Every year, thousands of rock climbers and hikers visit the Yosemite Valley to challenge themselves on one of the area's massive granite formations. Inside the one-mile wide and seven-mile-long canyon, visitors find amazing views of glaciers, meadows, lakes, streams and waterfalls. These waterways drain into the Merced River, which exits the valley at the western end.
Half Dome is the largest and most visible granite formation in Yosemite Valley. Its 4,700-foot peak can be seen from almost anywhere in the eastern part of the valley and is a popular destination for rock climbers. The top can be reached from a nearby hiking trail by using a fixed cable for assistance along the last 400 feet. The face of the rock was first successfully climbed in 1957 and features different routes to the peak.
El Capitan is another great spot for rock climbers to test their skills. It is the largest granite monolith in the world and reaches a height of 3,000 feet. While it is possible to reach the peak by hiking the Yosemite Falls trail, many climbers prefer to get there the hard way. There are several routes that can be taken to the top, depending on the climber's ability level. One of the most well-known routes takes climbers up The Nose on the southern face of the rock and was first successfully traversed in 1958.
Sentinel Rock gets its name from its resemblance to a sentry that guards the Yosemite Valley. It is directly across from Yosemite Falls and can be seen from the road at the bottom of the falls. A handicap-accessible trail near Cook's Meadow also provides a clear view of Sentinel Rock for those who cannot hike up the road.
The Cathedral Rocks along the eastern wall create a valley around Bridalveil Creek. The spires behind the rocks reach 800 feet high and are 3,000 feet above the valley floor. The best place to view the Cathedral granite formations is from the turnout near El Capitan Meadow. You will also have a nice view of El Capitan towering above you.
On the east side of El Capitan are the Three Brothers, three granite peaks that are arranged in a line. The top peak is known as Eagle Peak and the other two as the Middle and Lower Brothers. The top of Eagle Peak is more than 2,000 feet above the valley floor. The Cathedral Beach Picnic Area is the best viewing point to see the Three Brothers.