Are you thinking about visiting Yosemite National Park in September? You’re in luck! September is an ideal time to explore the park. In September, Yosemite combines the vast array of activities available during the summer months with comfortable cooler temperatures – perfect for hiking and other outdoor activities.
But what can you really expect?
Keep reading for a deep dive into everything that Yosemite has to offer, and what to expect.
Weather in September
Choose Your Own Temperatures
There isn’t just one answer to what to expect for temperatures in September in Yosemite.
Because Yosemite spans sun-soaked foothill climates at 1,800 feet (549 m) to craggy alpine summits at 13,114 feet (3,997 m), you can find a range of temperatures in the park on any given day. This allows you to choose your own temperatures by choosing activities at lower or higher elevations.
If you’re exploring Yosemite Valley or Wawona, you’ll be at around 4000 feet (1,220 m). The average high temperature for September in Yosemite Valley or Wawona is 83℉ (28℃) and the lows are 51℉ (11℃) on average.
However, if there’s a heat wave during your visit, or you prefer cooler temps, consider visiting Tuolumne Meadows. At 8,600 ft (2,622 m), the high temps average a very comfortable 65℉ (18℃) while evenings drop to a brisk 32℉ (0℃).
Looking for something in between? Try hikes along Glacier Point Road that are around 7000 ft (2,134 m)
Precipitation in September
September is still comfortably within Yosemite’s “dry season”. However, we will occasionally see some afternoon thunderstorms that tend to build over the high country in Tuolumne and can spill down into the lower elevations as well.
Because September tends to be dry, there is also a possibility of smoke and fire throughout California between late June and the beginning of the wet season – usually in mid- or late-October. It’s a price we pay for so much glorious sunshine.
What to Pack to Wear in Yosemite in September
You may have noticed that Yosemite’s temperatures fluctuate a lot between day and night. Plus, since you’ll probably want to explore several different areas within Yosemite National Park, it’s important to arrive with a variety of layers of clothing.
This layering strategy allows you to start with a puffy jacket in the morning. Pull off that jacket and enjoy long sleeves as the day starts to warm up, and then shed even that layer to be comfortable in short sleeves for mid-day.
We recommend carrying a light rain jacket too. It can double as a wind-breaker, and adds a lot of warmth for the amount of space it takes in your pack. Plus, if you are treated to an afternoon thunderstorm, you’ll be glad you have it with you.
Similarly, you might want to trade a warm wool beanie for early morning outings for a sun hat later in the day.
Hiking or trail running shoes with good traction are ideal for walking Yosemite’s sometimes-polished granite.
September is often still warm enough to enjoy a refreshing swim in one of Yosemite’s rivers or lakes. If that sounds like the perfect end to a day of hiking and exploration, be sure to grab a suit and towel too.
How Busy is Yosemite in September?
By September, Yosemite National Park feels calmer, especially mid-week. Schools are back in session, so there are fewer families traveling. There are still plenty of people visiting, but it’s like the park has taken a nice deep breath.
Weekends are busier than weekdays. If you have flexibility in your travel plans, be sure to take advantage of quieter mid-week days in Yosemite.
Yosemite National Park Service has started a text messaging service with information about when parking fills in various parts of the park. We’d recommend signing up for that a few weeks before you plan to visit so you can get an idea of what areas fill (and which do not) and at what times. That will give you a rough sense of when you should plan to arrive in different locations.
Sign up for current traffic conditions by texting YNPTRAFFIC to 333111.
Where to Stay in Yosemite in September
While Yosemite’s visitation is past-peak in September, we still recommend booking your lodging reservations early to get the best selection. Yosemite Valley lodging in particular can fill far in advance.
Check out booking a vacation rental cabin in Wawona instead. The Redwoods In Yosemite has the largest collection of cabins inside the park and plenty of filters that make finding the perfect place, and don’t forget to check out the special offers to get the best deal.
Best Hikes in Yosemite in September
September is a hiker’s paradise in Yosemite. The high country trails are open with many options for walking to an alpine lake or past soaring cliffs. Water flow has receded as the high-country snow melted away, so the waterfalls will be smaller (or gone) but you will be more likely to keep your feet dry by crossing on stones over small creeks rather than having to wade.
Mist Trail/John Muir Trail
Yosemite Valley lies at the heart of the national park, and there are many trail options ranging from short wheelchair and stroller-friendly walks through Cooks Meadow, to the steep trails that climb up from Yosemite Valley floor that provide birds-eye views.
