I’ve always though of two things when I hear the word “Yosemite”: lots of crowds, and waterfalls. However, in my two former trips to Yosemite Valley, I’d never gotten it through my head that it’s also very pretty. There are many places to look into the valley (including Tunnel View, Sentinel Dome, and Glacier Point), but, in my opinion, Artist’s Point on the side of Yosemite Valley offers the absolute best view. It doesn’t show the famous falls (a plus in any season except spring), but you can see Bridal Veil Falls, El Capiton, Half Dome, and many other features I don’t know the names of. The view definitely rivals both Glacier Point (too high) and the park’s famed Tunnel View (too low), and doesn’t have half of the crowds that can be found in either of the other viewpoints. In fact, I didn’t see a single other person on the trail the entire time I was hiking it.
The 2-mile (RT) trail starts at the Tunnel View parking area. Park in the upper parking lot (on the left if you’re coming up from the valley). The trail can be found in the middle of the back side of the parking lot, with a sign that points towards Inspiration and Glacier Points. However, instead of following the trail all the way up to Inspiration Point, you will want to only hike this trail about a ½ mile to the old stagecoach road. In this section, the trail is quite rocky and well-traveled. In a few places you get some nice views down into the valley itself (there’s a really nice one only a few switchbacks up the trail), but for the most part you are hiking a very dusty, rocky trail through a forest. Don’t worry about missing the stagecoach road; it’s very obvious and there is a sign at the junction pointing left towards Bridal Veil Falls. Follow this sign; turn left and go downhill along what is obviously an old road. It is even paved in some sections, although most of it is now dirt or moss- and leaf-covered. There are also trees across the trail, but helpful hikers have made paths around or across them. There’s even one log that looks like an alligator’s mouth!
The viewpoint is located a little less than half a mile down the old road. For a while there will be no view through the trees, then there will be a nice view, although there are trees in the way. Keep going, and you will come out to a place where you can see clearly, and the view is gorgeous. If you reach Artist’s Creek you have gone to far, but, as one author put it, “You’d have to be distracted by a grizzly bear and a flying saucer to miss it”. I agree. It would be hard the miss, unless you simply weren’t looking for it. There is a shelf of rock behind the viewpoint, and large rocks have been put along the trail, so even though there isn’t a sign that says “Artist’s Point”, I don’t think you’ll miss it.
You could also climb up the old stagecoach road from Bridal Veil Falls. Park across from the entrance of the Bridal Veil Falls parking lot, and hike the stagecoach road, which starts close to there. This would be about a mile longer (in all) than hiking from Tunnel View, but it might be nicer, and the trail almost certainly would be nicer. Next time, that’s the way we want to go. (And 7 years later I went! Check out that post here!)
So, if you want to get away from the crowds, and are longing to see Yosemite Valley at it’s best, take a little hike out to Artist’s Point…you won’t be disappointed.
Round Trip Trail Length: 2 miles (3.1 km)
Fees: $20 per vehicle, valid 7 days. America the Beautiful (Interagency), Senior (Golden Age), Access (Golden Access), Volunteer, Military, and Yosemite Annual Passes also accepted
Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this?
Monday Mon Jan 22 90%
Partly cloudy early then becoming cloudy with periods of rain this afternoon. Thunder possible. High 62F. Winds S at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of rain 90%.
Tuesday Tue Jan 23 20%
Overcast. High 42F. Winds WSW at 10 to 20 mph.
Wednesday Wed Jan 24 10%
Sunshine and clouds mixed. High 42F. Winds W at 10 to 15 mph.
Thursday Thu Jan 25 10%
Sunny. High 49F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph.
Friday Fri Jan 26 0%
Generally sunny despite a few afternoon clouds. High 56F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.