Mariposa Grove is one of the few places that you can still see the majestic Sequoia, the living fossils of the plant world...these trees grow to 100 meters (300 feet) with a girth at ground level that you can drive a car through. On the approach road as you look out over the area, it looks just like any other sub-alpine conifer forest, but when you can see the entire tree, well then your first impression turns from "impression" to "impressed". Take a look UP the entire treel to feel the sheer size, you can build several wooden homes from a single tree...and when you get up close and personal, the detail of the bark is fantastic, you will find giant crevasses that you can put your entire hand into, an art form in itself.
From the Galen Clark Tree, a sign reads "Wawona Point .5 mile". The trail leads gently up to Wawona Point, elevation 6810. The wide view from the point encompasses Wawona Meadow down below, as well as the South Fork Merced River, Wawona Dome, and the Chowchilla Mountains. Best of all, you'll probably be at this viewpoint alone, without the crowds. Most everyone else has either stopped at the end of the lower grove, or at the museum in the upper grove. Be sure to sit for a while and soak in the silence. Although the view here was not quite up to par with Glacier Point, it is still very wonderful and it is one of my favorite places in the park.
The giant Galen Clark Tree is 1/10 of a mile down the tram road from the Fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree. It is set rather far back from the road, so you really can't get a good view of it. Galen Clark, the namesake of the tree, was diagnosed with lung disease in 1853 and told by doctors that he only had a few months left to live. Clark decided to spend the rest of his time in the mountains before he died. Upon entering the Sierra Nevada, he found the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. He lived here for the most of the rest of his life, guarding and fighting for these trees. In the 1863, his work helped President Lincoln to set aside the Yosemite Grant, which preserved Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove. By 1890, he and John Muir had succeeded in establishing Yosemite National Park. Clark later died at the ripe age of 90.
Originally a way of publicizing the grove, a tunnel was cut into a tree in the upper grove that allowed cars to drive through. This tree, the famous Wawona Tunnel Tree, highlights the park's early mismanagement of its resources. However, the only place you'll see the tunnel now is in photos; the tree toppled in 1969 because the tunnel had weakened it. It is estimated to have died 1000 years prematurely.
After a moderate uphill climb from the lower grove, we reached the upper grove, where there is a beautiful meadow and many giant sequoias. The Mariposa Grove Museum there has some good information concerning sequoias, but is not quite as comprehensive as Sequoia National Park's Giant Forest Museum. The museum is rather dark inside; but it details a sequoia's life cycle, as well as some early pioneers (including Galen Clark). It also states the importance of sequoias in the formation of national parks; three of the first four US national parks preserved giant sequoias.
This tree made me very sad; a monarch giant sequoia that has lived at least 1000 years, with a tunnel cut through it's base. It's disgusting how early park management would vandalize the trees in this way; and while walking through this tree may seem fun, stop for a moment and take a walk in the tree's shoes. Past the California Tunnel Trees, the sequoias begin thinning out as you climb a dry slope that can often be hot during the summer. From the California Tunnel Tree the trail climbs almost 1,000 feet to the Mariposa Grove Museum.
Massive Grizzly Giant is one of the biggest trees in the park. This 2,700 year-old monarch has giant limbs sticking out from all sides, the largest being 7 feet in diameter and larger than most other trees in the forest. However, despite it's size, the Grizzly Giant doesn't have the power of Sequoia National Park's General Sherman Tree. Also be warned, the tram stops here and deposits a wave of passengers who inundate the area.
The Bachelor and the Three Graces are my favorite trees in the lower grove. Obviously, I'm not alone; you'll find quite a few hundred tourists gawking at these four giants with you. The Three Graces are triplet sequoias growing side-by-side; the Bachelor is much larger, taller, and older.
From the Mariposa Grove parking lot, walk along the paved and easy trail about 0.2 miles to Fallen Monarch, a giant, toppled tree. Because sequoia wood has a lot of tannin, it rots slowly, as in the case of this tree. It's been about the same since a famous photo was taken of it with a line of US cavalry standing on it in 1899.
