Yosemite’s granite cliffs and peaks are a haven for rock climbers, and the park has played an undeniable role in the advancement and evolution of the sport. Once thought to be unclimbable, granite monoliths including Half Dome and El Capitan have now hosted record-breaking solo, free and all-female climbs.

Climbing history continues to be made in Yosemite. And the allure of tackling the park’s big walls attracts climbers from all over the world. If you are one such climber, this resource hub is designed to equip you with all the information and tips you need to climb safely — protecting yourself and your park.

 

Know Before You Go 
  • In 2022, all climbers staying overnight on big wall climbs in Yosemite are required to have a wilderness climbing permit.

Staying Alive While Climbing

Climbing is dangerous. National Park Service rangers in Yosemite have been involved with hundreds of climbing rescues since the sport gained popularity in the 1960s.

Since the year 2000 alone, Yosemite rangers and rescuers have responded to at least 37 climbing-related fatalities.

However, climbers can reduce their margin of error and stay safe by learning best practices.  

Yosemite teamed up with a few of your favorite climbing experts — Emily Harrington, Beth Rodden, and Tommy Caldwell — for a series of short climbing safety videos that can dramatically improve your ability to stay alive while climbing.  

This series was made possible in part by the support of Yosemite Conservancy donors in collaboration with Yosemite National Park and Louder Than 11.

 

Audio described versions of each video are available — find them on our YouTube channel, linked in the description text of each video.

 

Yosemite Climbing Essentials

 

Please click on the headers below to expand each section for more information.

Big Wall Permits

Yosemite’s Big Wall climbs occur almost entirely in designated Wilderness — the highest degree of protection available for public land. Park management as well as visitors have a special responsibility to protect designated Wilderness for this and future generations.

With some of the most iconic climbing in the country, it’s no surprise that many of Yosemite’s popular climbing routes are crowded. In some cases, climbers wait hours to climb or be displaced. And opportunities for solitude are rare.

Crowded climbs can jeopardize safety, and the routes themselves see significant impacts.

Yosemite National Park staff began collecting usage numbers on select climbing routes in 2019. In 2021, the park began a pilot Wilderness Climbing Permit Program for overnight climbing on Big Walls.

Permits are required for all overnight Big Wall climbs.

During this pilot period, climbing permits are free, and there is no quota or limit on the number of permits available.

Learn how to get an overnight climbing permit here.

 

A man in climbing gear hangs off the side of a vertical rock face with a tree covered mountain in the background of the left side of the picture.

Climbing Rules and Regulations

Here are the rules, regulations and recommendations from the National Park Service about climbing in Yosemite.

 

A member of Yosemite's Climbing Patrol stands near Sentinal Rock and wraps climbing cables around their arm.

Climbing Stewardship

Yosemite is the birthplace of Big Wall and low-impact climbing techniques. The Climbing Stewardship program continues this tradition, minimizing impacts while engaging climbers and visitors to become stewards themselves.

The National Park Service, Yosemite Conservancy, and others collaborate to advance climbing stewardship in Yosemite. Climbing Rangers and climber steward volunteers perform field work, outreach, and visitor education. Yosemite Conservancy donors support climbing management with annual grant funds.

Learn about the history and impact of this funding here.

The Climbing Stewardship program started as a grassroots volunteer effort in 2012. Since then, with support from our donors, it has evolved into a formalized, highly effective operation that has inspired similar programs at other national parks and monuments. To facilitate the multifaceted program, Yosemite Climbing Rangers and volunteer climber stewards work together on:

  • Climbing Access Routes: Focuses on restoration and maintenance of climbing trails, which are mapped and surveyed for compliance and archeological purposes throughout the park. Signs may be installed at popular approach routes to minimize off-trail traffic. Participants from Yosemite Conservancy volunteer work weeks and corporate volunteer groups play a critical role in this work in the summer months, helping to improve climbing trails throughout the park.
  • Climber Outreach: Efforts include climbing patrols, events at local climbing gyms, creating short videos, and website and social media promotion. Events such as Climber Coffee highlight Yosemite Search & Rescue concerns and Leave No Trace ethics, and strengthen connections with the growing climbing community in the region. The program works in conjunction with Ask A Climber to educate ALL visitors on climbing history, ethics, and techniques.

 

 

 

Ask A Climber

Ask a Climber is an educational program held in the west end of Yosemite Valley at El Capitan Meadow — the perfect location to contact climbers before they begin their Big Wall climbs.

The program operates daily during the busiest months for climbing in Yosemite — from mid-May through June and from the beginning of September through mid-October. Additionally, an interpretive walk led by a Climbing Ranger takes place one day a week in Yosemite Valley.

Yosemite Climbing Rangers also connect with visitors during evening programs at Yosemite Valley campgrounds and weekly “Climber Coffee” events in Camp 4 and Tuolumne Meadows.

Ask a Climber was originally a volunteer-run endeavor, but has evolved into a popular, professional, seasonal program staffed by Climbing Rangers who offer talks, materials and interactive media that cover the geology of Yosemite’s cliffs and domes, climbing history, plants and animals that live on and around the walls, and more.

Yosemite Conservancy donors support Ask a Climber with annual grants. Learn about the history and impact of this funding here.

 

A Yosemite climbing ranger takes in the view from Lembert Dome, in Tuolumne Meadows. Photo: NPS/Jesse McGahey

Yosemite Conditions and Weather

When it comes to weather, keep in mind that Yosemite is a big place — the park covers 759,620 acres (or 1,187 square miles) of land, and conditions and temperatures can vary widely by elevation, location, and time of day.

Check out a round-up of Yosemite conditions and answers to first-time visitor FAQs on our blog, and be sure to consult the NPS Current Conditions page for the latest on road closures and other seasonal information.