Elevation: 8,500 ft
GPS: 37.783, -119.517 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 11,343 total · 236/month
Shared By: Karsten Duncan on Mar 11, 2015
Admins: M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes
Access Issue: Yosemite National Park climbing closures and conditions Details


Despite its massive size, Mt. Watkins is the least recognizable of Yosemite's walls to most tourists and climbers. This grand wall rises 4,400 feet above the valley floor and is larger in mass than half dome. Because of its particular aspect and location most only appreciate the enormity of the monolith if hiking down Tenaya canyon or from the summit of half dome. Like half dome's north face, glaciers have made their mark by cutting off the south edge of the Watkins creating a massive vertical wall of interesting corners, sweeping sheer faces, and the striking Watkins pinnacles on its west end. A defining character of this monolith is its remoteness. The wall contains a handful of routes but many with just a few ascents.

Getting There

Generally allow 2.5 to 5 hours depending on if you are hauling bags and your ability to find the correct route the first time. Starting from either the Majestic hotel (Ahwahanee) or Half Dome (Curry) Village take one of the many trails leading toward Mirror lake. Continue east on the Mirror Lake loop trail on the north side of the lake. Just before the large bridge crossing Tenaya creek cut off the established trail and continue heading upstream along a sometimes difficult to follow faint climber trail. A conveniently located log allows for easy crossing of snow creek but can be treacherous during high water times. Generally avoid gaining elevation for another 1.25 miles. You will likely be tempted to cut up early but again stay low and pass almost the entire south face of Watkins. When just past the main face a gentle slope will head up the main wall. At the base, start up on 4th to easy 5th class terrain. Often there are fixed lines here. Work your way up moderate 5th class climbing first heading up and left then cutting back right finally reaching a large ledge system that is the start of most of the wallÂ’s routes. From the Majestic (Ahwahanee) to the first scrambling is about 4.25 miles and takes maybe 2 hours without heavy bags. Another 20 minutes (if not hauling) will get you to the base of the more vertical section and traditional start of the routes. With heavy bags would allow at least 4-5 hours.

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Classic Climbing Routes at Mount Watkins

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a C2+ PG13
South Face
Trad, Aid 18 pitches
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
South Face
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a C2+ PG13 Trad, Aid 18 pitches
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Brian Prince
morro bay, ca
Brian Prince   morro bay, ca
the watkins pinnacles aint unclimbed Feb 15, 2016
Karsten Duncan
Sacramento, CA
Karsten Duncan   Sacramento, CA
Thanks Brian,
Updated description. Just saw the upper was climbed way back in the 1940s.

Upper Watkins Pinnacle FA: Al Baxter, Ulf Ramm-Ericson, Rupert Gates, 5/1947
FFA: Joe Oliger, Wayne Hildebrand, Steve Roper, 1961

Middle Watkins Pinnacle FA: Al Baxter, Rupert Gates, 12/1946

Lower Watkins Pinnacle FA: Mark Powell, Herb Swedlund, Wally Reed, George Sessions, Merle Alley, 7/1957

Lower Watkins Pinnacle Direct FA: Tucker Tech, Walt Shipley, 1991

Watkins Pinnacles - from Tenaya Canyon FA: Gary Hemming, Dick Long, Jim Wilson, Larry Lackey, 5/1958

The Twisted Road FA: Paul Turecki, Kristin Kremer, Greg Collins, 10/03 Feb 16, 2016
Brian Prince
morro bay, ca
Brian Prince   morro bay, ca
hey cool man, thanks. glad my comment lit a little fire :) Feb 17, 2016