El Capitan is a 9.5 mile long trail that skirts the southern slopes at the base of the cliff known as El Capitan connecting Pine Springs Campground to William Ranch four wheel drive road. Salt Basin Overlook Trail branches off of and returns to El Capitan Trail taking you to places with good views of Salt Basin and Routes 180/62. I will describe here an 11.5 mile long lollipop loop hike on part of El Capitan and all of Salt Basin Overlook Trail.
Starting point is at Pine Springs Campsite at the end of park’s main road off of Routes 180/62.
Blue line shows the path described here. Click on Open inCaltopo and then click on blue line to see profile and terrain statistics.
The trail is well established and well signed. Its start is common with Guadalupe Peak and Tejas Trails. After e few hundred feet, El Capitan Trail branches to the left.
The trail heads south toward Routes 180/62. Unfortunately, highway noise may be audible on much of this hike. As the trail veers southwest, El Capitan will come to view.
Hunter Peak and nearby hills.
Close view of El Capitan.
The trail gets into a canyon and goes downhill.
You will then reach the junction with Salt Basin Overlook Trail. This description goes down Salt Basin Trail and returns to the same spot 4.5 mile later. The Salt basin Trail continues down the canyon which turns into a wide wash, makes a 180 degree turn and goes back up the slopes.
The trail reaches this hill which rises 700 ft above Route 180/62. It makes a loop around the hill.
View of the highway.
Beyond the hill, the trail goes uphill to reach a short spur trail that takes you to Salt Basin Overlook. Views from the Overlook.
Back to the main trail, you will go up the slopes steeply, View of the Salt basin Overlook.
Salt basin Overlook Trail ends at the junction with El Capitan Trail 0.9 miles to the west of where it started. View of El Capitan from the junction.
You can then head east on El Capitan Trail toward where Salt Basin Overlook Trail started. Another view of El Capitan.
After the junction, you can retrace your way back to trailhead.
Summer can get dangerously hot.