However, with two big waterfalls that run year-round, the Mist Trail is the best, most popular, and most-scenic hike any time of year, and particularly in September. The trail is steep, but there are so many jaw-dropping destinations along the way it’s easy to customize to the hiking ability of your group. Whether you turn around at the Vernal Fall footbridge after getting that view of Vernal Fall (1.6 miles/2.6 km round-trip), the top of Vernal Fall (2.4 mi/3.9 km round trip) or make it all the way to the top of Nevada Fall (5.4 mi/ 8.7 km round trip), you’ll be in for a real treat.
Take the free shuttle in Yosemite Valley to Happy Isles (Shuttle Stop #16) or walk the extra 1.5 miles round trip from Curry Village.
Taft Point / Sentinel Dome
The trailhead for these two destinations starts at the same spot along Glacier Point Road. You can either do them one at a time or combine them into a longer loop with stunning views looking down into Yosemite Valley.
Taft Point is known for its striking fissures and the dizzying view from the guard rail down into the valley. Sentinel Dome provides an impressive 360 view of Yosemite’s high country as well as looking across at Half Dome and down into Yosemite Valley.
As separate hikes, each destination is 2.2 miles/ 3.5 km round trip with mostly rolling terrain – although the final climb to the top of Sentinel Dome is quite steep – take your time and enjoy the scenery.
As a loop, expect about 5 miles/ 8 km. The section of trail connecting the two destinations follows the valley rim and is a less-traveled treat.
As long as you’re driving out along Glacier Point Road, don’t forget to stop at Glacier Point too. It’s a particularly good destination for sunset.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias – Grizzly Giant Loop
The Mariposa Grove is the largest of the three giant sequoia groves in Yosemite National Park and is located close to Wawona and the South Entrance Gate. A stroll among these ancient giants is always worth the time, especially if you haven’t had the chance to see a giant sequoia before.
In September, most people will park near the South Entrance and take the free shuttle bus to the Arrival Area at the Lower Grove, though you can also walk the Washburn Trail (2 miles/3.2 km) if you want to stretch your legs.
From there, the most popular hike is the Grizzly Giant Loop (2.0 mi/ 3.2 km round trip) which takes you past the Fallen Monarch, Bachelor and Three Graces, and up to the Grizzly Giant (one of the largest trees in the grove). Just past the Grizzly Giant, you can walk through a living sequoia, the California Tunnel Tree.
However, you could also simply follow the wheelchair-friendly boardwalks around the Big Trees Loop (0.3 mi/0.4 km) for a shorter walk. For more time among the giants, hike the Mariposa Grove Trail plus Guardians Loop (7 mi/ 11.3 km round trip) to take in the (quieter) Upper Grove trees as well.
Cathedral Lakes Trail
Like Yosemite Valley, it’s hard to choose just one best hike in the Tuolumne region, but the Cathedral Lakes Trail is certainly a strong candidate. On this trail, you combine the serene beauty of Lower Cathedral Lake with the striking summits of Cathedral, Echo, and Tressider Peaks rising all around. The round-trip is 7-8 mi (11.2-12.8 km) depending on whether you want to see Lower Cathedral Lake, Upper Cathedral Lake, or both of them.
What to Do in Yosemite in September
Yosemite’s hiking is spectacular, but September offers much more than just hiking. If you’re ready to give your legs a break check out some of these other options.
Come join us for the biggest Yosemite Clean Up event of the year with Yosemite Facelift!
All participants should register and you can do so here: https://www.yosemiteclimbing.org/yosemitefacelift2023
There are great prizes (including a chance to win a two night stay at The Redwoods), fun activities, and above all, one great goal of collecting as much trash as we possibly can! Event begins September 20, 2023 through September 24, 2023. Please register before September 11, 2023!!!!
Swing into the saddle for a horseback riding experience. Ride a Quarter Horse with family-owned and operated Yosemite Trails, or take a 2-hour ride along the Wawona Meadow Loop at the Wawona Stables.
Museums and the Yosemite History Center
Wawona’s Yosemite History Center takes you back in time to the era of horse-drawn wagons. A collection of historically significant buildings from around the park sheds light into a part of Yosemite’s history.
Stop by the Wawona Visitor Center at Hill’s Studio to see an exhibit of paintings by Yosemite artist Thomas Hill, and chat with friendly rangers there.
