Today was one of those extraordinary days with ideal temperatures and Yosemite Valley was crystal-clear. Once again I joined the Senior Hikers on a moderate to strenuous six-mile hike to Artist Point and Inspiration Point.
We start at the Bridalveil parking lot located below the fall. Follow Highway 41 roughly 0.4 mile before arriving at the junction to the historic Old Wawona Stage Coach Road. The old stone boulders placed at this junction officially closed this road in 1933 when the Wawona Tunnel was completed. Time has taken its toll on this forgotten road. The road surface is crumbling and those trees that could not survive the drought have fallen across its surface. With hikers like our group we have managed to keep history alive and this historic stagecoach road is still passable on foot.
In 2013 and 2014, a few of my Sierra Star articles followed my progress in walking the entire 16 miles of this old stagecoach road.
The first of two overlooks is Artist Point only 1.6 miles following this road. After crossing Artist Creek the foliage opens up to reveal this remarkable view of Yosemite Valley captured by many famous landscape artists. The renowned painting “Great Canyon of the Sierras” by Thomas Hill from the 1870s was the first to reveal this view to the world.
After 2.0 miles we cross the junction of the Pohono Trail. Our choices are to follow the old stagecoach road or the Pohono Trail which both will lead to Inspiration Point. After hiking 2.6 miles we arrive at the hairpin turn on this old road. On the left is a stone monument (minus the plaque) plus a U.S. Geological Survey marker identifying this location. Next to the monument follow the trail down to Inspiration Point only 75 yards for another spectacular view of Yosemite Valley.
If you followed the road to this destination, try changing scenery on part of your return hike and follow the Pohono Trail to the junction of this trail and road. Then continue retracing steps back to Bridalveil Fall parking lot.
Bridalveil Fall parking lot elevation is 3,930 feet and Inspiration Point elevation is 5,391 feet with a gain of 1,461 feet. Take your time and within three to four hours you will witness the views our early pioneers previewed riding stagecoaches in 1876. Just think being a tourist and after riding 16 miles in a stagecoach this view must have been a welcome sight. In the 1870s this stagecoach ride took two days. The opening of Wawona Tunnel in July 1933 dramatically cut into the travel time.