El Capitan – Salt Basin Overlook Trail Hike

Ric and Lin on the El Capitan Trail

Ric and Lin on the El Capitan Trail

We tackled the 11.2 mile El Capitan to Salt Basin Overlook Trail on Thursday, February 5th.
Getting an early start, we were on the trail before 8 am. It was pretty chilly – in the high 30s. A thick fog hung in the valleys and the landscape was still frosted from the clear, cold night before.

Frosty Morning on the El Capitan Trail

Frosty Morning on the El Capitan Trail

Frosty Cholla

Frosty Cholla along the El Capitan Trail

Cholla on a frosty desert morning

Ice covered Cholla on a frosty desert morning

 

The trail took us gradually higher over hills and through rocky washes, and the meadow trail gave way to loose stone and gravel as we made our way around the base of majestic El Capitan peak.

Ric hiking on the El Capitan - Salt Basin Overlook Trail

Ric hiking on the El Capitan – Salt Basin Overlook Trail

El Capitan Trail, Guadalupe National Park

El Capitan Trail, Guadalupe National Park

We kept a good pace and took time to enjoy the amazing views in all directions as we gained altitude. We only lost the trail one time while crossing a wash, shortly after getting onto the Salt Basin Overlook Trail, and probably added another mile to our hike before we re-oriented ourselves and found the trail again. These trails are not blazed and we are learning that it is important to have a good map and pay attention to contours and topography. We are also learning to stop immediately and check our resources (paper map and phone navigation) when things don’t seem quite right.

View of the landscape looking east from El Capitan Trail

View of the landscape looking east from El Capitan Trail

As mid-day approached the small washes grew into much larger canyons and the more strenuous part of the trail emerged. At noon we were happy to give our aching feet a rest… the rocky trail does take a toll!

Lin takes a "View Break" on the El Capitan Trail

Lin takes a “View Break” on the El Capitan Trail

Shortly before 2 pm we reached the far limit of our hike – which presented us with an overlook of distant salt flats, and after a steeper ascent we were at the trail marker,where we would re-connect to El Capitan trail to get home.

Salt Basin Overlook on the Salt Basin Overlook Trail

Salt Basin Overlook on the Salt Basin Overlook Trail

El Capitan- Salt Basin Overlook Trail Sign

El Capitan- Salt Basin Overlook Trail Sign

The afternoon waned as we hiked along the base of El Capitan and onward to re-trace our steps homeward over hill and canyon.

Shadows lengthen at the end of the day

Shadows lengthen at the end of the day

We were getting pretty weary as the shadows lengthened, and that last two miles seemed to take forever… but we arrived home well before sunset. We were pretty exhausted, and no worse for the wear save sore feet and arms. Time for a good night’s sleep, and to dream of another trail.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “El Capitan – Salt Basin Overlook Trail Hike

  1. Mark Dyberg

    Thank you so much for sharing your awesome adventure. Please call me when you are back in Millbury.

    • Mark – so great to hear from you. Sorry that Millbury is setting snow records in our absence! We will be heading to the arctic circle once we leave hear – end of April, beginning of May – hitting as many national parks and forests as we can along the way. I don’t expect to be back much before October/November but will do my best to remember to contact you when we get back. Thanks for touching bases – sorry to be so long in replying! In Arizona now.

  2. Beautiful! I enjoy ‘hiking vicariously’ along with you both! Thank you! ❤

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