Biking is a fun way to see Yosemite Valley. Plus, mountain bikers will love the nearby trails in the Sierra National Forest.
Cast a line into one of Yosemite’s creeks, rivers or lakes. The region around Wawona is known for brookies, browns, and rainbows. The guides at Yosemite Sierra Fly Fisher have all the details.
Ride a Historic Steam Train
Get a chance to climb aboard an authentic steam train at Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. They have 1-hour tours during the day or spend a magical 3-hour evening that includes dinner, a train ride, and live music around the campfire.
Junior Ranger / Ranger Programs
Learn more about what you’re seeing in Yosemite from one of the park rangers. The Junior Ranger program is appropriate for children and appreciated by people of all ages as a way to experience the park more deeply. See the Yosemite Guide to learn what programs are happening during your stay.
Sightseeing / Wildlife Viewing in Yosemite
So much of Yosemite’s beauty can be appreciated from roadside stops. Take a scenic tour up toward Glacier Point or out along Tioga Road as well as through Yosemite Valley.
Be sure to keep your speed down and your eyes open for some of Yosemite’s magnificent wildlife as you go. If you’re lucky, you may see one of Yosemite’s black bears (they can be brown or even blonde), mule deer, bobcats, coyotes, and so many more.
It may be hard to take a bad picture in this amazing place, but if you’re interested in coming away with the best photos possible, also consider joining The Ansel Adams Gallery for one of their photography walks.
Fall foliage in Yosemite Valley and Wawona usually peaks in mid-October, but keep your eyes open for small pops of color starting in September.
Go Climb a Rock. Yosemite is world-famous for amazing rock climbing. You’ll love the unique experiences and views from high atop Yosemite’s cliffs. Yosemite Mountaineering School offers beginner classes all the way up to multi-day ascents of El Capitan, and the Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides can introduce you to climbing just south of the park.
The days are still warm enough in September to enjoy a refreshing swim in Yosemite’s rivers or lakes. Wawona is particularly known for its delightful swimming holes. You might also enjoy swimming in the Merced River in Yosemite Valley or the sandy beach at Tenaya Lake along Tioga Road.
There’s nothing quite like finding a quiet spot away from the bright lights of the city to appreciate the beauty of the night sky. In September, you might even see a shooting star. The September Epsilon Perseids (not to be confused with the August Perseids from the Swift-Tuttle comet) add an extra spark of celestial excitement to the experience.
More Things to Do in Yosemite
This is a long list, but there are even more things to do in Yosemite. It’s truly a destination with something for everyone.
See You in Yosemite in September!
It’s easy to see that September in Yosemite is an idyllic time to explore the park in more ways than one. We hope to see you soon!
Written By Christina Kantzavelos
There is still time! November is a grand time to visit Yosemite National Park. Crisp mornings and cool evenings, sunny days, chromatic views, and the chance of first snow all paint your next perfect travel picture. It is the least crowded time to visit the park, which means quieter and more intimate outdoor adventures. Plus, you can catch a last glimpse of Glacier Point, Tuolumne Meadows and Mariposa Grove before they close for the season. We’ve come up with eight reasons your visit to Yosemite should be in the few remaining weeks of November. And remember to pack layers and tire chains, just in case!
1. Explore Tuolumne Meadows (before they close for the snow season!)
Take advantage of having access to Tuolumne Meadows/Tioga Roads before they close for the snow season. The fall really transforms each of these majestic locations into chromatic wonderlands. Plus, you get to enjoy their beautiful hikes and views in serene solitude, as neither will be as busy as in the summer.
2. Celebrate Thanksgiving in the Park
Enjoy creating a wonderful memory by hosting a Thanksgiving feast in the comfort of your cabin, surrounded by your family, and friends. Not in the mood to cook? Here are three wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner options in the park. Be sure to make a reservation!
3. Visit the Grizzly Giant in Mariposa Grove
If you haven’t visited the newly restored Mariposa Grove, then you’re in for a treat. Hike its beautiful (and partially ADA compatible) trails before it closes for the snow season. Grizzly Giant has never looked more majestic with its colorful leaves!
4. Bike in the Valley
Explore the valley via bicycle, and enjoy the crisp air, colorful leaves, and beautiful views as you bike by or stop to visit the less-crowded Yosemite valley staples.
