Artist Point – Pohono Trail and old stagecoach road
500-foot elevation change
2 miles round-trip
When you hike in Yosemite Valley, you can expect crowded trails. Trails with the famous tunnel view? Even more so. However, the right time of year on the right trail and give you a gloriously secluded view of this famous vista.
Artist Point is not marked on most Yosemite National Park maps and the old stagecoach road on which it lies is off the main trails. Combine this trail with a prime late April day, after Spring Break crowds but before the summer rush, and we found our favorite Yosemite hiking trail. Hiking in Yosemite Valley without seeing another human being for two whole hours? Yes, please! (No offense, I’m sure you’re very nice. But, you know, nature and solitude and all that…)
From the Tunnel View parking lot just outside the Wawona Tunnel, the classic view of El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, and Half Dome can be enjoyed along with a parking lot full of tourists. At 7:30 AM, only three other vehicles had beaten us to this lot. We quickly took in the view and set our sights on hiking to the higher vantage point.
The journey to Artist Point begins at the Pohono Trailhead at the south side parking lot. A sign indicates that Inspiration Point is 1.3 miles away with Glacier Point beyond. Inspiration Point offers a similar tunnel view to Artist Point but is more crowded as it’s on the main trail.
For the first half mile of the Pohono Trail, we meandered up switchbacks leading us quickly higher and higher. Our boys were too distracted by the stepping stones, mud, constant direction changes, and other obstacles to realize how quickly we were gaining elevation and how tired they should be getting!
After a half mile, the Pohono Trail crosses the old stagecoach road. This road is unmarked but a sign at the crossing declaring the distance back to the Wawona parking area and also up to Inspiration Point is the cue for a course correction. We turned left and headed down the unmarked stagecoach road. This trail is mostly straight and fairly wide with a gentle downward slope and numerous fallen tree obstacles.
About another half mile, we mistakenly found “almost Artist Point.” When the forest gives way to the tunnel view on the trail’s north side, there will be several bare trees obstructing the view. We stopped here to climb onto a large rock and enjoy a snack. While the boys ate, I ventured a little further down the road where the trail opens up to a huge expanse. THIS is Artist Point!
Note: There may appear to be a sudden drop just off the road, but it’s a gentle slope and no one is in danger!
We stayed at Artist Point for over a half hour. Along the wide, flat road, there is plenty of room to play a camping game, take lots of pictures, listen to the sound of distant falling water, and enjoy this classic view without another soul in sight. It’s hard to believe that such a magnificent view in one of the nation’s most popular national parks can be enjoyed in such solitude!
Eventually, we tore ourselves away from the view, headed back up the sloping stagecoach road to the intersection with the Pohono Trail. It was only after we were following the switchbacks back down the trail that we encountered the first people we’d seen in nearly two hours. We reached the parking lot again at 10:30 without an empty parking space in sight and were back in the midst of valley congestion.
In total, this hike took three hours which included our long break at the destination and a decidedly leisurely pace. We didn’t want to rush a trail like this as we savored every moment.
Great trail. Unforgettable view. Artist Point is a can’t-miss when visiting Yosemite National Park.