"There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias...our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children's children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred"
- Theodore Roosevelt
Ever since the first Euro-American laid eyes on them in 1849, people from all over the world have been in awe of the giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove. To Frederick Law Olmsted, the famous landscape architect, the trees seemed like “distinguished strangers,” which had “come down to us from another world”. After visiting the grove in 1871, Ralph Waldo Emerson stated, “The greatest wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more.”
Without the help of people like Olmsted, Emerson, Galen Clark and John Muir, these ancient treasures may never have been preserved for the generations that came after them.
The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is located roughly two miles from Yosemite’s south entrance. Since this is the most popular destination outside of the Yosemite Valley, the parking area tends to fill-up relatively early in the morning. When this happens the park offers a free shuttle service that operates out of Wawona. If you arrive at the South Entrance intending to park at the trailhead, you may be greeted by a road block and a ranger explaining that the lot is full, in which case you’ll have to drive to Wawona to pick-up the shuttle, roughly 4 miles away.
Visitors to Mariposa Grove will have a variety of options in terms of what they want to see and how far they want to hike. The loop hike described here covers many of the most popular trees, including the Grizzly Giant and the California Tunnel Tree.
If you choose to do the loop, most people choose to hike in a counter-clockwise direction. There are interpretative signs along the lower portions of the trail that allow for self-guided walking tours.
The first stop on this hike is just beyond the trailhead at the Fallen Monarch. Biologists estimate that this giant fell several hundred years ago. Its base reaches 15 feet across:
Stout Grove in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, or Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park.
The roots of a giant sequoia are usually no deeper than six feet, but they fan out more than 150 feet in order to give the trees a stable base and provide balance for their massive trunks. Walking near the trees compresses the soil which can damage the fragile surface roots.
Mariposa Grove is the largest stand of giant sequoias in Yosemite. There are roughly 500 mature trees in this grove, with the tallest being about 290 feet. There are two other sequoia groves in Yosemite, including Tuolumne Grove and Merced Grove.
Roughly 50 yards away from the Grizzly Giant is the California Tunnel Tree. As a way of attracting visitors, the tree was cut in 1895 so that stagecoaches could pass through it:
The Faithful Couple is a rare case in which two trees grew so close together that their trunks have fused together. Both trees are measured to be 248 feet in height:
In all, this loop hike is roughly 2.75 miles in length, and climbs almost 500 feet. There are several trails in the grove that allow you to cut your hike short, or extend it all the way to the Upper Grove, or even to the Wawona Point Vista at an elevation of 6810 feet.
Trail: Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
RT Distance: 2.7 Miles
Elevation Gain: 500 feet
Max Elevation: 6100 feet
TH Location: Near South Entrance
Map: Yosemite National Park Trails Illustrated Map
Top Trails: Yosemite features 46 “must-do” hikes in Yosemite National Park, from scenic strolls, to full-day adventures, to spectacular backpacking trips. With at-a-glance information for each hike visitors can determine which hikes are most suitable to their skills, schedules and preferences. The book also provides elevation profiles, detailed maps, as well as information on which trails are child-friendly; where to see giant sequoias, waterfalls, lakes, wildflowers, autumn colors; the best photo opportunities; and which have camping, running or biking opportunities.