5. Explore the Museums in the Park
Don’t let November rains scare you! Is it too rainy or snowy to go exploring? Or, are you looking for a relaxing stroll? Then visit the Yosemite Museum in the valley, or walk through the Ansel Adams Gallery, which displays his work as well as other contemporary photographers and artists. If you’re in Wawona, be sure to visit the Pioneer or History Center, which explains the history of Yosemite National Park and how it inspired the growth of national parks across the county and the world.
6. S’mores and BBQs!
Is there a more delicious food group? Gather around the fire, and enjoy roasting juicy fillets and gooey s’mores with your friends and loved ones.
7. Pet Friendly Yosemite Trails to Hike and Enjoy
Take your pup on the Chowchilla Mountain road (the original road to Yosemite), or Wawona Meadow Loop Trail in Wawona. Or, you and your canine can explore Bridalveil Fall trail, Hodgdon Meadow, Glacier Point, Cook’s Meadow Loop, or even Lower Yosemite Falls. You can also bring along your fur-baby on the Mirror Lake Trail, or take the perfect holiday card photo with them in front of Tunnel View. For both you and your pet’s safety, they are not allowed in the meadows, back country, in public buildings, or on shuttle buses. Looking for a pet friendly cabin? We have you covered!
8. Cozy Fireplaces and Hot Tubs
Snuggle up with a mug of delicious steaming cocoa next to the fireplace in your cabin. Or relax with a soothing cup of hot tea next in your hot tub. Not much compares to spending quality time in your cozy cabin, or hot tub, especially when it’s snowing or raining outside.
Looking for a cabin to get cozy in for November?
Our 120 Redwoods In Yosemite cabins are located in Wawona, at the Southern entrance of Yosemite, just a few miles from the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Relaxing and private, these fully equipped vacation cabins border the wild and scenic South Fork of The Merced River, the Wawona swinging bridge and Chilnualna Falls (the second highest vertical drop waterfalls in Yosemite)! Our Event Center includes full use of the Fireside Room and adjacent deck, with audio and visual equipment and a catering kitchen. Many of our cabins are pet friendly, some feature spa tubs, and all have private decks with BBQ’s and upgraded linens for that, “Home Away from Home” experience. Relax, explore, escape!
When you visit Yosemite in August, you find the park at its peak season. Everything is open so you’ll find the biggest selection for shopping, dining, and activities. Families are enjoying the last bit of summer travel time before school starts again with plenty of hiking options as well as refreshing trips to local swimming holes.
Pro tip: If you can, take advantage of the lull in late August. Because schools start earlier than they used to, kids often end up back in school by the middle of the month. Meanwhile, those without children often wait until after Labor Day to plan their fall trips, leaving a quiet period at the end of August when you can enjoy summer conditions with fewer people around. In fact, starting in mid-August you will also often find better discounts on Yosemite lodging.
August Weather in Yosemite
In Yosemite, August is the warmest and sunniest month of the year. High temperatures in Wawona or Yosemite Valley are often around 89°F (32°C), but mornings and evenings are cooler, averaging a delightful 57°F (14°C), perfect for hiking or other active pursuits. And when the sun is at its highest, delightful swimming holes with refreshingly cool waters invite wading, swimming, or floating.
Another popular option is to travel to higher elevations in the summer for hiking or exploration. For example, at 8,000 feet (2,622 m), in Tuolumne Meadows, the average high temperature is only 70°F (21°C). Just be sure you bring some warm layers if you want to visit the high country early or stay late because evening temperatures average just 37°F (3°C).
The month of August also has the lowest precipitation of any month, with only 0.2 inches (4 mm) of rain on average, making beautiful cloudless blue skies the August norm. The downside of California’s warm and dry August weather is the possibility for wildfire. Fire is a natural and essential part of this region’s ecosystem, but it can lead to smoky conditions if there are large fires in the area.
What Clothes to Pack for Yosemite in August
With such a big temperature range, it can be hard to decide what to pack without bringing the entire closet. The first step is to figure out where you plan to spend the most time, and then bring a variety of layers that can be added or shed depending on the day’s conditions. For example, wearing a tank top plus sun shirt plus sweater plus a puffy jacket can provide plenty of warmth for cool mornings at altitude, and you can slowly shed those layers as the day warms up. If you plan to sleep in, explore Wawona or Yosemite Valley, and then retire to your cabin for a relaxing dinner, you won’t need as many warm layers. But if you’re planning to stay up until late for astrophotography or a stargazing program, you’ll be grateful for some extra clothes.
