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Leaf Peeping With Mom Around Nelder Grove

I had peeped on the eastern side of the Sierra and I had peeped in Yosemite Valley. It was now time to do a little peeping closer to home at Nelder Grove and mom was up for the adventure. But adventures do not always go as planned.

Where: Sierra National Forest, Nelder Grove
Distance: About 1.5 miles, but you can walk much farther or shorter if you wish
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Range: 5,100′ – 5,382′
Date: November 2, 2018
Maps: Ahwahnee Topographic Quad
Dog Hike? Yes

Mom had been talking about getting back up to Nelder Grove and I was pretty curious about what the fall colors were looking like up there after the 2017 Railroad Fire ran through some of that country. I had been watching the weather for a window, not wanting to head up that way when it was windy for fear of a dead or weakened tree either falling on us or on the road. We had the perfect day and headed out, armed with our picnic lunch.

It didn’t take us too long to drive from Oakhurst to Nelder Grove. We headed north on Hwy 41 out of Oakhurst, turning right on Sierra Sky Ranch Rd., past the turnoff to Calvin Crest and followed the signs to Nelder Grove on Road 6S90. I had heard that the roads were closed in places and in some areas where the road was open, were a bit rough for driving. I didn’t have exact intel on where these locations were, but since we were out scouting for fall color, it didn’t really matter where our travels took us. We were flexible. We made a stop before reaching Nelder Grove to take a closer look at the beautiful fall colored dogwoods on the lower side of the dirt road. The dogwoods on the upper side were a different story, looking pretty sad. We couldn’t help but notice that the barricade across the road that continues down to the Shadow of the Giants Trail, which is closed due to the danger of dead trees from fire.

Mom, Taking Pictures of Fall Dogwoods



We turned left at the sign to the Nelder Grove Campground, which is Road S519.




There is a gate that closes S519 during the late fall/winter but even if the gate is across the road, we have parked at a large pullout on the left side of the road just before the gate, and walked up. But we had a change because there is a large tree down and blocking this informal parking area. You could fit one car in here if you had to but there is also a good area where you can park before reaching the sign along the road. You would just need to walk a smidge farther.






We drove through the gate and up the road, stopping to check out some colorful dogwoods. We didn’t get too far, maybe a third of a mile or so, before we reached what a short section of the road resembling a black diamond ski run full of moguls. I studied the section for a bit, my eye drawn to foot deep, maybe a bit deeper, low spots between the mogul heights and those moguls were not logically aligned with the wheel base of the Subaru Outback I was driving. I weighed risk versus gain and decided against the risk of getting stuck. So, I ended up backing out. If someone had a higher clearance vehicle and took their time, I bet they could make it through this section fine. This mogul run was in the same area that it gets a bit rough each year, only this year I think it is worse than I have seen it in a while. My plan had been to drive up the road, park at the Interpretative Center, then walk up to the Bull Buck Tree and have a picnic lunch near the apple tree. I could have opted to park at the gate and walk in but I decided against that.

I had to come up with an alternate plan. We were after fall color so we decided to cruise the road to see what we could see.

We noticed that several of the oaks were a nice yellow color and drove up S690 a bit more to where California Creek crosses the road. The little waterfall was very pretty!

Mom noticed the artful arrangements on the ground that Mother Nature had provided.

Photo by Rosemary Gregory

Well, we had a picnic lunch and needed a good spot to eat it and Mom hadn’t been to the south side of Bass Lake, so we drove over there where we grabbed a table, ate our lunch and watched the waterfowl as they provided the entertainment.

Photo by Rosemary Gregory








We weren’t able to get as far in to Nelder Grove as I had hoped but we still had a fun adventure. I am looking forward to doing some more hiking in the area to see how the fire changed the forest in that area.

I highly recommend Brenda Negley’s book “Nelder Grove of Giant Sequoias: A Granddaughter’s Stories” for background on the trails and big trees on this hike, which has been updated to include the Railroad Fire impacts on the grove. It is full of detailed information that I cannot recommend enough if you would like to learn more about this very special place. Her grandparents, William “John” and Marjorie “Marge” Hawksworth, were the first volunteer campground hosts in Nelder Grove and protected it for 20 years from 1975 to 1995. Brenda spent many a summer up there with them, learning their stories and the history. If you would like to purchase your own copy, it is available locally at Branches Books near Von’s in Oakhurst.

There is a wonderful website maintained by Friends of Nelder Grove that you can access at this link: Friends of Nelder Grove Website. It has maps that you can print out, an interpretive guide that you can download for your visit plus much more.

Dog Hike?

I think this can be a great dog hike and have taken my dog many times. There are a variety of trails, some very level and others with some elevation, to explore. In the summer you might need to bring extra water for your dog because the creeks may be dry. I left Sally home on this hike but it is one of her favorite hikes in the area.

Friends of Nelder Grove share the following related to dogs in the grove: Practice Responsible Pet Ownership. This means controlling your pets’ interactions with people and wildlife in natural areas. Please keep your pets leashed within developed recreation sites. We also ask that you “scoop the poop.”

Nelder Grove is located within the Sierra National Forest and they have a link to dogs in the Sierra National Forest called Canine Camper that you can access here. Even though this is not classified as a wilderness area, here is what they have on their website:

Domestic pets are allowed in wilderness areas. You are responsible for their actions as well as their welfare. Pets should either be leashed or under direct voice control. When camping in areas with other visitors, pets should be kept on a leash. Wilderness visitor’s who plan to travel into an adjacent National Park should be aware that National Parks do not permit pets.

We ask the public to remember these rules when taking pets into the wilderness.

  • Bury feces.
  • Do not tie up dogs and leave them unattended.
  • Do not allow dogs to chase wildlife.
  • Leave unfriendly or loud dogs at home.



Negley, Brenda L., Nelder Grove of Giant Sequoia: A Grandaughter’s Stories, Otter Bay Books, 2016
Wikipedia List of Giant Sequoias

Prior Blogs on This Area:A Misty Day with the Dogwood Blooms at Nelder Grove May 12, 2017Hiking From Nelder Grove To Kelty Meadow October 26, 2015
Hiking With Sally In Nelder Grove
New Nelder Grove Online Information
Nelder Grove Hike With Mom And Sally
Nelder Grove Dog Hike

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