El Capitan Trail (historical) [CLOSED]

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Yosemite National Park

El Capitan Trail (historical) [CLOSED] is a 13.5 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Yosemite Valley, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, running, nature trips, and bird watching and is best used from April until October.

Distance: 13.5 miles Elevation Gain: 4,681 feet Route Type: Out & Back

hiking

nature trips

bird watching

running

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

closed

no dogs

It has been reported this trail has a temporary closure due to COVID-19. Please see the park's website for up to date information.

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

Most rewarding hike I’ve ever done but definitely not for the faint of heart!! The walk up to the top of the falls is gruelling, make sure u get up really early to beat the sun and hot weather. The view from the top is spectacular and the hike in general is a nice maintained path but the switch backs are very rocky. Take lots of water and snacks!

hiking
icy
rocky
snow
2 months ago

This was probably one of the most brutal hikes I've been on yet. it took longer than expected do to weather conditions and walking the last 5 mile in snow. it was an amazing experience, but do to weather conditions the veiw from the top was obscured by fog and clouds, but that just means I'll be doing it again!

hiking
icy
snow
3 months ago

once you get past upper Yosemite falls you will need to make sure you bring mini ice crampons. Snow is only 3 to 4 ft thick and is solid ice on top watch out for the black ice. most of the snow is washed out underneath the top frozen layer in many locations so be careful not putting your foot through it or you will be knee hip deep from the drop. if the ice was not in place I'm sure the trail would be quite easy to get from upper falls to El Cap. you will add an additional 5 mi each direction from the summit and add an extra mile if you're going to go to eagle peak.

hiking
3 months ago

I hiked this yesterday, what a great hike! I actually saw the previous commenter and his son close to the el cap summit. I did not use micro-spikes or hiking piles, and I made it just fine. There is still at least two feet of snow for most of the way from upper falls to the el cap summit, but it is super hard-packed, and although it is icy, there is a layer of dirt and pine needles on it which gives traction. I just took it slow in some of the uphill/downhill sections. I imagine that it will become harder as snow melts. I’d still recommend using spikes if you got’em and if you were concerned about conditions, but it isn’t impossible to do the hike without them, as long as you are comfortable walking on snow and ice (I’m from VT). I agree with the other commenters that the el cap summit isn’t the best as it is sloping, but the hike itself is beautiful and so worth it. I’d highly recommend hitting up eagle peak on the way back. With doing el cap, eagle peak, and the upper falls lookout, it ended up being 16.9 miles, and took me 8 hours and 51 minutes.

hiking
icy
scramble
snow
3 months ago

Completed this amazing hike yesterday with my 10 yr old son. We left at 5:30am from Yosemite Valley Lodge and reached the El Cap summit by 10:45am. Hiking poles and microspikes are a must after 1/4 mile past Yosemite Falls final .2 turn off towards the Overlook. The hard snow packed trail was fairly well marked by previous hikers, but we still got off trail a few times. It wasn’t hard to find the trail again though. We hit up Eagle Peak on the way back and thought the view was better. No bear sightings (including tracks), but with this warmer weather we still said a few “hey bears” to be safe just in case our hiking wasn’t making enough noise already.

hiking
5 months ago

Thought we’d try our luck with this hike today (10 Dec) as the weather was clear but it wasn’t meant to be. First part of the trail is well maintained with some pretty steep switchbacks (snow and icy patches also present), however once we got a couple hundred meters past the turnoff for Yosemite falls trail we were met but pretty deep snow. We saw tracks left by someone else from today so seemed do-able, however we decided not to risk it. We got to this stage approx 12pm and were worried that we wouldn’t make it to the top with enough time to get back before dark (sunset was at 430 today), as well as the conditions of the rest of the trail. My husband and I are in fairly good shape however the switchbacks were slowing my pace a bit. We might have persevered if we had left earlier (started around 830) however decided to bail and do the upper Yosemite falls track, which was also nice. Maybe will try this one again if we ever visit in Summer.

backpacking
6 months ago

My friend and I did this hike on Saturday, and camped for the night on El Cap. The hike is great! The first five miles are all switchbacks. The first set are under cover and easier, then you descend a little bit, and start the next set which is mostly exposed so bring a hat. There’s no scrambling, so it’s not too hard. At the end of the switchbacks you get to Yosemite Falls, a nice resting area. Once you pass Yosemite Falls, you have some meadows, and there we encountered a bear and her two cubs on the way back! She saw us and went away but keep an eye out. Eagle Peak is next, and absolutely worth it. It offers completely unobstructed view of The Valley and Half Dome, so do take that detour. About a mile after Eagle Peak, there’s a nice camping spot to the left, then a stream in another mile. Then you get to El Cap. Tips: 1. Bring hiking poles; they’re useful for the switchbacks 2. Assume there’s no water around this time of year so bring plenty with you 3. Keep an eye out for bears, nothing bad but just keep an eye for them 4. Start as early as you can, because the switchbacks are exposed to the sun and it can get hot 5. On El Cap, the trail is a little harder to follow but there are piled rocks that mark it so look for them.

