I got a sneak preview of the newly revamped Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park after it has been closed to the public since Spring of 2015. 250 acres with nearly 500 mature trees is a must see if you are visiting Yosemite. Reopening this Friday, parking at the Mariposa Grove Welcome Center and taking a shuttle up to Mariposa Grove is a big change. I have tried to share what you need to know if you plan on visiting. Sometimes it is not easy to get a feel for where you are on the mountain when everything feels so small when you are in those big trees. My Doarama will give you a 3D view of my hike that I took. I think it is a pretty cool way of hiking along with me.
Where: Yosemite National Park, Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
Distance: 5.22 Miles but you can go shorter or farther
Elevation Range: 5,585′ – 6,470′
Date: June 13, 2018
Map: El Capitan Quad
Dog Hike? No, Pets are not allowed on any trails in the Mariposa Grove. Pets are allowed in the parking areas on leash only. Pets are not allowed on shuttles.
I headed up Hwy 41 through a couple of road delays in the Fish Camp area, none of them longer than 5 minutes, driving though the south entrance to Yosemite National Park. I have an American the Beautiful Pass but if you don’t already have a Pass, here are the current fees associated with the different options to enter Yosemite National Park. Click on the picture to enlarge it.
Once through the South Entrance, I turned right on Mariposa Grove Road and drove the short distance to the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza where I parked. The Welcome Plaza has about 300 parking spaces and may fill up by late morning so the Park recommends that you arrive by mid-morning to increase your chances of finding a place to park. The parking has one way traffic flow with Handicapped parking areas and some larger spaces at the end for RV parking. Tour bus parking is located before you get to this parking area.
Since I was going to leave my car here, I needed to be prepared and brought what I needed for the day. I had filled up water in my daypack, brought snacks and a lunch plus my camera and GPS.
I had a little time so I explored the Welcome Plaza area.
I checked out the brand new bathrooms and they had plenty of trash receptacles to help people recycle.
They have a couple of Hydration Centers where you can fill up your water bottles. Remember to utilize them before you head up on the shuttle.
There are so many small details near The Depot to check out while you wait for the shuttle. I loved these small animals and other statues built into the wall. There were also many educational plaques.
I arrived a little early and the Shuttle Buses were already lined up for their first drives up to the newly reopened Mariposa Grove. My plan was to take the free shuttle from the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza to the Mariposa Grove. The Shuttle operates as follows:
- March 15 through May 14: 8 am to 5 pm. Buses will pick-up about every 10 minutes (last bus leaves Mariposa Grove at 5 pm).
- May 15 through October 14: 8 am to 8 pm. Buses will pick-up about every 10 minutes (last bus leaves Mariposa Grove at 8 pm).
- October 15 through November 30: 8 am to 5 pm. Buses will pick-up about every 10 minutes (last bus leaves Mariposa Grove at 5 pm).
- December 1 through March 15: No shuttle service available.
Limited shuttle service is also available from Big Trees Lodge (formerly Wawona Hotel) from June 15 through September 7, 2018, between 9 am and 5 pm, with pick-ups/drop-offs about every two hours. This service is only available to visitors staying overnight in Wawona. There is no shuttle service between Wawona and the Mariposa Grove for the general public.
Signs were posted with the schedules.
I had the pleasure of being in the first bus out, driven by Bill Angle. He shared with me that this was his 11th season at Mariposa Grove and he had worked 3 years before that elsewhere in the Park. The buses are hybrid and have both air conditioning and heating. Along the way in, Bill pointed out some landmarks for us. Thank you Bill!!
If you want to try and drive your own vehicle, there is limited parking available for cars at the Mariposa Grove Arrival Area when the shuttle is not in operation. At 7:30 am, the gate at the bottom of the Mariposa Grove Road will be closed to keep vehicles off the road as the shuttle operation begins.
Cars displaying a disability placard can either drive to the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza, park in a designated space, then ride the shuttle, or they can drive up the Mariposa Grove Road and park at the arrival area or near the Grizzly Giant parking area. Parking is very limited and only available to cars displaying a disability placard.
I waved goodbye to Bill as the Shuttle let me off at Mariposa Grove Arrival Area. Bathrooms are also located here.
Since I was one of the first people up to Mariposa Grove, it was pretty empty, not something you would normally see.
The Yosemite Grant Act was the legislation that set aside Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove. Abraham Lincoln signed the act on June 30, 1864 in the midst of the Civil War.
One of the improvements that I noticed right off the bat was the handicap accessible trails. How nice! Before, that accessibility was really limited to the road or parking lot. I remember taking my dad up once and all he could do was sit in the parking lot. We had brought a chair for him but I always felt bad that he couldn’t visit those big trees and see them in person up close.
There are many trails, some looped, some spur trails, that take you out to explore the area. I didn’t have a plan on which trails that I would be exploring. Yosemite National Park provided some options:
Big Trees Loop Trail (Easy)
- .3 mile (0.4 km) toop from trailhead, 30 to 45 minutes (wheelchair accessible)
- Begin at Mariposa Grove Arrival Area. Winding through a forest with many giant sequoias, this trail features the Fallen Monarch and interpretive panels on the life and ecology of giant sequoias. This loop is relatively flat and is wheelchair accessible.
Grizzly Giant Loop Trail (Moderate)
- 2 miles (3.2 km) loop from trailhead, 1.5 to 2 hours
- Begin at Mariposa Grove Arrival Area. Start along the Mariposa Grove Trail at the Big Trees Loop and hike past notable trees such as the Bachelor and Three Graces, the Grizzly Giant, and California Tunnel Tree. Allow two hours to enjoy the full loop that winds along the edge of the grove and includes 300 feet (91 m) of elevation gain. Visitors with a valid disabled placard can drive as far as the Grizzly Giant parking area and enjoy this area of the grove via a section of trail that is wheelchair accessible.
