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Wawona, California, United States

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

Walk among the giants of Mariposa Grove in Yosemite and see some of the biggest and oldest sequoias in the world

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Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 7.5 miles / 12.1 km
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly
Overview: No trip to Wawona is complete without spending a day exploring the giant sequoias of Mariposa Grove. This protected grove of trees is home to over 300 giant sequoias, some almost 2,000 years old! This walking tour will start at the base and take you all over the grove showing you the most popular trees in the area while giving you a lesson on the history of the area, made famous by Galen Clark, as well as sharing some facts about the life cycle of sequoia trees. Let’s get started!

Getting There
You have 2 options to get to Mariposa Grove: to drive in or take the shuttle in. While driving in may seem more convenient, be aware that the parking lot is usually completely full by as early as 10am.

If you are leaving later than 10am or don’t want to drive in, consider taking the free Yosemite Shuttle. The shuttle stops in 2 spots: a the gas station next to the Wawona Lodge (every 30 minutes on the hour and half hour), or near the Southwest entrance to Yosemite National Park (but be aware that if the bus is full by the time it gets here you will not be able to get on).

The ride is about 20 minutes from Wawona, or about 5-10 from the second stop depending on traffic and seasonal road construction.

Taking the Tram
The best way to see the Mariposa Grove is on foot, but the trails up can be a little steep for some people’s taste. Instead consider taking the open-air tram up to the top of the grove and hike/walk back down while stopping at all of the major trees along the way.

Tickets are $25 for adults and come with an audio guide, or half price for children 12 and under. The tram is of the hop-on, hop-off style with a stop at the museum about half way up the grove. The Tram stops for 10 minutes here allowing you to walk inside or use the restroom, but feel free to stay longer because another tram will arrive 30 minutes later and you will be able to catch that one instead.

If you choose to forego the tram and walk instead you can make your hike as long or short as you want. You should at least make it as far as the Grizzly Giant and the California Tree, and can extend the trip up to the Museum, Telescope Tree, Wawona Tunnel Tree, and even the Wawona vista point if you wish. On your hike back take an alternate route to see the Clothespin tree and the faithful couple.

The outer loop is about 8 miles total, but you can see all of the major sights in just about 7 miles round trip. Let’s get started!

Points of Interest


Fallen Monarch

As you first start along the trail you will immediately notice a gigantic tree on its side. This is the Fallen Monarch, and scientists estimate that it has been on its side for centuries. You will notice that is has not decayed and there are not very many plants growing on it even through it has been dead for hundreds of years. Acid in the bark makes it almost impossible for anything to grow on it, which preserves the tree better than other trees.

Walk up close and look at the roots. The roots do not go deep into the soil, only about 6ft, but they can stretch as far as 150 feet to the side, soaking up and water it can find, and creating a very stable base that can keep the massive tree up against strong winds.

Bachelor and Three Graces

A little further up the trail you will find the Bachelor and Three Graces: one massive tree next to the smaller trees. There is no particular story behind these four trees, but it makes for a pleasant sight. Continue further up the trail to find the Grizzly Giant, the biggest tree in the park (in girth).

Grizzly Giant

One of the main attractions of the Mariposa Grove is the Grizzly Giant, which is appropriately named. It is estimated that this tree is over 1,800 years old, and is 100ft around at its base. If you look up the tree you will notice a very thick branch sticking out to the side that looks like it could be a tree by itself. Well you’re not far off: that branch is 7ft in diameter and is thicker than any other non-sequoia tree in the grove!

It is also estimated that this massive tree has survived over 100 fires in its long lifetime.

California Tunnel Tree

Walk a little further past the Grizzle Giant and you will see the California Tunnel Tree. The hole, or “tunnel” at the base was cut in 1895 so that horse-draw stagecoaches could pass through (the forest was probably too dense to go around, or they were lazy). This is the only tunneled tree in the grove that is still standing today, so walk through it and continue up to the Museum in Glen Clark’s old log cabin.

Galen Clark Cabin / Museum

This log cabin was built in 1864 by Galen Clark, who first saw the grove I 1857 and immediately fell in love with its giants. He did all he could to protect these trees and built the cabin to spend the rest of his live in the grove showing off the majestic beauties to other visitors.
Today it is used as a museum with information on the history of the grove and the lifecycles of the giant Sequoia Trees. A ranger will be inside to answer any of your questions.