hiking
6 months ago

Hiked this today, great hike. I must say I wasn't expecting the trail to be in such good condition. It is true that this is a long hike and the elevation gain is no joke, but it is made much easier by the good condition of the trail and the switchbacks mean the that highest gradient you will face is ~ 20%. There is no scrambling required. Makes for a very pleasant day walking. The views are fantastic and the trail was really very quiet once you take the El Capitan branch at the top of the climb (I saw 3 people over the 8 miles). I visited Eagle Peak on the way back, the distance sign from the junction to Eagle Peak is incorrect - it says 0.3 miles it is more like 0.6. Otherwise the distance signs were pretty spot on - the total was just over 16 miles for El Cap and Eagle Peak.

hiking
6 months ago

Epic hike in Yosemite with stunning views of the valley when at Eagle Peak. Route was to easy to follow and relatively empty when I started. Once I had completed eagle peak I went over to El Cap. Nice views but there is no real definitive ledge unless you keep going down which makes it less exciting. Overall close to 7hrs and hike I would so again.

hiking
6 months ago

Strenuous trail first few miles (Upper Yosemite Falls Trail)... switchbacks and later open to sun. Take plenty of water and trekking poles. if you haven’t hiked to Yosemite Falls, do that and skip the El Cap branch, but don’t do both in a day—- take in the Falls, get close to the water on both sides of the river, relax. Note that this time of year (Fall) the falls is actually dry, so check first! Big bonus was seeing a bear on the trail up— it simply walked by us as we scrambled to get off the trail to the uphill side to avoid it (we were 10’ away at most!) Now the El Cap branch... once you’re at top of UYF trail and branch off to El Cap it’s easy... relatively level, comparatively. But once the trail opens up and you see rocks and amazing views (2/3 of the way on El Cap branch) you’ll lose the trail— keep an eye on your Alltrails or Google Maps location to keep you on the trail. Otherwise, the rocks and beautiful views will pull you to the left and well off the trail (i did this even though reading about others doing it too) With that said, DO veer to your left when it opens up and soak in the views, rocks, get close to the edge... but plan on backtracking a bit to find the trail again. Don’t do like me, who trudged ahead across the rocks (thinking i was on the trail still, as i looked where people had made rock stacks) and ended up spending 1/2+ hr trying to find the trail again by scrambling straight uphill and over fallen trees. Not fun. So again, when the trail opens up to views and rocks, keep right to stay on trail OR plan to backtrack a little after veering left to enjoy the views. After that 2/3 point with great rocks and views, the trail goes back into the trees and finally opens up again as you near El Cap... which is a large open rocky area... it takes a few minutes to get near the edge... Honestly, it was a bit of a let down... I was up there by myself, and wasn’t able to find a good “cliff edge” to look over, like you can at Nevada Falls or Taft Point, as examples—- you have to scramble down a bit to do that, from what i saw... and at that point i was too tired and had to start back. I did Eagle Peak on way back, which i may have enjoyed more because you can get right to the edge, and there’s a more well defined “peak”. El Cap peak by comparison felt like a wide open expanse of rock that sloped downward ... it looked more like a barren planet than a peak to me ;) Back to Eagle Peak— as the trail starts to open up to rocks at the top, its easy to veer right—- but stay left and keep between the rocks. I veered right and like earlier in the day, I ended up scrambling uphill through brush to get back to the Eagle peak trail Downhill on UYF trail will kick your a** if you’re tired like I was... Trekking poles were an absolute lifesaver on the granite steps and switchbacks that you ascended earlier in the day. If you think going up was strenuous, the 2 hour relentless downhill is even tougher at the end of the long hike ;) Overall I felt a sense of accomplishment, as I really wanted to see the top of EC where so many great climbers had been

hiking
7 months ago

Beautiful hike! Even mid-October the first miles up to Yosemite falls were quite hot, so consider leaving early. The rest of the hike isn’t as exposed as the first miles. We brought plenty of water (one gallon each) and I’m glad we did because there was no water on our way (the falls were completely dry). Be careful at the top of El Cap, you can hike until the very edge and there are scrambling rocks. I really enjoyed this hike because the views are amazing and it’s not nearly as crowded as Half Dome - plus, no permit required. Would definitely do it again.

hiking
8 months ago

Hardest I’ve done and that is after doing Angel’s Landing 3 years ago! First 3 miles is difficult as there are only rocks and rock stairs-fine going up but after going to the top of El Cap and 16 miles in your legs will pay the last 3 miles down! Poles help! The last 2/3 miles to the top of El Cap are poorly marked- no sineage. Going back we did get lost for about a half hour. Saw a bear by upper Yosemite falls and deer. View at the top is pretty much a view from heaven looking down! A journey- be in shape; bring plenty of water, bug spray, a bear bell, snacks and will! But hey- we’re 53 years old- one had full knee replacement 18 months ago and I had heart surgery! It can be done! Apple watch: 47000 steps; 20.5 miles 12 hours total with some stops and a quick pb and j at the top! Beer and food later never tasted so good! Safe travels!

hiking
8 months ago

great beautiful trail. great views. the waterfall had very little water at this time of the year (september). difficult climb and difficult descent. but totally worth it.

