The ephemeral “El Capitan Falls” is the name I’m associating with this waterfall though it’s an unofficial name and probably totally made up by someone. I’m just running with it since it’s in somewhat close proximity to the eastern end of the massive monolith known as El Capitan.
We noticed this waterfall from the car park of Camp 4 (also known as the Sunnyside Campground). And since rock climbers desiring to summit El Capitan usually base themselves there before and after the marathon ascent up the famous monolith, I have to believe that the climbing community must know about this ephemeral waterfall as well.
Despite its possible notoriety, I believe this waterfall marginally counts as a legitimate one due to its very short season. However, it’s probably on par with some of the other named waterfalls in the park that also happen to be ephemeral as well such as Widow’s Tears, Staircase Falls, and Horsetail Falls.
In order to see this waterfall perform, I’m betting you need to have a combination of high snow pack and warm weather (to quickly melt the snow). But given its small drainage, it probably wouldn’t last more than a couple of weeks of sustained dryness before it runs through its small supply of melting snow. Thus, the timing of a visit to see it must be around mid- to late Spring give or take depending on the aforementioned conditions.
Another thing worth mentioning about “El Capitan Falls” is that its presence may influence trail conditions on the Yosemite Falls Trail to its top. The reason why is because if the waterflow is big enough (as it was on our April 2005 visit), there will be a stream that needs to be crossed. The larger the waterflow, the greater the potential for a dropoff hazard or at least for getting your socks wet (see photos below).
In my experience, the best place to view this waterfall is from the car park to the Sunnyside Walk-in Campground (also known as Camp 4). This campground (which is also the trailhead to the top of Yosemite Falls) is at signpost V5 on the Northside Drive just about 0.3 miles west of Yosemite Lodge.
For a bit of context, Yosemite Valley was roughly a 6 hour drive from Los Angeles via our preferred route of the I-5 then Hwy 99 to Fresno, then Hwy 41 through Coarsegold, Oakhurst, Fish Camp, Wawona, etc. all the way to Yosemite Valley.
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