Scenic Vistas: Tunnel View
What is the Wawona Tunnel View?
The Tunnel View overlook has been renovated—the first changes to this area since constructed in 1933—and re-dedicated in an Oct. 24, 2008, ceremony. The Tunnel View scenic overlook is a historic site, located adjacent to Wawona Road, affording expansive views of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls, and Half Dome. The overlook was constructed during an era that heralded a boom in design and development throughout the National Park Service, and helped initiate the National Park Service “rustic design style.” Wawona Tunnel and Tunnel View were determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 because of their exemplary design.
Improvements from the 2008 renovatation include an expanded handicap accessible viewing area, improved traffic flow, educational exhibits, and historic rockwork. This $3 million project was funded by The Yosemite Fund and the National Park Service as part of the President’s Centennial Initiative. Very little physical change occurred to Tunnel View’s physical features (including rockwork, circulation patterns, and configuration) since it was built. The site remains one of the most popular scenic overlooks in Yosemite National Park, with an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 people visiting per day during the height of the tourist season.
NPS Historic Photograph Collection
Why Undertake This Project?
The purpose of the Tunnel View Overlook Rehabilitation Project is to remedy long-standing vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian safety issues, to correct drainage deficiencies and problems, to provide clear circulation patterns for pedestrians and vehicles, to enhance and maintain viewing opportunities for visitors, to provide accessibility to viewing areas, to correct safety problems associated with the Inspiration Point trailhead, and to address sanitation issues, while maintaining the naturalistic, rustic character and integrity of this historic site.
Several factors demonstrated the need for this project:
What Has This Project Entailed?
This completed project provides a safer, rehabilitated scenic overlook from which to experience one of Yosemite’s most spectacular views. Elements of the project include:
Learn more about the science behind scenic vistas in Yosemite.
Learn more about Yosemite's Scenic Vista Management Plan.
Did You Know?
In Yosemite Valley, dropping over 594-foot Nevada Fall and then 317-foot Vernal Fall, the Merced River creates what is known as the “Giant Staircase.” Such exemplary stair-step river morphology is characterized by a large variability in river movement and flow, from quiet pools to the dramatic drops of the waterfalls themselves.