Guardians Loop Trail (Strenuous)
- 6.5 miles (10.5 km) round trip from trailhead, 4 to 6 hours
- Begin at Mariposa Grove Arrival Area. After hiking to the tranquil upper portion of the grove, a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) loop takes hikers past many famous features including the fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree, the Telescope Tree, and the Mariposa Grove Cabin.
Mariposa Grove Trail (Strenuous)
- 7 miles (11.3 km) round trip from trailhead to Wawona Point, 4 to 6 hours
- Begin at Mariposa Grove Arrival Area. This wide and relatively smooth trail follows a route that people have used to access the grove for generations. See famous sequoias such as the Bachelor and Three Graces, the Faithful Couple, and the Clothespin Tree along this somewhat strenuous route to the upper reaches of the grove. Continue to historic Wawona Point, an overlook with panoramic views. Total elevation gain is 1,200 feet (366 m). A number of alternative trails may be used to access the upper portion of the grove. These trails are generally steeper and more primitive than the Mariposa Grove Trail.
I decided to do a little bit of everything. If you look at the Topographic Map of my hike at the end of this blog, it might look to the untrained eye as if I wandered around aimlessly. Not so! I came up with a plan as I walked. I basically followed the Mariposa Grove Trail as a loop, taking a few deviations off of it.
I hadn’t started up the trail too far when I got a whiff of fragrant wild azaelas. How beautiful and what a surprise.
Other flowers such as deer brush and ceanothus were blooming.
How many bugs can you fit on an iris?
One of the improvement included many benches and sitting areas along the trail where you take a break or just ponder. I didn’t do any sitting that day but did my pondering while I walked.
I said hello to some old friends, one of them being the Grizzly Giant. It is one of the largest trees in the Mariposa Grove and estimated to be about 2,700 years, one of the oldest living Sequoias. Some sources say that it is the 25th largest giant sequoia living today.
I continued on the trail to the Mariposa Grove Cabin, then up and around the Mariposa Grove Museum, built in 1930 and restored in 1983. The Museum occupies the site where Galen Clark built a small cabin in 1861. Inside are exhibits on the ecology and history of Giant Sequoias.
The Clothes Pin Tree has survived many fires, naturally hollowing a tunnel through the base of the trunk. There are two trees in Mariposa Grove that have tunnels running through their trunks, but the Clothespin Tree’s tunnel is unique because it stands 40 feet in height. While the base of the tunnel is wide enough to drive a vehicle through, the tunnel has never been used for that purpose. The tunnel is so tall and wide that the trunk has been extremely weakened and many park officials are worried that a dense snowfall could mean disaster for this Giant Sequoias.
The California Tunnel Tree was cut in 1895 to allow coaches to pass through it. It was a great marketing scheme to attract visitors to the grove. This is the only living Giant Sequoia tree with a tunnel in it since the fall of the Wawona Tunnel Tree in 1969 and the fall of the Pioneer Cabin Tree in 2017.
The Depot or store was closed when I started out in the morning but it was open when I returned and I checked it out.
Yosemite National Park told me that they will continue to evaluate their processes at Mariposa Grove and some fine tuning might occur, so I recommend that you check out their website for he latest road and schedule information. A link is located under Sources at the end of this blog. The Park has also provided the following helpful information:
- Pets are not allowed on any trails in the Mariposa Grove. Pets are allowed in the parking areas on leash only. Pets are not allowed on shuttles.
- Bicycles are allowed on the Mariposa Grove Road and can only can travel as far up as the arrival area. Bicycles are not allowed on any trails in the Mariposa Grove.
- Horses are only allowed on the Perimeter Trail and not anywhere else within the Mariposa Grove.
- Restrooms are located at the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza and Arrival Area, near the Mariposa Grove Cabin, and near the Grizzly Giant year-round. During winter, some of these will be converted to vault toilets.
- Drinking water is available only at the welcome plaza (year-round) and arrival area (summer only), so plan accordingly.
- There are no food services available at the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza or within the Mariposa Grove. The Depot, located at the welcome plaza, will have a selection of books, maps, general information, and gifts.
Dog Hike? No
Dogs are not allowed on any of the Mariposa Grove Trails. Pets are allowed in the parking areas on leash only. Pets are not allowed on shuttles.
Where Pets Are Not Allowed
- On trails, including the trail to Vernal Fall (however, pets are allowed on the Wawona Meadow Loop)
- On unplowed roads covered in snow
- In undeveloped and wilderness areas
- In public buildings
- On shuttle buses
- In lodging areas
- In all walk-in and group campgrounds/campsites, including Camp 4
- In any other areas, as signed
These regulations protect both pets and wildlife from disease and each other. The National Park Service has prohibited pets on trails for many years. In particular, some pets chase wildlife, pollute water sources, and can become defensive and dangerous in unfamiliar surroundings. Pet owners have the burden to assure their pet does not damage the park values for others in those areas where pets are allowed.
Yosemite Hospitality operates a dog kennel in Yosemite Valley from approximately late May through early September. Written proof of immunizations (rabies, distemper, parvo, and Bordetella) must be provided. Dogs must be at least 20 pounds (smaller dogs may be considered if you provide a small kennel). You can get more information about the kennel by calling 209/372-8326.
Doarama, Map and Profile: