Restoring Scenic Viewing Areas 1997–2009

Restoring Scenic Viewing Areas 1997–2009

Today, visitors stopping at Olmsted Point, Tunnel View, Glacier Point or Half Dome View are experiencing some of the most beautiful, environmentally sensitive and visitor-friendly scenic viewing areas in the world.

Glacier Point 1997

An early and ambitious Conservancy venture was the Glacier Point rehabilitation project. This point offers one of the most spectacular vistas in Yosemite: looking into the Valley and showcasing the grandeur of Half Dome.

The work included major upgrades to public facilities, including a new amphitheater, wheelchair-accessible trails, new restrooms, a new interpretive exhibit in the historic Geology Hut and a concession building that also provides basic winter accommodation for cross country skiers.

There was also extensive habitat rehabilitation that included reseeding of surrounding areas. With visitors now using clearly marked paths, these seedlings have grown into beautiful groundcover.

The amphitheater now plays host to many educational programs, one of which explores our night sky.

Olmsted Point 2006

Olmsted Point on Tioga Road at 8,400 feet provides visitors with picture-postcard views of Tenaya Lake, Clouds Rest and Half Dome. As with other viewing-area projects that followed, Olmsted Point showcases:

  • Reconstructed retaining wall, providing multiple viewpoints and granite seatwalls
  • Lower stone ledges between seatwalls to allow unimpeded views
  • Restoration of adjacent stone trail that descends to a majestic overlook
  • Filtration system for the parking-lot water runoff
  • Addition of accessible parking spaces
  • New interpretive panels to educate about Olmsted Point’s geological and historic significance, identify vistas and provide trail information

Half Dome View 2009

Half Dome View is the first pull-off opportunity that visitors driving eastward on Big Oak Flat Road, Hwy. 120, have to view Yosemite Valley and Half Dome.

Visitors are routinely awestruck by this iconic view of Half Dome, which is enclosed by magnificent El Capitan to the left and Glacier Point cliff with Sentinel Rock and Dome to the right. This site attracts thousands of people who visit briefly on their way to the Valley each year.

Like other popular viewing areas in Yosemite, Half Dome View is now an example of the best in visitor services and environmental protection. The newly restored viewing areas keep visitors off sensitive habitat, improve traffic circulation with revised parking and share the wonders of the park with visitors through new exhibits. Gone are traffic gridlocks, unwanted paths as people sought a better view, and uneven surfaces that prevented access to the view point.

Tunnel View 2008

No other view in the park more clearly represents the essence of Yosemite than this one; it is one of the most recognized and photographed scenes in any national park in the country. Every year, millions of visitors stop here to take in the grandeur of El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls and Yosemite Valley as they unfold below the outlook at Wawona Tunnel on Hwy. 41.

This historic scenic viewing area was built in 1932 in the “rustic design style” characteristic of park structures at the time. With no significant work done since then, Tunnel View was showing signs of disrepair. Surrounding areas were being trampled as visitors crowded the existing platform, and traffic conditions had become dangerous.

Today Tunnel View, like Half Dome View and Olmsted Point, represents the best in visitor experience and habitat protection.

The new design:

  • Accommodates today’s visitor levels
  • Is accessible for visitors with decreased mobility
  • Minimizes traffic congestion
  • Protects surrounding habitat
  • Reflects the original architectural character, ensuring its historic value and significance

Also, a new trailhead was established for Inspiration Point and Valley Rim, replacing previous trails that were hard to find, poorly constructed and heavily eroded.

More Visitor Enrichment Projects

Project Notes

As you enter the park, you run through a few switchbacks, past some unremarkable forest, and then, without warning, the Valley just opens up. I remember standing beside my car with the afternoon sun at my back, tears in my eyes.

Ken Burns
Documentary Filmmaker