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Yosemite is one of the most stunning and popular national parks in the United States. The most popular entry in the park is from Mariposa County, coming from the Central Valley. After a stop-over to see the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoia trees, most continue one to the Yosemite Valley. As one emerges from the long Wawona Tunnel, visitors are greeted with one of the most spectacular views in the world.

Right at the end of the tunnel is the Tunnel View, where visitors can pull over and gaze out over the Yosemite Valley. Enjoy expansive views of the park. See El Capitan, Half Dome, the Bridalveil Falls, and more. It feels like one is in some dreamy fairyland. If one would like to spend the night in the Yosemite Valley, consider staying at the Yosemite Valley Lodge.

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History & Renovation Of The Wawona Tunnel & Tunnel View

The Tunnel View overlook and the Wawona Tunnel were built in 1933 and then re-dedicated after extensive restorations in 2008. The 2008 renovations included an expanded handicap-accessible viewing area and improved traffic flow, exhibits, and historic rockwork.

The Wawona Tunnel was bored straight through solid granite bedrock on the south side of the Merced River. It is on one of the three main roads that provide access to Yosemite Valley (the most popular part of the park). The Tunnel View is located immediately to the left as one exists the tunnel going towards the valley.

  • Road: California State Route 41
  • Wawona Tunnel Length: 4,233 feet - The Longest In California
  • Built: 1933

In 1986 both the Wawona Tunnel and the Tunnel View were added to the National Register of Historic Places because of their exemplary design.

Related: What To Know about Yosemite Falls & The Historic Yosemite Falls Trail

Sweeping Views Of The Yosemite Valley & Visible Features

Tunnel View is a must-stop for any first-timers entering the valley. The valley looks like something out of Lord of the Ring's Elvish lands of Valinor, or Pandora from Avatar, or the Great Valley from Disney's 1988 cute dinosaur cartoon, The Land Before Time. Whichever fantasy movie comes to mind, try not to ruin it by remembering the opening scenes of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier when Captain Kirk climbs El Capitan and is saved by Spock.

Seemingly everyone who visits Yosemite has Instagram pics taken from here. It is a lookout that one needs to come back for the different seasons as each season is different.

During the late autumn and winter, the park can be transformed by low clouds or mists shrouding the valley. In the winter months, the Yosemite Valley may be sprinkled with snow, and crowds are at their least. The view can be very mysterious and fairy-tale-like indeed, and visitors are much more likely to find parking.

Key Features Visible:

  • Yosemite Valley
  • El Capitan
  • Half Dome
  • Bridalveil Falls
  • Cathedral Rocks
  • Glacier Point
  • Sentinel Dome

The Bridalveil Falls are at their peak flow in the spring, and come the summer, the crowds are at their peak. The weather can be hot (it may also be the fire season that can also produce another other-worldly view of the valley). The summer is also peak season so expect crowds, tour buses, limited parking, and perhaps tourists jostling for a picture.

Related: This North Carolina Wilderness Isn't Called 'Yosemite Of The East' For No Reason

What To Know About Visiting The Tunnel View

Parking is free, but during peak times, there may not be any parking spaces available. It is also the access point for a trailhead that makes its way to Inspiration Point. The viewing area is basically the same as the pull-off parking area itself, so no one needs to worry about mobility or hiking.

The parking area is only fairly small, but it is estimated that between 5,000 and 7,000 people visit it every day during the height of the tourist season.

There are no specific fees for using the Wawona Tunnel or parking at the Tunnel View other than the entry fees for Yosemite National Park.

So the main things to keep in mind when visiting Tunnel View are to be ready for it while exiting the tunnel and to avoid the peak times when there may be no available parking.

If it turns out that it is too busy at Tunnel View (but if one can still somehow park somewhere), then another option is to take a short hike to Artist Point. Alternatively, take a 5-mile round trip hike to Inspiration Point and enjoy the views from there.