possible dehydration in mind as you climb. The good news here is that you don’t have to be an experienced walk climber to climb El Capitan. You have the option to either hike it or climb it.
How to Get to El Capitan
Now that you know why El Capitan is such a famous climb, how do you get there? We’ve got the directions for you below.
- Go towards Yosemite Valley.
- Once you get there, you’ll see large walls on the north side, close to the SR140/41 junction.
- Take the south side of the road.
- You’ll reach a sign pointing left for park exits, which takes you to the Northside Drive and El Capitan Meadow. Follow the sign.
- Park on the side of the road. You are allowed to park there for as long as you need it.
- If you’re going to camp while you’re there, keep going on Southside Drive and then make a left for Yosemite Village.
- There, you’ll find the Camp 4 area, also known as the Sunnyside Campground, which is a short walk from the Yosemite Lodge.
When to Climb
You can climb El Capitan all year. Most climbers prefer to hit the more massive walls in the spring and fall. Many people avoid El Capitan during the summer months because it gets sweltering on the walls that face the sun. Also, the Yosemite Falls Trail is closed during winter for hiking, so most hikers can’t reach El Capitan in the winter.
Park Fees You’ll Need to Cover
While you won’t need to pay anything to climb El Capitan once you get there, obtaining access to the area will cost you some money, especially if you are taking a trip and planning to stick around for a few days. To help you understand how much money you’ll need to set aside for your trip to El Capitan, we’ll cover the costs of the park, camping, and hotels. We’ll also discuss the gear you’ll need to purchase for your climb in our next section.
When you first arrive at Yosemite National Park, you’ll need to pay the required entrance fee so that you can drive in and see the park. The entrance fee for Yosemite is $30 per vehicle, and that allows you seven days of use.
Also, if you are taking a private car into Yosemite, then you need to follow the rules on food storage. The population of black bears in the park has gotten more significant in recent years. Some bears like to sift through cars when looking for food at any time of the day or night. So, if a bear winds up getting in your vehicle and trying to steal food, you’ll have to pay up to $500 in fines. Any food you leave in your car needs to be stored correctly.
While you aren’t required to get bear-proof food canisters yet in Yosemite, it’s a good idea to buy some. If you want to store your food appropriately and avoid that potential $500 fee, you can rent some canisters when you get to the park. You can rent bear canisters at wilderness permit stations. For more information, check out the NPS food storage page.
We already mentioned above that it costs $30 to enter Yosemite for a seven-day pass. However, if you plan on visiting Yosemite more often, it might be a good idea to purchase a Yosemite Pass instead. A Yosemite Pass lasts for one full year, providing visitors access to the park for a one-time annual fee of $60. You get unlimited visits to the park if you purchase the $60 pass.
If you’re one of those people that enjoy traveling around to national parks often, then you might want to purchase America the Beautiful annual pass, which costs $80. America the Beautiful pass gets you into more than 400 total national parks in the United States, including Yosemite. So, if you are planning on going to other parks besides Yosemite, this might be the pass for you.
Yosemite also offers what is known as a “Senior Pass,” This is a lifetime pass available to those that are 62 and older. The fee for this pass is one-time and costs $80.
Can I Get in for Free?
You might be able to get into Yosemite National Park for free, but it depends on your circumstances. If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a lifelong disability, you can qualify for this pass. If you are active military personnel with proper identification and you have dependents, you also qualify for the Access Pass. With this pass, you get free lifetime admission via an annual pass that doesn’t require you to pay entrance and amenity fees.
If you have a child that is in the fourth-grade, you can get a complimentary one-year pass for your entire family. Print out the voucher you’ll find here at everykidinapark.gov and take it with you to the park entrance.
If none of the free options described above apply to you, be aware that all national parks have free admission days, too. Typically, every park offers six free days each year. If you aren’t sure what the free dates are, you can check the event calendar at Yosemite.
In Yosemite National Park, you can only camp in the base area of designated campgrounds. The closed campground to El Capitan is Camp 4. You will need to pay fees to camp in these areas if you’re staying overnight while en route to the walls, you won’t run into any restrictions or need any permits. You can also camp at the summit of El Capitan without needing a permit. However, the park rangers will decide if you can do this or not, as it is up to their discretion.
If you’re climbing El Capitan and planning to stay overnight on the summit, you won’t need a permit for that. However, if you are hiking the trail, you will need to pay a fee.
According to the Official NPS Camping page, there are three RV-permitted campgrounds in Yosemite, which include the Upper Pines, Lower Pines, and North Pines. There is also one tent-only campground, which is Camp 4. If you need to make any reservations, please go here.