Because the sun is so powerful in the Sierra Nevada, many people find that clothing that provides shade can be as cool or cooler than a t-shirt or tank top. Consider a wide-brimmed sun hat or a lightweight, light-colored, long sleeve sun shirt to stay cool and protect yourself from the sun’s powerful UV rays.
And don’t forget a swimming suit to take the plunge at one of Wawona’s popular swim spots.
Things to Do in Yosemite in August
You won’t lack things to do in Yosemite in August. This is the height of the summer season, so whether you’re planning to hike through the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, enjoy a horseback riding trip with Yosemite Trails, or gaze up at the starry skies with a park naturalist, you’ll find plenty of memorable activities for your visit. Here are a few highlighted suggestions to make the most of your August visit.
Hiking in August
With warmer temperatures, it’s time to think about high-elevation and shadier hikes. In Yosemite Valley, trails that face north, like the Four Mile Trail, will tend to be cooler than the Upper Yosemite Fall trail which faces south and can become a giant solar oven – amazing in January, but less welcome in August. The water in Yosemite Fall is usually minimal by this time of year anyway. The Mist Trail is a good selection because it’s in a relatively cool canyon, and the waterfalls along this trail flow year-round. The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias tends to have excellent shade from surrounding trees, so that is another good option.
Choosing hikes at higher elevations can also make a big difference in terms of temperature. Hikes along the Glacier Point Road (when it re-opens in 2023) or over in the Tuolumne Meadows area are significantly cooler than those that start at lower elevations.
An alternative strategy for finding cooler hiking conditions is to start hiking early when it is still fairly cool out and then plan more relaxed activities during the warmer part of the day. Spend the middle part of the day with a siesta in your cabin, relaxing by the water, or simply find a shady spot for a picnic. Then you can rally for more hiking as the day cools off again in the evening.
By choosing a local trail, like the one to Wawona’s Swinging Bridge, you can combine some trail time with a refreshing dip in the river.
Easily reached from the Bay Area, Fresno and Los Angeles alike, Yosemite and the surrounding area is the perfect getaway. A place to distance yourself from the crowds, from the noise, and from the city lights. Whether you’re hiking solo on a backcountry trail, or parked with the family on a turnout along one of Mariposa County’s many country roads, whether you’re using the naked eye, a pair of trusty binoculars, or that brand new telescope, the night sky seems to go on forever prompting visitors to scan the heavens, take a deep breath of fresh air and announce…wow, I’ve never seen so many stars.
In August, it is not uncommon to spot amateur astronomers setting up telescopes at Glacier Point on Saturdays. The Yosemite Conservancy offers a few Stargazing events in Yosemite Valley as well, and we highly recommend them!
When you’re ready to give your hiking boots a break, consider exploring Yosemite Valley by bicycle. There are two bike rental stands – one at Curry Village and another at Yosemite Valley Lodge – that rent cruiser bikes for commuting around the valley. Pedal Forward bikes in Oakhurst also rents mountain bikes (and bike racks) if you’re more excited about descents and single-track options in the Sierra National Forest.
Ranger-led Programs and Guided Activities
Rangers and other guides offer many opportunities to learn about Yosemite from local experts. There is everything from art classes, to astronomy programs, rock climbing lessons, train rides, horseback riding and so much more.
Connect with Yosemite’s History
The Yosemite History Center, located right in Wawona, offers a tour of significant historic structures in Yosemite. These buildings tell the story of settlers, artists, and laborers that have helped make Yosemite what it is now.
Chat with Yosemite rangers, and peek into the studio of a locally famous 19th-century artist at the Thomas Hill studio. This small building close to Wawona Hotel is now part visitor center and part free museum.
Hop aboard a historic steam train at Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad and then pan for gold, and visit their museum.
The Yosemite Museum in Yosemite Valley is another wonderful history-filled stop. Displays illustrate the cultural history of the Miwok and Paiute people from 1850 until now. Discover what they used to eat, see demonstrations of basket weaving, beadwork, and learn about traditional games. Be sure to wander through a reconstructed village behind the museum to see some of the plants that they used, and the buildings they used to live in.
