How Long Does It Take To Hike El Capitan Trail?

Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan Trail is a 15-19 mile out and back hike that will take you 10 to 15 hours based on your fitness level. At the El Capitan summit you will see the iconic sights of Taft Point, Dewey Point, Half Dome, Clouds Rest and North Dome. Despite the lengthiness of the trail, it’s still possible to hike El Capitan in a single day.

As a result, El Capitan is an excellent choice for thrill-seekers. And to guide you further, this article will walk you through all the information you’ll need when hiking in El Capitan. So keep on reading! 

How many miles is it to the top of El Capitan? 

It is possible to reach the peak of El Capitan by many routes, but the roundtrip distance must be at least 15-19 miles. As you might see, this hike is not for the faint of heart, so plan on spending an entire day on it.

El Capitan is a challenging but rewarding trek, with vistas that can’t be surpassed anywhere else. Thus, the trail is most accessible from May through October and early November.

What is the elevation gain of the El Capitan hike?

El Capitan’s massive granite walls dominate the western end of Yosemite Valley. Similarly, it is 2.5 times the height of the Empire State Building or the apex of the Eiffel Tower (900 feet or more) in height. Many people are moved to tears when they see El Capitan for the first time as they round the corner.

Thus, due to its staggering walls, El Capitan’s elevation gain equates to 5,219 feet (1,519 meters) in total. This makes it a tourist spot, a photographer’s dream, and a hikers/climbers’ holy grail.

Which El Capitan hiking trails can take you to the top of El Capitan?

El Capitan has a variety of trails for hikers to choose from, and each one can have a huge impact on the duration of your trip. Nonetheless, It provides a wide range of experiences for its visitors.

Yosemite Falls Trailhead

Yosemite Falls Trail, located in Yosemite’s Camp 4, is a popular gathering point for the region’s top hikers and climbers. You may reach the trailhead by taking the park’s shuttle to the seventh stop. Another option is to take the El Capitan shuttle to the second station. 

It’s approximately 7.2 miles round way from the trailhead to the top of Yosemite Falls. This makes it an attractive turnaround point for anyone interested in seeing El Capitan’s magnificent view without traveling the entire route. You can climb to the top of Yosemite Falls and continue to El Capitan’s summit. A roundtrip adventure will cover 5.6 miles.

Even if it is the most difficult trailhead, it is also the most popular. Additionally, it is open all year and features the shortest trail.

Tamarack Creek Trailhead

The Tamarack Flat Campground serves as the starting point for this path. It is located off Tioga Road and about 45 minutes north of Yosemite Valley. The campground has 52 tent spots available on a first-come, first-served basis, making it an ideal site to spend the night following a hike up El Capitan.

In addition, the roundtrip distance from the trailhead to the summit of El Capitan is approximately 16.6 miles. Once on the trail, it’s a breeze to hike your way to the serviced path. Along the route, you’ll also pass through some stunning scenery!

But bear in mind that Tioga Road is closed throughout the winter due to the possibility of excessive snowfall. Thus, hiking El Capitan through this trail is an excellent summer activity.

Big Oak Flat Trailhead

Big Oak Flat Road is located around 3.7 miles west of the Yosemite Valley/El Portal Road junction. After reaching the trailhead, take the path leading to El Capitan’s summit with a 16.4-mile round trip.

Thus, this trek takes you through several forested valleys and may require you to cross some of the park’s rivers, including Tamarack Creek, during rising tides. 

Nevertheless, this trail is probably not for you if you dislike crossing rivers. It’s crucial to find a trail that corresponds to your level of convenience.

Are permits needed to hike El Capitan?

In contrast to several other popular hikes in Yosemite, such as Half Dome, El Capitan does not require a permit. It’s only required if you intend to make your trek to the summit of El Cap into a backpacking expedition.

If so, you must apply for a wilderness permit through the National Park Service. While wilderness permits are not necessary for day hikes (except Half Dome), they are required for overnight camping outside established campsites in the park.

The permit system’s objective is to limit the number of people who can access the area from a specific trailhead on any given day, ensuring that everyone can enjoy some tranquility in Yosemite.

While wilderness permits are technically free in Yosemite National Park, the park administration charges a reservation fee to secure your permit in advance. Suppose your future visit to Yosemite is likely to be your only opportunity to visit the park, and you’re serious about camping. In that case, it’s worth attempting to reserve your permit in advance to avoid missing out.

How difficult is the hike up to El Capitan?

El Capitan, which towers over Yosemite Valley, is usually recognized as the most difficult hike in the world. This California summit, about 3,000 feet (900 meters) high, attracts climbers from all around the world, yet few can claim to have completely controlled it.

Thus, the hike is classified as moderate to extremely strenuous. It’s 15.4 miles out and back on the trails that circle Yosemite Valley, California. It’s made considerably more tough by the waterfall characteristics around it. Nonetheless, the routes are primarily and most effectively used for hiking from April to October.

Best Time to Hike in El Capitan?

Essentially, at any moment. El Capitan is located in Yosemite Valley, making it accessible all year, and it is magnificent in any season.

Stormy winter days frequently provide a fascinating light for photography, with spectacular clouds whirling over the cliff face. This is real for many of Yosemite’s cliffs and other prominent features.

But if you’re looking for hikers particularly, you’ll find them all year. Nonetheless, there is a spring and fall “big-wall climbing and trekking season” in Yosemite when temperatures are not overly warm or cold, and this is when the majority of climbers and hikers are present.

Is it possible to Hike in El Capitan in a Day?

Before trekking El Capitan, it’s important to understand that it can take anywhere from half a day to an entire day. Additionally, it is dependent on the routes you choose.

The most challenging trek is the Upper Yosemite Falls trail, which you should avoid. It features difficult and steep terrain that will exhaust you entirely. Additionally, the descent can be quite slippery.

If you maintain a steady pace, you can reach it in around 8 hours. However, maintaining a steady pace is challenging as you stroll past stunning scenery.

Tips when Hiking to El Capitan’s Peak

For those planning a hike in Yosemite’s El Capitan, check out these tips:

  • Tamarack Flat is also a popular starting point for a more remote location.
  • Get going as early as possible (before sunrise). A water filter and warm clothing are a must, as is a flashlight and water filter to use at the many streams along the trail.
  • It’s possible to get strong cell phone reception from the tops of El Capitan and Eagle Peak in the event of an emergency.
  • The Old Big Oak Flat Trailhead can be found in a pretty isolated area, so you’ll need to arrange for a drop-off or parking site.

Conquer El Capitan Hike Yosemite National Park today! 

On a journey like this, it’s important to know which paths to take, how long the trek will be, and what permits you’ll need. Bear in mind that there are so many facets to these trails that it is critical to dive deep into the details.

So to ensure that nothing is overlooked, we have provided all the information you need!  Hopefully, after reading this article, preparing your hike to El Capitan will be a piece of cake!