There is a drinking fountain and bathrooms nearby, and if you are taking the Tram tour, the Tram will stop here for 10 minutes for you to walk around. Don’t feel rushed, and take all the time you need, because a new tram arrives every 30 minutes.

Telescope Tree

The telescope tree is best viewed from inside of the tree itself, and you will see how it got its name as soon as you walk inside and look straight up. This tree was burnt from one of many fires in the area, which hollowed out the entire tree.

The Telescope Tree is probably one of the best examples in the park of the Sequoia’s amazing resilience to fire. Because the outer later (inside of the fire-resistant bark) is the only layer of the free that is growing, the center of the tree can burn away and the free can continue living and growing for centuries longer (as long as it can still stand up that is).

In fact, Sequoias need fire to survive. The warmth from the fire opens up the Sequoia’s pinecones that have fallen to the ground, along the seeds to fall out and start growing. Small fires also clear out the brush around the area, which makes it easier for the seeds to sprout. But don’t think this means you should start a fire to help the Sequoias grow—they will do fine by themselves relying on natural disasters, some of the trees in this grove have been surviving because of and despite of them for over 2000 years.

Wawona Tunnel Tree

It is fair to say that the Wawona Tunnel Tree is one of the most famous trees in the world. At least it was, until 1969 when it fell down after being weighed down with too much snow. Since 1818 millions of visitors to the grove drove through the large man-made tunnel (which may have shortened its life by up to 1,000 years).

Today it lays on its side, but you can imagine driving through this massive tree while in the Grove 100 years ago.

Galen Clark Tree

This tree is named for Galen Clark who spent his live living among the trees in his log cabin, while doing all that he could to protect the grove. He was able to convince President Abraham Lincoln to set aside the grove as a protected reserve “for public use, resort, and recreation”. Other than John Muir, no one worked harder to protect this area than Galen Clark.

Wawona Vista Point

Near the Glen Clark Tree you will see a paved road leading uphill. This road goes 0.5 miles up a significant climb ending at the Wawona Vista Point, the highest point in all of Mariposa Grove. If you have the time the view is definitely worth the extra hike up. At the top there are 2 vista points (the views are almost identical), which offer amazing views of the Wawona Valley 2000ft below.

In the distance you can see the Wawona Meadow and 9-hole golf course that runs through it, and possibly even the Wawona Lodge. If you want, you can continue along the outer loop trail and take the trail from Mariposa Grove to the Wawona Lodge, which travels 5.1 miles through the forest down about 2000ft.

Sequoia Trail

The Sequoia Tail is a short trail through a meadow leading from the Outer Loop Trail back to the Log Cabin Museum, and is a perfect short hike for children, as the signs suggest a variety of small activities to do along the way.

The short walk is sprinkled with vibrant wildflowers covering the ground between massive sequoia trees that go up and up.

As you walk along the path read the different signs explaining the area and how you can use all of your senses to experience all that this area of the grove has to offer.

Clothespin Tree

Unlike the California Tunnel Tree and the Wawona Tunnel Tree, the Clothespin Tree was hollowed out by natural causes. It took many fires to create the tunnel in this tree, and yet the tree survived enough to continue growing despite the large hole in its base.

Don’t get your picture taking under it, it hurts the shallow roots and kills other plants trying to grow in the area.

The Faithful Couple

While looking at the base of the Faithful Couple you may think this is just an ordinary sequoia tree in the grove. Look up and you will be pleasantly surprised. These two sequoias grew very close to each other and have actually fused together at their bases to form one tree, but remain two very separate trees at the top. The two sequoias spent their whole lives next to each other and just couldn’t bear being separated.

If you look around at other trees in this area you may see some that will eventually fuse together given enough time.

Trail to Wawona Lodge

If you are up for it, you can take the 5-mile trail from Mariposa Grove back to Wawona Lodge. The trail loses about 2000 feet of elevation and offers a just more secluded experience of the area than the grove does.
Pictures in this guide taken by: chris
Fantastic place. I will come here in next year

by johnwooden on May 12, 2016
truly a great place... awesome

by planetwi36 on Oct 19, 2014

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