Staying at the Redwoods In Yosemite in August
When you’re planning your August trip, be sure to consider getting a vacation rental cabin reservation in Wawona with The Redwoods In Yosemite. Wawona’s location inside the park gates makes it easy to explore the park. And the convenient filters on the Redwoods In Yosemite site make it easy to find just the home you’re looking for, plus you’ll save money by booking direct.
Wind the clock back.
Travel back in your mind to a time long before paved roads and the cars that travel them; before the buildings now preserved in the Yosemite History Center were built in the early 1900s; and before Yosemite was designated as a National Park in 1890. Let’s go back to the edges of the times we know about today – to stories of people who lived here for generations, the people whose ancestors lived here when the ancient sequoias we admire today were still saplings.
Imagine a rich landscape, sparkling, clear rivers filled with sweet Sierra water, and beautiful open meadows teeming with wildlife. Does the scene make you want to stop and stay a while? It certainly seemed that way to the people that lived here then.
One name for this place was Pallachun, meaning “a good place to stop.” And it’s still a good place to linger today, to appreciate all of the quiet and beauty nearby, even though we now call it Wawona.
(The new name was given in 1882 after what is believed to be the Mono Indian name for giant sequoias – Wah Who Nau. It is thought to come from the sound of the hoot of the great horned owl that was the guardian spirit for these ancient trees.)
The Earliest Residents
Archaeological evidence suggests that people lived in the Yosemite area as long as 8000 years ago. In the old Miwuk stories, people were created by Ah-ha’le (Coyote) to have the best characteristics of the animals, and the cleverness of the coyote himself to gather and use the richness of the plants and animals there. Today, we have evidence that these earliest known residents crushed seeds on flat rocks, and hunted using spears and atlatls.
The most current understanding is that by the late 18th century, most of Yosemite was populated by the Southern Miwok people, with some Central Miwok people in the northern reaches of what is now Yosemite National Park.
However, the history of precisely which tribes and sub-tribes lived in Wawona is complex and hard to define. Currently, seven tribes are recognized as having ties to areas inside Yosemite National Park. These include the Bridgeport Indian Colony, Tuolumne Band of Me-wuk Indians, Mono Lake Kootzaduka’a, Bishop Paiute Tribe, Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians, and the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians of California, as well as the Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation.
Finding Signs of Early Native Civilization Today
If you know where to look along the South Fork of the Merced River and along the Wawona Loop Trail along the edges of the meadow, you can find mortar rocks that were used to process food. Look for circular depressions in the tops of boulders, often in a place where a person preparing food would have easy access to water. These places now often provide a good view of a nearby meadow or river.
These were used like we might use a mortar and pestle now, except on a much grander scale. Each pestle weighed from 5 – 12 pounds and could be used to pound a gallon of acorns at a time. The resulting acorn flour would be sifted, and then the coarser pieces pounded again until the fine flour could be rinsed free of the bitter tannins and used to make dough.
If you look carefully, you’ll see many sizes and depths of the mortar holes. Each mortar was designed for a specific use. For example, shallow mortars were better for pounding acorns, while deeper mortars were preferred for preparing manzanita berries.
Arrowheads and Spear Tips
If you look carefully you might also spot obsidian arrowheads and spear points in Wawona and throughout the region. Be sure to leave these where you found them! These important archeological artifacts provide important information about where native people lived and traveled. Removing these artifacts erases an important piece of tribal history.
While the shafts of arrows are made from local mock orange or spicebush shoots, and the feathers came from local birds, you can’t find the obsidian needed for arrows and other tools in this area.
To get these, you would need to get them from the east side of the Sierra.
Obsidian caches found along known trade routes and other archaeological findings demonstrate that the people living in Wawona before the mid-19th century had a robust and well-established network of trade and commerce that extended from beyond the Sierra Nevada mountains to the east and all the way out to the west coast.
In fact, when Stephen Powers travels through the region in 1877, he’s struck by how easy it is to communicate. While there are, of course, many different dialects, often the root remained close enough that many people could communicate effectively. He wrote, “An Indian may start from the upper end of Yosemite and travel with the sun 150 miles… without encountering a new tongue, and on the San Joaquin make himself understood with little difficulty.”
Trade included obsidian from the eastern Sierra to sea shells from the coast, as well as finely crafted baskets with a wide range of uses. In the mid-19th century, the Miwuk were renowned for their brilliantly crafted arrows, made from local plants such as Mock Orange or Spicebush.