Giant Sequoias are probably my favorite trees; they are large, towering, and very beautiful. While Mariposa Grove is not quite as large and it's trees not quite as beautiful as those of Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park to the south, Yosemite's largest grove of sequoias is very much worth visiting. The grove is split into an upper and a lower section and covers a total of 250 acres; the upper section is more interesting than the tourist-packed lower grove. One-hour guided tram tours of the grove are offered, but you should skip these (and save $16) and opt for walking. Trails connect the lower grove parking area (elevation 5,600) to the the famous lower grove trees as well as the Upper Grove, the fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree (elevation 6,600) and Wawona Point (elevation 6,800 feet). At the grove parking lot, you can buy an excellent pamphlet about the grove, written by the late Jon Kinney, a ranger at Yosemite National Park. The pamphlet offers a lot of background information on the trees. Crowds tend to congregate in the lower grove, so hiking the moderate uphill trail from the lower grove to the upper grove, about 4 miles round trip, will bring you solitude. For views and even less tourists, hike the 5 miles round trip to Wawona Point.
Located right by the Southern Entrance to the park, Mariposa Grove is home to the Giant Sequoia Trees. And they really are phenomenal, never in my life have I seen anything like it. (Although, having said that, I didn't get the chance to visit the Redwoods of Northern California during my stay there.) It's not just that these trees are astoundingly tall, but the thickness of the trunks and branches is pretty impressive too. There's a 2.5 mile loop trail leading through the trees that starts in the car park, alternatively there's a narrated tram tour around the Grove ($11).
This was one of my favorite activities in Yosemite. You've heard of the famous sequoias and redwoods of California - giant sequoias are native only in isolated groups on the western slope of the central and southern Sierra Nevada. It's hard to appreciate their towering majesty until you stand among a forest full of such marvels of nature. They're really unbelievable. You'll feel Lilliputian at the foot of such a tree, looking up...simply surreal.
The easiest and most convenient way to reach the Mariposa Grove is by free shuttle from the Wawona Hotel. If you insist on driving there though, you should plan to arrive in early morning or mid-afternoon. The parking lot fills up quickly.
There is both an Upper and Lower Grove in the Mariposa Grove. All the trails in the Grove are uphill, so it's a good idea to consider riding the tram in between...tickets are around $10 and worth it. After exploring the Upper Grove, you can either reboard the tram, or hike down to the Grizzly Giant which is the famous 2,7000 year old sequoia - the oldest in the park and maybe in the entire country.
At this point, you can either reboard the tram at the Grizzly Giant, or hike down to the parking lot. The full hike from the Upper Grove to the parking lot is 2.5 miles - around 2 or 3 hours. The hike from the Grizzly Giant to the parking lot is just under a mile, and along the way you'll see all kinds of towering sequoias that comprise the Lower Grove.
If you have time for only one hike in the Grove, this is the one.
As I recall we paid $16- per person for the tram that tours through what once was a road taken by tourist cars. I recall the family taking that strip of asphalt many times, with the biggest thrill being a drive through the tunnel tree. The tunnel tree though fell over many years ago, and recent conservation efforts forbid any traffic other than the trams. In any case, the tram has a recorded guide system that explains many things about the Sequoia Gigantia trees and the history of the Grove. These are transmitted by a radio system and headphones, so that tourists speaking languages other than English can appreciate the information. As I recall, Spanish, Japanese, German, French, and other languages were available. For 50 cents, once can also buy a printed copy of a pamplet which is available in several languages. If one has plenty of time, wants to save money, avoid the tram, etc., then hiking through the grove on designated trails is permitted. The trees are typically surrounded by fencing so that the root base is protected from the trampling of tourist feet. Souvenirs are available at the Cabin near the top of the ridge, and at the main entrance shop. Unfortunately, the shops are not carefully stocked with multi-lingual reading material. For example, at the time of our visit, I saw a huge stack of German version souvenir guides, but a Spanish one was not available. However, one can buy a seedling of the great tree, which will in fact grow. I have a two foot tall Sequoia Gigantia in my backyard, which grew from a seedling in only two years.
Located 35 miles south of Yosemite Valley is the largest of 3 sequoia groves in Yosemite. This was a pleasant surprise for me since I never associated these giants with Yosemite.
The giant sequoia is largest of all living things and they live for thousands of years. Some are over half hollowed out due to fires but they still thrive and do not die of old age.
It was difficult taking photos of an entire tree since they are so enormous! One must really experience this in person.
There are hiking trails but certain areas are only accessible by tram tour.
A have already mentioned Mariposa Grove but it is a definite must do if your in Yosemite. There's free shuttle buses that run down too which is a bonus.
It's just a magical feeling seeing living things have have been around for so many years.