About the Site
Yosemite National Park (3)  


Park History

Yosemite Valley

Merced River

Half Dome & El Capitan

Yosemite Peaks

Glacier Point

Yosemite Falls


Yosemite Village

Valley in Snow

Wawona Area

Mariposa Grove

Tioga Road

Tenaya Lake

Tuolumne Meadows

Plants and Animals


Half Dome and El Capitan

Among the many well-known and spectacular features of Yosemite Valley are two granite monoliths, Half Dome and El Capitan. Pictures of these landmarks usually accompany any display involving Yosemite.

One of the most famous of the peaks around the valley is Half Dome which soars 8,842 feet, a full 4,733 feet above the valley floor. This giant block of cracked grey granite looks like a dome whose side has been sheared away, as can be seen below. It has been called the grandest monolith on earth.

The upper portion of Half Dome was high enough that it was never covered by glacial ice and therefore was never subject to the carving action that lower portions of the valley experienced. Approximately 700 feet of the mountain remained above the level of the highest glacier.

Half Dome's appearance with the surrounding ridges and mountains can be seen below in a picture taken from Glacier Point. Some have remarked on the similarity of its appearance to the hooded head of a monk.

Half Dome is the subject of one of Ansel Adams' most famous photographs: Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, produced in 1927.

The glow of the setting sun reflecting off Half Dome produces unforgettable views at the end of the day.

Half Dome is enormous. In fact, this monolith is larger than the famous Rock of Gibralter.

This view of Half Dome from Glacier Point reveals how narrow the rock actually appears. The sheer face of the dome suggested to early naturalists and scientists that it must have been created in some cataclysm. However, this was not the case, as with other domes in the park this surface was created by the process of exfoliation.

On the other side of the valley is El Capitan, a 3593 foot vertical wall of granite. The granite on the face of this monolith is particularly tough and has resisted cracking, producing an giant, sheer, amazing face. The monolith is shown below with the California black oak trees which grow at its base.

El Capitan and other promontories in the valley provide some of the most challenging and difficult rock climbing opportunities in the lower 48 states.

A closeup of the climbers reveals the technique used to climb what would appear to most people to be a unscalable vertical challenge.

El Capitan, "The Chief", is possibly Yosemite's most famous feature. It is the world's largest solid granite block. It is so tall that different parts of the face may actually experience different weather.

This classic view of El Capitan reveals just how enormous, and striking, this monolith really is.

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  • All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013

  • Commercial use of the images contained in this document without express written consent is strictly prohibited.

  • Comments and other remarks can be sent via e-mail to parkvision@shannontech.com