Disruption and Devastation in the 19th Century
It’s hard to pin precise dates on how far back the many generations of people followed the natural rhythms of the year. They followed animal migrations and harvested many plants and mushrooms as they came into season. In late summer or early fall, the people would set fires to promote the growth of plants that were useful to them and clear the ground to make gathering food easier. In the fall, they collected acorns for food and stored them in granaries called “chuckahs”. Dried meat and dried mushrooms were prepared for the long winter months. Some people would move to lower elevations for the winter, returning again in spring.
However, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, their lives changed dramatically. California’s Gold Rush of 1849 brought thousands of non-Indian miners to the region in search of gold and began to “lay claims” to pieces of land. In 1850, volunteer militias like the Mariposa Battalion were formed to “protect” the newcomers by forcing the native residents out.
Thousands of native people were killed or died of starvation following this disruption. By 1910, only 1 in 10 of the original Ahwahneeches (the people who lived in Yosemite Valley) were alive and accounted for.
Many tribes signed treaties with the new government, moving to the Fresno Indian River Reservation as agreed. But like so many similar treaties of the time, these were only honored when it was convenient. Soon enough the reservation was overgrazed by the herds of white cattle ranchers, treaties were ignored, and less than 10 years later, in 1860, the failed Fresno reservation closed. Now landless and without legal status, the people were forced to move again.
Having nowhere else to go, many of the people moved back to their traditional homelands. They resettled in Yosemite Valley, Wawona, El Portal, and other areas, and adapted to lives with the newcomers in order to survive. By the time President Lincoln was presented with the Yosemite Grant in 1864, protecting vast stretches of land as part of “America’s Best Idea”, native people were once again living year-round in places like Yosemite Valley. In addition to their traditional practices, they also worked with and for their new neighbors, including providing services to early hotels. But it still wasn’t easy.
Although archaeologists have identified over 30 different historic villages in Yosemite Valley, by the early 1930s, they had been consolidated into one “old Indian village” that was located near the site where the medical clinic is now.
To make room for the hospital, the people were relocated to the “new Indian village” (Wahoga) just west of Camp 4, which was in place from 1931 to 1969.
Unfortunately, at that point, the housing policies changed, and the residents of Wahoga were once again asked to leave, just as their ancestors had been, and their cabins were removed from the site.
Fortunately, the Wahoga area has recently been set aside again for the preservation of Indian cultural heritage. Tribal elders have envisioned a sixty-foot Hangngi’ (traditional round house) and other structures built in the old ways as much as possible, and including a community building and cultural center. You can see them under construction now in Yosemite Valley.
For more information on Native History, be sure to stop in at a local museum. The exhibits and knowledgeable staff there can bring the cultural history of indigenous people to life.
The Sierra Mono Museum and Cultural Center is worth a side trip to North Fork (about an hour from Wawona). The center is dedicated to sharing a wide variety of artifacts that have been important for the Mono tribe’s cultural history, including the largest Mono Basket collection in the state, and over 100 animal exhibits.
The Yosemite Museum in Yosemite Valley is another delightful place to get information on the cultural history of indigenous people as well as other exhibits. Talk to the Indian Cultural Demonstrators who work there, and admire the beautiful basketry on display. Behind the museum, you’ll also find a reconstructed Indian village with examples of different kinds of structures, as well as information on some of the traditional uses of local plants.
The Smithsonian Institute calls The Mariposa Museum and History Center in downtown Mariposa, CA “The Best Little Museum of its Size West of the Mississippi”. There, among stories of the gold rush and pioneer history, you’ll also find an exhibit with native plants, mortar rocks, baskets, and photographs that tell the story of local Miwuk heritage and culture.
Spring in Yosemite, what it is like?
The snow has melted in nearly all of the lower elevation places, the rivers and streams are rushing, the baby animals are strolling, the flowers are in full bloom, and the mountains are calling. What better way to see the natural beauty of Yosemite than by taking a hike during this exciting time? Whether you are looking for a short and sweet hike through the meadow, along the river, or crave a more strenuous hike to visit a raging waterfall, Wawona has you covered.
- Wawona Swinging Bridge Trail
The Wawona Swinging Bridge Trail is a short and mostly flat .75 miles (1.2. km) round-trip hike to the swinging bridge which takes you across the scenic and wild South Fork of the Merced River. It’s beautiful, serene, and the bridge does truly swing. In addition to enjoying the wildflowers, in summer, you can also swim in the river down below, which is not nearly as busy as other water holes and beach spots in Yosemite Valley for example. While you’re in the area, don’t forget to also check out the Pioneer History Center for fun Yosemite history.