hiking
8 months ago

Incredible hike. Those switchbacks are no joke though - we saw many people unprepared on their way up to the falls. Be sure to bring trekking poles to take some of the strain off your legs. Be sure to do Eagle Peak on the way down - this is a MUST with bucket-list worthy views.

hiking
8 months ago

Great hike! Take plenty of water

hiking
rocky
9 months ago

Strenuous hike with decent views. We just did El Cap and Eagle peak. The view is better from Eagle Peak than El Cap. There was just a small stream of water for yosemite falls. I will recommend to do it in June or when there is a lot of water. Distance Details: 16 miles round trip for El capitan. If you do Eagle Peak, it adds another mile. If you do yosemite point and upper yosemite falls then add another 2.5 miles so it becomes around 19.5 miles.

hiking
9 months ago

great trail, completed today, limited traffic and beautiful views. This trail is definetly longer than 13.5 miles. water springs available for filtration.

hiking
9 months ago

Very tough hike....the hardest that our family has ever done!!! Bring lots of water and a filter for this trip. We used 2 water sources to fill back up. We used at least 3-4 liters per person. The hike is 19.1 Miles....not 13.5 That is based on my Garmin. Trust us, its 19 Miles. A huge shout out (Thank you) to the park service, for clearing all the trees that have blown over the trail. The harder the hike, the greater the reward.

hiking
bugs
muddy
over grown
rocky
9 months ago

From Old Big Oak Flat Road to El Capitan Summit and back is 20 miles, exactly as in the sign at the trail head. Due to the ups and downs the elevation gain is approx. 4800 ft. Getting there is easy. You will see a sign for Old Big Oak on Route 120/Tioga pass road about 3.5 miles in. Arrive early for the 7 or so spots available at this place. Cross the road and you will see the 10 miles sign for El Capitan. The trails winds up and down thru dense vegetation offering views of the road and the parking lot about a mile into the hike. It then meanders thru similar thick vegetation, and into a pine forest as it descends to a series of creeks (about 4). About 2-3 miles in is the big creek (can be full of water on the way back presenting a bit of a challenge to cross it). One more similar but not as difficult creek crossing, you will reach the trail intersection (intersection of Foresta/Tamarack). Starting out at old big oak road, you would be coming out of the Foresta trail onto the intersection. The sign to El Capitan is rather obscure, and to the right of the Foresta trail. From this point it is about 6.5 miles to the summit. You'll find yourself on a fire road, working your way to a bridge. Cross the bridge, and you'll be on the continuation of the fire road aka Old Big Flat road. Some reviews i found led to some confusion around this area. While the reviews said 500 meters, or in some cases 800 meters to the next El Capitan sign, it is actually 1 mile. The el cap summit sign is to the left and here the climb to the summit begins. Parts of this climb (about 2 miles) I would rate at 20-23% grade, a series of rock stairs sometimes not obvious (but not hard to find). Once you clear this area the next land mark is a meadow and more open rock area that follows which finally tops out. At this point you lose some elevation unfortunately (a pain on the way back), as you climb down thru the pine forest before once again emerging on the rocky summit of El Capitan. The views are breathtaking and well worth the effort. Its a long haul out and back (20 miles) but the Yosemite weather & views are great for this long hike. Started at 6:45 AM and were back 5 PM, including a 40 minute lunch break on the summit. Also took about 1/2 hr worth of break in between. Bring bug spray and preferably water proof shoes (depending on snow and rainfall during the year). This hike is difficult to strenuous depending on fitness etc.

hiking
10 months ago

Completed this hike on 7/28/19 from the Valley Floor. Getting started at 6:30am was one of the better decisions I could have made. Made it to the trail junction just before 8:30 before I started heading towards El Capitan. After the initial 3 miles climbing up Upper Yosemite Falls, the trail really flattens out until you get to the turnoff for Eagle Peak. This would be a great alternative for those that do not want to log the mileage of El Cap. Just note the mileage for Eagle Peak states 0.3 on the sign, but it is definitely at least double that. The last 2.1 miles or so to El Cap are up and down which sucks on the way back when you have a section or two of climbing in miles 9 and 10. The views from the top are incredible and there are even trees with nice shade for you to relax and take it all in. If you start early enough this is a very peaceful hike with a lot of solitude until the last 3 miles coming back when you run into everyone going up Upper Yosemite Falls. Definitely have a water filter as it is a long day and there are many water sources to fill up. Logged 16 miles and just under 5,000 feet of gain for the day.

hiking
10 months ago

I only hiked this trail down from El Cap summit after climbing The Nose. The El Cap summit offers sweeping views. After that, it’s nicely rolling up and down through the pine woods, which however became quite tiring with 60-70 lbs of gear in and around the backpack. Then, down from Yosemite Falls was easy. Total one way trip was about 8.5 miles per GPS tracker.

hiking
bugs
muddy
off trail
rocky
scramble
11 months ago

Absolutely amazing!! Hiked it on 6/22, still a little wet/muddy. Definitely more than 13.3 miles and not for beginners, but well worth it for anyone willing to put in the work. Falls are pumping. =)

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