Tunnel View, late afternoonIt’s hard to imagine improving on the vista at Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park, but that won’t stop people from trying. They already cut down some ponderosa pines that had the temerity to block people’s sight lines; now they’ve rejiggered the parking area to make it less likely that slack-jawed drivers plow into the granite walls (and each other) while trying to enjoy the view.

Tourists seeking to capture one of the most photographed scenes on Earth — the long look past Yosemite Valley’s granite icons to Half Dome seven miles distant — no longer have to dodge cars to do it.

A $3 million redesign of the viewing area where tourists emerge from the Wawona Tunnel to the vista that provided Ansel Adams one of his trademark photographs has created a destination worthy of its surroundings.

“This is money well spent, it looks like to me,” said Gary Galloway of Pickford, Mich., after posing his family on the granite block retaining wall for a Christmas card shoot with Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, Cathedral Rocks and a glimpse of Half Dome.

Before the five-month redesign, tourists stopping at the Tunnel View Overlook navigated an uneven lot paved atop the millions of tons of granite riprap blasted from the two-lane tunnel beneath Inspiration Point. There was no disabled access, and a five-foot-wide sidewalk at the vista’s edge forced photographers to stand in the driveway to capture posing loved ones.

It wasn’t safe given that drivers entering the lot after a mile shrouded in tunnel darkness were distracted by their first glimpses of Yosemite Valley. Neither was it a fitting foreground to the expanse carpeted by incense cedar and framed by sheer granite cliffs that is one of the world’s most beautiful views.

Now a 15-foot-wide viewing area separates tourists

Yosemite Blog notes there’s an official rededication of the new Tunnel View tomorrow.

Parking at the overlook will not be available during the event but shuttle buses be running from the Bridalveil Fall Parking Lot and the Valley Visitor Center Parking lot from 9:30-12:15.

Speaking of Yosemite, the Half Dome cables are down but you can always stop by Rick’s blog for the dirt on planning your next ascent. Today he offers an outline on climbing Mount Shasta.