One of Yosemite National Park's most recognizable geological features, El Capitan draws plenty of visitors who come to climb, take photographs, or merely gawk at its gargantuaness. The rock was named El Capitan in the mid 19th century, a Spanish translation of the Miwok word for the feature. Those wishing to climb El Cap (as it's affectionately known) can go on their own or arrange classes or guided hikes through the Yosemite Mountaineering School & Guide Service.
Things to Know Before You Go
El Capitan is a bit of a pilgrimage site for rock climbers and fans of the sport.
Take binoculars to spot the little bits of color that pinpoint adventurous climbers tackling the smooth and nearly vertical cliff.
Permits are not required to climb El Capitan.
How to Get There
El Capitan is located on the northern side of Yosemite Valley, across from Bridalveil Fall. You can get great views (and photos) from the pullover at Tunnel View. If you're interested in hiking to the top of El Capitan, the trailhead is at Tamarack Flat Campground.
When to Get There
The best time to visit El Cap is in spring or summer, when temperatures are pleasant, particularly if you are interested in climbing. If you visit between May and October, stop by the “Ask a Climber” station at El Capitan bridge, where Yosemite rock climbers answer questions and telescopes are available to spot climbers. Note that the road leading to the Tamarack Flat Campground trailhead is closed from December to May.
Easily the world's most famous living rock climber, Alex Honnold is best-known as the first person to have free-soloed (climbed without the use of ropes) El Capitan, doing so in under four hours. His journey up the rock was captured in the filmFree Solo, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2019.
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