Monday, September 23, 2013

Wawona Meadow Loop

If you’re looking for an easy hike that avoids the crowds that normally flood most of the trails in Yosemite National Park, the Wawona Meadow Loop just might be the perfect choice.

The Wawona Meadow Loop trailhead is located across the street from the historic Wawona Hotel. As you walk down the hotel parking lot you’ll notice a small golf cart path across Wawona Road. Simply walk a short distance up that path and you’ll see a sign for the trailhead just off to your left.

The hike begins by following along one of the fairways of the Wawona Golf Course. Fortunately this portion of the hike is fairly short, and after about a half-mile of walking you’ll finally reach the outskirts of the meadow.

Despite the noise from Wawona Road (Highway 41), which is fairly prevalent for much of the route, this is still an outstanding hike if you’re seeking solitude. The trail circles around the 165-acre meadow, and shifts between forest and field while skirting along its edges. An old wooden fence protects the meadow from being trampled by visitors, especially during wildflower season. During the spring and early summer, hikers will be treated by a profusion of wildflowers, including perennial beauties such as lupine, Applegate’s paintbrush, alpine lilies, crimson columbines, mountain dogwood, pine violets, evening primrose and western azalea.

This is an easy stroll along mostly flat terrain. The only prominent mountain that can be seen from the trail, while looking towards the south, is 5745-foot Mt. Savage.

The meadow provides wetland, riparian and upland habitat for a variety of rare and sensitive plant species and wildlife, including two state endangered birds - the willow flycatcher and the great gray owl.

It's believed by many that the name “Wawona” is the Miwok word for "big tree". It may also be the word for the sound of the call of an owl, a bird considered to be the guardian spirit of the Big Trees, a reference to the nearby giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove.

As you walk along the southern portions of the meadow you would probably never guess that there was once an airstrip located here. Fortunately for modern-day outdoor enthusiasts the airstrip was decommissioned in the late 1930s.

Roughly 1.6 miles from the trailhead you'll reach a trail junction. To continue on this loop hikers should take a left here. However, you do have the option of extending your hike to a 4.7-mile loop by continuing straight at this junction. This trail will take you along the east side (north) of Wawona Road during the back half of the hike. The shorter route remains, for the most part, on the west side (south) of the road.

At roughly 2.8 miles the trail crosses over Wawona Road, and then ends behind the Wawona Hotel.

The trail follows the historic Meadow Loop Road. Built in 1891, the unpaved road provided access to the farms that once occupied portions of the meadow. It also allowed sightseers to visit the meadow during the early years of the park. Since the loop still retains some of its features as a road, horses, leashed pets and bicycles are allowed on the trail.

Trail: Wawona Meadow Loop
RT Distance: 3.2 Miles
Elevation Gain: 210 feet
Max Elevation: 4210 feet
TH Location: Near the Wawona Hotel
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.

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