scrambling where you have head down. There’s a very faint orange arrow on one of the rocks on the other side that points to the trail. Look for it!!!

hiking
off trail
scramble
2 months ago

hiking
rocky
scramble
2 months ago

Hiked this trail on Ocotober 5th, started at 7am and it took 11 hours to complete. At this time the waterfall was dry, but the view from eagle peak was absolutely amazing! At mile 6.7 and 7.3 the trail goes over a bare rock patch and it can be easy to lose the trail. It helps to have GPS to find the trail if you lose it, other than those two spots prior to mile 13 the trail is easy to find. The trail is awesome up to mile 13 where you turn off the main trail onto Old Big Oak Flat Road. The road is overgrown with trees and there are a lot of downed trees everywhere. There are portions of the road that are washed out. When you get to mile 16 there are serious rock slides that go until mile 17.5 (see satellite view). some of the road is visible through the rocks however about half of it is completely buried under the massive rock slide. This part of the trail is dangerous. Once you get through the rock slides it is pretty clear from there on. I gave this trail a 2 star because of the dangerous rock scrambles that need to be crossed. I was not comfortable crossing these slides knowing that there could be loose rocks which could trigger a slide, or knock a large boulder loose. I would not recommend doing this hike because of the rock slides. Be safe!

hiking
4 months ago

4.5 stars. The hardest part of this trail is having to leave it. You get beautiful views of of Yosemite Falls as you climb the steep switchbacks (the true hardest part of the hike) and multiple views of Half Dome and the Yosemite Valley. There are plenty of spots for picture time and rests. Once you finish the switchbacks, the trail to Eagel Peak and El Capitan is mostly under the trees and out of the sun. The views at Eagle Peak are sick but the view at El Capitan is unbeatable. You'll see Half Dome to the East and the road into Yosemite in the West. There are areas to camp at both spots and I wish I would have done this as an overnight trip. The sunset/sunrise would probably have shattered my soul and spoiled the rest of my life. The initial decent from El Capitan is really easy with more creeks and a few muddy spots. I think its around mile 12-13 when the trail begins a steep decline and is sandy and rocky. This also leads to where the trail become less fun. Once you get to where El Capitan meets Old Big Oak Flat Rd, the trail becomes hard to navigate. You'll see a sign that says Yosemite Valley is 13.3 miles away but with no direction. Go to the right of the sign and you'll find where the trail is. It is an old service road but again, it is poorly maintained and you have to climb over a lot of trees. When you descend a bit more, around mile 14-16, you'll come to the rock slide areas. There are multiple rock slides that have taken the trail out and you'll have to climb over rocks and search for the trail. This part was the most annoying because I was getting tired and I just wanted the hike to be over but if it was day two, I think I would have had a lot more fun. It isn't all bad because you get a secluded view of El Capitan and Brideval Falls. The very last part of the trail is basically the Valley Loop trail. I suggest taking this as drivers on the road may have a hard time seeing you walking along it. I brought 5 L of water (a 3 L camelBak bladder, one 1L Vapour bottle, and one 1 L Platypus bottle) and only drank about 2.5 L to El Capitan. I also carried a Sawyer squeeze water filtration system with me and it served me well because there are many streams that you can filter water from. I think that if you had a 2 L bladder with you or a 1 L bottle and a water filtration system, you'd be fine. The entire loop took me 13 hours to complete and MapMyRun stated that I used up over 8,000 KCals. I brought a lot of food with me and Tailwind electrolyte mix (which I did use). I also used two different bug repellents: OFF! Repellent 40% DEET and OFF! Botanical repellent. I used the botanical on my head and face and both worked really well. Also, there was bear scat on the trail and I did see fresh bear tracks on my hike. I didn't see any on the trail but as I was driving out of the park, I saw a bear where Old Big Oak Flat Rd meets the road out/Valley loop trail where I had just been a few moments earlier. I always hike with bear spray and people made fun of me for having it but I've been charged by a bear in the past and it was only a black bear but it was still not fun. So be cautious. In closing, doing this as an overnight would have been best and would have earned this 5 stars. I do not regret doing it in one day but I was tired at the end but it was mostly mental, I just wanted to be done. I recommend this to anyone who wants to get away from the crowds and experience the valley from the top.

hiking
off trail
rocky
scramble
snow
washed out
6 months ago

Amazing loop, tricky rock scrambles at the end.

hiking
3 months ago

hiking
5 months ago

hiking
7 months ago

hiking
7 months ago

hiking
Fri Aug 17 2018

hiking
Wed Mar 21 2018

hiking
Sun Jun 18 2017

Wed May 24 2017