Hike to Inspiration Point for Incredible Yosemite Views

·5 min read

This article originally appeared on My Yosemite Park

The view from just outside of the Wawona Tunnel as you enter Yosemite Valley is legendary. Called Tunnel View, it makes most first-time visitors to the park gasp as they catch sight of El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall and Half Dome in the distance. Since this view is so iconic and easy to access, it attracts tons of people to the lots on either side of Wawona Road. If you're looking to photograph, or simply admire, this stunning view without the crowds, you can hike 1.2-miles up the hill to Inspiration Point and get a similar view all to yourself.

The view from Inspiration Point was made famous by legendary photographer and conservationist Ansel Adams. Read on to get everything you need to know on how to set yourself up for the same photo.

Foggy view of El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall
Foggy view of El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall (Photo: Grant Ordelheide)

How Long of a Hike Is Inspiration Point?

The hike to Inspiration Point is 2.4-miles roundtrip. From the parking area, find the Pohono Trail located on the uphill side of the road. You'll gain 500 feet in elevation across a steep climb in the first half mile as you ascend through a forest of oaks, firs, cedars and pines.

After 0.5 miles, the trail crosses Old Wawona Road. To continue on to Inspiration Point, cross the road and keep heading straight. If you want to add more mileage and another scenic viewpoint to your hike, you can take a detour down the old stagecoach road to Artist's Point. This will add almost a mile to your trip.

From the intersection with Old Wawona Road, continue climbing for another half mile until you reach another crossing with the stagecoach road. This was the original Inspiration Point, but the trees have obscured the view as they've grown taller. Follow an unmarked trail downhill for approximately 50 yards to where you'll reach a clearing where the view opens up.

Spot El Capitan on the left, Bridalviel Fall rushing to the right and the face of Half Dome peeking out at the end of the valley.

Take plenty of pictures and soak in the view before returning the way you came.

Inspiration Point in Yosemite National Park
The views from Inspiration Point in Yosemite National Park (Photo: Ginny Murray)

How Hard Is the Hike to Inspiration Point?

The trail to Inspiration Point gains more than 1,000 feet in elevation in just over a mile, making it quite steep. While you could get a similar view just steps from your car at Tunnel View, getting to take in this stunning scene without the crowds is well worth getting your heart rate up. Inspiration Point also is higher in elevation than Tunnel View, giving you a unique perspective.

If you're planning to do this hike with camera gear, make sure you are prepared with a backpack that can fit all your lenses and tripod so that you don't have to navigate the steep trail while holding your equipment. Remember, drones are not allowed in Yosemite National Park. You may also want to bring a pair of trekking poles to help you keep your balance and to take some of the weight off your joints.

Wear sturdy, closed-toed hiking shoes and pack plenty of water for each person in your group.

Inspiration Point faces east, so you won't get a view of the sunset but golden hour (the hour just after dawn and just before sunset) is an incredible time to view Yosemite Valley from Inspiration Point. If you expect to have to hike any portion of the trail in the dark, be sure to bring a headlamp so that you can navigate the steep terrain as night approaches.

Sunset over Yosemite's El Capitan and Half Dome viewed from Inspiration Point
Sunset over Yosemite’s El Capitan and Half Dome viewed from Inspiration Point (Photo: Grant Ordelheide)

Where Do I Park for Inspiration Point?

Parking for Inspiration Point is at Tunnel View, located just after the Wawona Tunnel on Wawona Road if you're entering the park from the south. Wawona Road is Hwy. 41 outside the park. There are parking lots for Tunnel View on either side of the road, but the trail starts from the parking lot on the right, or uphill side of the road, so this is the best lot to choose.

Map for Tunnel View in Yosemite
(Photo: National Park Service)

Tunnel View is an extremely popular viewpoint, so parking does often fill up. Because it's located on a busy road it's not feasible to circle and wait for a parking spot. To avoid some of the crowds, get to the parking lot early or late in the day.

This is a popular place for sunrise, so if you hope to capture dawn breaking, plan to arrive at the parking lot at least an hour before sunrise to beat the other photographers and to give yourself time to hike to Inspiration Point.

Where Is the Best View in Yosemite?

Yosemite National Park is full of incredible views around every turn. Especially in Yosemite Valley, it seems like every bend in the road reveals a stunning scene. Photographers and park enthusiasts will each have their own opinion on which view is the best in Yosemite, but there are a few classic viewpoints you can't go wrong with.

Tunnel View and the elevated views from Artist's Point and Inspiration Point land at the top of most people's lists. Other popular views include Glacier Point, Valley View and Olmstead Point. Check out our tips for each.

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