El Capitan from Tamarack Flat Trail

El Portal, California

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The vertical walls of 3000-foot-high El Capitan attract rock climbers from all over the world, and more than five dozen extremely difficult routes ascend it. For nonclimbers this hike provides a much easier, safer way to attain El Capitan’s summit, which stands only 15 feet above the north-side approach. Although the round-trip distance is 17 miles, I nevertheless recommend this trail as a dayhike, for two reasons. First, although the distance is comparable to a round-trip to the top of Half Dome and back, which most aspirants dayhike, it involves only about 70 percent as much elevation gain and loss. And second, the main source of water along this trail is Ribbon Creek, which dries up around midsummer.
Top Trails Yosemite

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Top Trails Yosemite

by Jeffrey P. Schaffer (Wilderness Press)

The vertical walls of 3000-foot-high El Capitan attract rock climbers from all over the world, and more than five dozen extremely difficult routes ascend it. For nonclimbers this hike provides a much easier, safer way to attain El Capitan’s summit, which stands only 15 feet above the north-side approach. Although the round-trip distance is 17 miles, I nevertheless recommend this trail as a dayhike, for two reasons. First, although the distance is comparable to a round-trip to the top of Half Dome and back, which most aspirants dayhike, it involves only about 70 percent as much elevation gain and loss. And second, the main source of water along this trail is Ribbon Creek, which dries up around midsummer.

©  Jeffrey P. Schaffer/Wilderness Press. All Rights Reserved.

Activity Type: Backpacking, Hiking
Nearby City: El Portal
Distance: 17
Elevation Gain: 1,450 feet
Trail Type: Out-and-back
Skill Level: Moderate to Difficult
Duration: 6 hours-2 days
Season: Best July to September
Trailhead Elevation: 6,350 feet
Top Elevation: 7,800 feet
Local Contacts: Yosemite National Park
Driving Directions: Directions to El Capitan from Tamarack Flat Trail

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Apr 2018