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El Capitan
Vacation Travel Guide

El Capitan which includes forest scenes and a gorge or canyon

Experience the enormity of Yosemite Valley’s glacially carved granite peaks when you gaze upon this distinctive formation and rock-climbing landmark.

El Capitan is one of Yosemite National Park’s best-known features, rising sharply from the valley floor in a spectacular precipitous formation. Translating to “the captain” in Spanish, El Capitan looks out over the magnificent valley and dares rock climbers and hikers to reach its dizzying peaks. See the mesmerizing rock face from one of several roads that wind through the western part of Yosemite Valley or grab your climbing equipment and tackle “El Cap” yourself.

The sheer cliff face of El Capitan stands opposite the magnificent mists of Bridalveil Fall. Drive along the roads that connect Tunnel View, El Capitan Meadow and the Bridalveil Fall area to get clear views of Yosemite’s chief peak and the climbers scaling its face. Rising over 3,000 feet (900 meters) from its base, the granite monolith’s tallest face is easy to identify from the length of the valley. The Mariposa Battalion gave the formation its name while exploring the valley in 1851. The local Native American name for the formation translates to “Rock Chief” or “Captain,” inspiring the Spanish name.

Photograph the precipice and capture the sunlight as it reflects off the rock face. Sunset is a popular time for photographers in this colossal landscape, when the colors of the sunlight cast red and orange hues across the granite sentinel.

Reach El Capitan’s base by hiking out of Yosemite Valley on the trail that heads west from Yosemite Falls. Keen rock climbers have long heralded El Capitan as one of the world’s greatest challenges. If you are an experienced climber, bring your gear and tackle one of the climbing routes ascending the sheer granite face. If not, use binoculars to view climbers on the southwest and southeast faces.

El Capitan is located in the valley’s western section at the center of Yosemite National Park. See the magnificent peak as you drive along one of several scenic routes that pass through the soaring valley. Visit in summer to see the stark contrast of the blue sky above the pale rock or check out the views in winter when snow dusts the formation’s nose.

Top things to do in El Capitan

Top Hotels Close to El Capitan

Yosemite Valley Lodge
Yosemite Valley Lodge
3 out of 5
9006 Yosemite Lodge Drive, Yosemite National Park, CA
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Situated in a national park, this hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Visitor Center. Cook's Meadow and Merced River are also within ...
4.1/5Very Good! (195 reviews)
"Amazing views and close to trails. Absolutely a great time"

Reviewed on Mar 18, 2021

Yosemite Valley Lodge
Housekeeping Camp
Housekeeping Camp
1.5 out of 5
9004 Southside Drive, Yosemite National Park, CA
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Situated in a national park, this campground is within 1 mi (2 km) of Merced River and Yosemite Visitor Center. Yosemite Falls is 1.3 mi (2.1 km) away.
3.5/5Good! (105 reviews)
A really fun place to stay in Yosemite
"I was dubious about this place when I booked it as I don't like camping and I do like my creature comforts, but actually I really loved it and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for somewhere to stay in Yosemite. Firstly, it's a really affordable option in Yosemite where the hotels and ..."

Reviewed on Sep 9, 2016

Housekeeping Camp
The Ahwahnee
The Ahwahnee
4 out of 5
9005 Ahwahnee Drive, Yosemite National Park, CA
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Located near the slopes, this Yosemite National Park hotel is in the mountains, within 1 mi (2 km) of Ahwahnee Meadow and Yosemite Visitor Center, and close ...
4.3/5Excellent! (195 reviews)
"Too many covid restrictions."

Reviewed on Jun 5, 2021

The Ahwahnee
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.

Top El Capitan Flight + Hotel Deals

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Virtual Hikes and Outdoor Activities

Virtual Hikes and Outdoor Activities

Virtual Hikes and Outdoor Activities
Things to Know Before Going to Yosemite Park in Winter

Things to Know Before Going to Yosemite Park in Winter

Things to Know Before Going to Yosemite Park in Winter
Yosemite, daughter-style

Yosemite, daughter-style

Yosemite, daughter-style

Popular places to visit in El Capitan

El Capitan

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Best Lodging Options Near El Capitan

Yosemite View Lodge
Yosemite View Lodge
2.5 out of 5
11136 Highway 140, El Portal, CA
The price is $239 per night from Jul 1 to Jul 1
Yosemite View Lodge
Yosemite Valley Lodge
Yosemite Valley Lodge
3 out of 5
9006 Yosemite Lodge Drive, Yosemite National Park, CA
Yosemite Valley Lodge
Housekeeping Camp
Housekeeping Camp
1.5 out of 5
9004 Southside Drive, Yosemite National Park, CA
Housekeeping Camp
The Ahwahnee
The Ahwahnee
4 out of 5
9005 Ahwahnee Drive, Yosemite National Park, CA
The Ahwahnee
Curry Village
Curry Village
2.5 out of 5
9010 Curry Village Dr., Yosemite National Park, CA
Curry Village
Yosemite Retreat for you and Your Family
Yosemite Retreat for you and Your Family
Yosemite National Park, CA
Yosemite Retreat for you and Your Family
The Ahweanee in Foresta, Yosemite National Park
The Ahweanee in Foresta, Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park, CA
The Ahweanee in Foresta, Yosemite National Park
Large Vacation Home, Former B&b, Inside Yosemite
Large Vacation Home, Former B&b, Inside Yosemite
Yosemite National Park, CA
Large Vacation Home, Former B&b, Inside Yosemite
Scenic Wonders Yosemite Park Place 3 Bedrooms
Scenic Wonders Yosemite Park Place 3 Bedrooms
3.5 out of 5
7507 Yosemite Park Way, Yosemite National Park, CA
Scenic Wonders Yosemite Park Place 3 Bedrooms
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.