Yosemite's Inspiration Point

Mountain Secrets

Tony KrizanDecember 5, 2012 

Even though winter has arrived, I figured there was still time to attempt another hike into our Sierra Nevada Mountains. On this November morning I'm entering Yosemite Valley via Highway 41. Today my destination is to hike the forgotten Wawona Stagecoach Road to Inspiration Point. This old scenic road was abandoned when the Wawona Tunnel was completed in 1933.

My hiking buddy Nancy Blades and I drove the 4,233 feet through the Wawona Tunnel and entered Yosemite Valley. After passing the observation area we descend to the parking lot at Bridalveil Fall. From this location we walked up Highway 41 to the trailhead, or the start of the original old abandoned Wawona Stagecoach Road.

Time has not been very forgiving to this forgotten road, the asphalt is breaking up and loose rocks from years of mountain erosion have come to rest on its weathered surface. Even those unlucky trees that could not with-stand the changing seasons are now obstacles across its pathway.

Those views that the early travelers experienced are now hidden by the natural growth of the surrounding trees. But when an opening appears, one can now share those same views. After two miles hiking this historic stagecoach road it crosses the Pohono Trail. Instead of following this old road to Inspiration Point at 5,343 feet, I took the trail which is only 0.6 of a mile long. This historic Pohono Trail also extends toward Old Inspiration Point, Stanford Point, Sentinel Dome and 11.7 miles to Glacier Point.

History states that in 1851 the US Army Mariposa Battalion first sighted Yosemite Valley from Inspiration Point while pursuing Indians. Inspiration Point was also called Mount Beatitude. The religious word Beatitude is a phrase meaning; supreme blessings or exalted happiness. Named by Lafayetle Bunnell one of the Army Officers who was impressed by his first view of Yosemite Valley.

From this area in 1855 artist Thomas Ayres sketched the first image of Yosemite Valley. Ten years later Thomas Hill became famous with his painting of Yosemite Valley from this same location.

If your objective is to possess that one perfect photo of Yosemite Valley and Half Dome, this is your hike. Roughly 1,000 feet of elevation gain, only 2.6 miles hiking one way with a maximum round trip time of three hours. You can shorten the hiking distance by just departing from the east side of the Wawona Tunnel observation parking area. This is the start of the Pohono Trail. But keep in mind this is not the gentler route of the two trailheads.

Our personal time was a little over two hours and that allocated time for photography and snacks. The best lighting for photography is early morning and late afternoon to sunset. You'll experience fewer shadows from the steep south east walls of Yosemite Valley.

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