Aye Aye Capitan

Yosemite and El Capitan in the Winter

It’s the world’s largest granite monolith: gray and hulking and a spectacle for visitors who marvel at its massiveness (3,000 vertical feet of sheer rock!) and at the pro climbers who conquer it. El Capitan has been in the headlines a lot recently since Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson summited it earlier in the month, etching a place in Yosemite’s history as the first people to free-climb the epic Dawn Wall route. Where do you go to get the best views of this gray granite icon? There are a few options. You can picnic at one of the nicest spots in the valley, Cathedral Beach—located on the banks of the Merced River, you’ll have unobstructed views of El Capitan. By car, Tunnel View before sunset is a classic place to park and join the photo frenzy as the periwinkle-and-peach sky sinks over El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, and Half Dome. And if weather permits, go on a 2.6-mile (round-trip) hike to Inspiration Point, a favorite for photographers seeking their Ansel Adams moment looking over Yosemite Valley. The hike to the point is short, but climbs steeply in the beginning. It’s worth it!

TIP: One of the best times to see El Capitan is the last two weeks in February, when a confluence of perfect conditions amid a setting sun turns the waters of Horsetail Fall into a fiery spectacle.

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