One of the most frequent visited areas of Yosemite National Park is the Mariposa Grove which features around 500 mature sequoias . . . one of the primary reasons for our trip to Yosemite! Located in the far southwestern corner of the park, expect the drive from the valley area to take nearly an hour. You can also take the park shuttle service which will eliminate the hassle of finding parking in the very limited area at the entrance to Mariposa Grove. When we arrived to the area around 1pm, the upper parking lot was full and the two mile road to the top closed. We parked at the south entrance to the park, and took the shuttle. For those in good to outstanding physical condition, you may probably want to hike the six plus mile hike (one-way) from the Wawona area.
At the shuttle stop inside the grove, there is a small gift shop that also offered limited snacks and beverages. There was also a limited information center. Beyond this building, perhaps 50 yards away, it's the ticket center for the “Tall Trees Tour” offered by park concessionaire Delaware North Companies. This tram ride provides visitors with a narrated tour over the two and one-half mile route through both the lower and upper groves, providing outstanding opportunities to see and learn about the sequoia found in Yosemite. The tour lasts about 75 minutes and includes two stops . . . one at the museum and another at “The Grizzly Giant” the fifth largest documented tree in the world.
Along the path, whether you walk it or take the tram tour, you will see many landmark trees known for their unique features or place in Yosemite history. Many of the trees found in this area are thought to be as much as 2,500 years old. It is really remarkable as you look at the various trees both standing and previously fallen to the forest floor. Perhaps the most famous of all the fallen trees is the Fallen Monarch which was photographed in 1899 with US Cavalry soldiers lined up behind the huge tree trunk. Another of great interest is the Wawona Tunnel Tree which fell in 1969 due to the extreme weight of snow in the tree top. The tunnel had been created for stagecoaches back in 1881. Today the only “tunnel tree” in this area of the park remaining is the California Tunnel Tree which was used from 1859 until 1932. The road was redirected in 1932 and today the tunnel is exclusively used by visitors on foot.
We did take the “Big Trees Tour” which cost $16 for adults, $14 for seniors and $11 for children ages five and older. We really enjoyed having the narration from an experienced tour guide for the Yosemite Tour Company – one of the large motor coach tour operators in the park. He was informative and very engaging, adding to our experience touring the Mariposa Grove and giant sequoias.
Near the end of our tram tour, we did see the only wildlife of our entire day in Yosemite . . . a small group of mule deer. Unfortunately, the lighting was not ideal for photos so my pictures didn’t turn out very good.