Below we’ve included a chart that lists the camping costs at the various camps and some other information you may need to know.
|Campground||Open (approx.)||Reservations||Tents or RVs||Cost||Spaces|
|Upper Pines||All year||Required||Both||$20||238|
|North Pines||April – Sept.||Required||Both||$20||81|
|Camp 4||All year||No||Tents only||$20||35|
If you prefer to do some backcountry camping, you are allowed to do that just about anywhere in the wilderness you want to explore. The general rule is that you need to be more than one mile from the closed paved road.
If you are planning on doing backcountry camp0ing, you do need wilderness permits. Wilderness permits are required for backcountry overnight stays. You can get them on a quota basis. So, if you are planning to do some backcountry camping in a popular tourist area, then know that the quote can fill up quickly, and you should plan.
Wilderness permits cost $5 for the permit, and then an additional $5 per person that is using the permit with you. Also, if you wind up changing your reservations, it will cost you another $5 to do that. If you want to get a wilderness permit for your backcountry camping plans, please go here.
Other Lodging Choices
If you aren’t planning on camping and you’d prefer to get a room, you have four non-camping accommodation choices in the Yosemite Valley area. We’ve listed these places to stay in descending order of cost as well as accommodations.
- The Ahwahnee Hotel, which starts at $376 per night.
- Yosemite Valley Lodge, which starts at $206 per night.
- Curry Village, which starts at $86 per night.
- Housekeeping Camp, where costs vary depending on the type of room you get.
If you’re staying overnight at Yosemite for a few days, you’ll also need to factor in some food expenses when you are trying to climb El Capitan. One of the best things about taking a trip to Yosemite is the excellent food you can get when you dine out. We’ve listed where you can eat in descending order of price and class:
- Ahwahnee Dining Room. Like the accommodations at the hotel here, the food here is fantastic. However, it’s also quite expensive, again like the price of the rooms. The service is also excellent. However, if you plan to eat here, you’ll be spending about $30 per plate of food per person.
- Mountain Room Restaurant. This eatery is located in Yosemite Lodge. The food here is decent, but it is still expensive for what you are getting. The service is about average. You’ll be paying about $20 per plate of food per person here.
- Cafeterias, which you’ll find at Yosemite Lodge and Curry Village. The food is manageable, and the service is acceptable. If you are on a tight budget, the cafeterias are great places to eat, and you’ll only spend about $10 per plate per person here.
- You can also purchase a variety of snacks in the shops around Yosemite Village, Curry Village, and Yosemite Lodge.
Now that we’ve covered the costs of visiting Yosemite National Park so that you can tackle your El Capitan Climb, we’ll discuss what you’ll need to purchase in gear to make that hike. Below we’ll cover the gear essentials you’ll need for your climb so you can budget, purchase, ad plan accordingly.
What Gear Will I Need to Buy?
When it comes to climbing El Capitan, you’ll want to make sure you own all the gear you need before doing the climb. We’ll cover below the items you’ll need to stay safe when you climb El Capitan. That will also help you budget and plan to buy what you need before you go on your trip.
You’ll need to make sure you purchase a good pair of climbing shoes. Getting a good pair that has sticky rubber soles will give you the friction you’ll want when doing your climb of El Capitan. You want to purchase shoes that are durable, stiff, and fit well when you aren’t wearing your socks.
Chalk and a Chalk Bag
You’ll need to get some magnesium carbonate chalk to help you get the best grip possible. Plus, this chalk also prevents rubbing and chafing while you climb, giving you more comfort. You’ll want to carry around your loose chalk in a chalk bag. Get a chalk bag that you can tie to your waist belt and climb with easily. That way, you can access your chalk whenever you need it.
You’ll need some carabiners, which are loops of metal with an opening for your robe and webbing to go through. Carabiners need to be secure, and you’ll want some that are easy to open and close. Remember, you can also lock carabiners if you need extra safety and security on your climb.
A quick draw uses two carabiners together and features a dog bone sling.
Climbing harnesses are essential for your El Capitan climb. You’ll want a harness, which offers a webbing loop system that goes around your legs and waist, giving you support while you are on the rope. Make sure the harness you purchase has a metal buckle on the attachment to the body. You also want to buy a harness that has several loops, including one for the belay device and another for your gear.
Another item you’ll need to purchase for your climb to El Capitan is a belay device. You’ll use a belay device and attach it to your harness and a carabiner. The belay device will let you obtain control of the rope when you are belaying.
You’ll also need a dynamic rope. When you purchase a dynamic rope, you’ll notice it comes with two components, the kern (also known as the core), and the sheath (also called the mantle). Typically, the kern on a dynamic rope is made out of durable elastic fibers that are protected by the design of the outer mantle.
Dynamic ropes have details that cover diameter, length, and dry-treatment. If you want a dry-treated dynamic rope, that means your rope is protected from moisture and water and has been treated to hold up against water exposure. It’s best to purchase a dry-treated rope that is about sixty meters long and at least 9.8mm in thickness.
You’ll also want to get some extra webbing when you are preparing to climb El Capitan. Webbing helps make a top-rope anchor, and we also suggest getting different sizes of webbing. It’s best to get a 17-foot section, a 26-foot section, and a 51-foot section. Remember, you can’t use webbing as a rope because it won’t be durable enough to do the job.
Now that you know the gear you’ll need to purchase when you are preparing to climb El Capitan, we’ll cover some of the clothing you’ll need to buy so that you can make your rock climbing adventure a successful one.
What Clothing Will I Need?
You’ll also need to make sure you’ve purchased the right types of clothes to climb in before you engage in your El Capitan climb. Buying the correct type of clothing for climbing is essential because you don’t want to wind up in the wrong kinds of materials that make it difficult for you to climb. If your clothing is too tight, you won’t be able to move correctly, for example.
You also don’t want to feel overly warm or cold in your clothing. We recommend layering when the weather is unstable or when you are climbing for long periods. Layering can help you strip down or build up your clothing more easily.
Below we’ll cover some of the clothing you’ll need to purchase before you start climbing El Capitan.
You’ll need an excellent softshell jacket that can hold up against rain, wind, and some cold. Softshell jackets are designed to be lightweight, and you’ll find that your movement isn’t restricted when you wear one of these. Also, these types of jackets do a great job of providing enough protection against the wind and rain on climbs. Also, softshell jackets are destined to ventilate well. So, if the sun comes out while you are climbing, you’ll still be in material that can breathe well.
Length-adjustable pants are a popular clothing option for many people undertaking a bevy of activities. However, length-adjustable pants are also trendy for hiking and climbing. With these types of pants, you can divide them around the knees with a zipper. That way, you’ll be able to adjust to shorts or long pants whenever you need them.
We already mentioned that you’d want to purchase a softshell jacket that is breathable. However, you’ll also need some other types of clothing that are breathable, too. Consider buying things like shirts and pants in materials that will ventilate well, so you don’t overheat or get too sweaty while you climb.
Hats and Bandanas
If you are climbing when the weather is warm and bright outside, like during the summer months, then you’ll want to consider having some head protection so that you don’t get sunburned while you climb. Remember, you don’t get much of a shadow when climbing during the summer months. That makes many climbers that forget this general rule left exposed to sunstroke.
Other Essential Items You’ll Need
Now that we’ve covered the expenses of visiting Yosemite so that you can complete your El Capitan climb and the gear you’ll need to purchase, we’ll include a few other essential items you’ll need to have on you when you undertake your climb.
Other Basic Items You’ll Need to Purchase
You’ll need to remember to purchase some of the basics and take them along with you, too. That way, you can complete your climb up El Capitan. We’ll cover some of the basics that you’ll need to take with you below.
- Water. You’ll need quite a bit of this and the hotter the day is, the more of it you’ll need.
- Food. You’ll also need to take some food up with you when you climb. How much food you’ll need to take depends on how much you’ll be climbing.
- Headlamp. You might want to buy a headlamp if you enjoy climbing when the light is low outside. An LED headlamp can help guide your way in the evening or early morning. However, if you prefer to climb only when the sun is out, you won’t need one of these.
- Sunglasses. If you enjoy climbing when it is sunny out, get some sunglasses to help protect your eyes from the glare. Purchase something high-quality and designed for sports.
- Backpack. You should also purchase a lightweight backpack to carry your gear while you climb. We recommend a 40-liter volume.
- Sunscreen. If you are out in the sun for long periods, bring sunscreen to prevent sunburn.
- Camera—If you want to document your experience on your climb, don’t forget to bring along a good camera.
In our article, we covered information to help you prepare for your climb up El Capitan. Before you book your trip to Yosemite National Park, you’ll need to make sure you’ve saved up the money necessary for your trip. You’ll need to pay to access Yosemite and park, and you’ll also need to pay for camping or other hotel accommodations once you arrive.
Once you’ve figured out the park fees and where you’ll be staying, you’ll also need to make sure you bring all of the appropriate gear with you so you can do your climb successfully. With the right equipment, you’ll be able to reach your goals with ease.
Besides park fees and gear, you’ll also need to make sure you’ve purchased plenty of water, food, and other necessities for your hike up El Capitan. With all that, you’ll be prepared to have an exciting and fun climb!