- Wawona Meadow Loop
The Wawona Meadow Loop is a relatively flat 3.5 (5.6 km) loop trail that starts at the Big Trees Lodge. Formerly known as the Wawona Hotel, this is one of California’s oldest hotels that has been operating since 1879. This is the only bike and leashed pet-friendly trail in the area, so bring Fido along. It’s also home to various wildflower species, and now is the perfect time to see them!
- Chilnualna Falls
This is a strenuous 8.2 mile (13.1 km) hike, with an elevation gain of 2,400 feet (732 m) that leads you to one of the tallest waterfalls in the park via a series of switchbacks. It begins two miles from the Chilnualna Falls Road, in the Chilnualna Falls parking area. This hike is made up of three cascades, including some smaller ones at the bottom. It’s not heavily trafficked, so you will likely get most of it to yourself. You get bonus points in the summer for dipping in some of the secluded swim holes along this trail.
4. Mariposa Grove Hikes
Mariposa Grove has finally opened for the season! This area is home to wonderful trails winding through some of the world’s oldest trees, including the 1,800-year-old Grizzly Giant. Keep in mind that visitors must park in the south entrance, which is two miles away from the grove. The shuttle busses pick up visitors every 10-20 minutes. Visitors with disability placards can drive to the Grizzly Giant parking area rather than take the shuttle in. Here are a few great hikes within Mariposa Grove:
- Big Trees Loop
This is a very short and easy 0.3 miles (0.4 km) loop trail, that is wheelchair accessible, leading you to the Fallen Monarch tree.
- Grizzly Giant Loop
This is a 2 mile (3.2 km) mile loop trail that’s rated as moderate, with a 300 (91m) elevation gain. In addition to the Grizzly, you will pass other famous trees in the lower grove like the Fallen Monarch, Bachelor, Three Graces, and the California Tunnel Tree.
- Guardians Loop Trail
This is a 6.5 mile (10.5 km) strenuous loop trail, with an elevation gain of 1000 ft (305 m). In addition to passing by Grizzly Giant Loop trees, the trail passes by some notable spots in the upper grove like the Telescope Tree, the fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree and the Mariposa Grove Cabin.
- Mariposa Grove Trail to Wawona Point
This is another somewhat strenuous hike that’s 7.0 miles (11.3 km) in total, with an elevation gain of 1,200 feet (366 m). In addition to the Grizzly Giant Loop trees, you pass by portions of the upper grove, including famous sequoias like Three Graces, the Gaintful Coupole, the Bachelor and the Clothespin Tree. This also leads you to the historic Wawona Point (6,800 ft.) that has a beautiful overlook with a panoramic view.
Looking for a cabin near the hikes? Check out our Current Specials!
All of our 120 Redwoods In Yosemite cabins are located in historic Wawona, near the South Entrance of Yosemite National Park, just a few miles from the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Relaxing and private, these fully equipped vacation homes border the wild and scenic South Fork of The Merced River, the Wawona swinging bridge and Chilnualna Falls (the second highest vertical drop waterfalls in Yosemite)! Our Event Center includes full use of the Fireside Room and adjacent deck, with audio and visual equipment and a catering kitchen. Many of our cabins are pet friendly, some feature spa tubs, and all have private decks with BBQ’s and upgraded linens for that, “Home Away from Home” experience. Come on up! Relax. Explore. Escape!
Text credit: Christina Kantzavelos, BuenQamino
Families from around the world travel to Yosemite for the iconic scenery, abundant natural experiences, and a chance to relax and unwind in a beautiful setting. There are plenty of short hikes, beautiful scenery, and fun activities to keep your kids entertained as you explore. It may take a little extra planning to design the ideal trip with your family, but rest assured there is plenty to do. Keep reading for activities galore and tips for traveling to Yosemite with kids.
Is Yosemite Kid-friendly?
Let’s start here with an unequivocal yes. With many stroller-compatible trails and easy access to the most-iconic viewpoints, Yosemite is strikingly easy to get around. That makes it a great national park to visit with kids of all ages, including babies and toddlers.
What Is There To Do in Yosemite for Families?
Hold on tight. There is so much to do in Yosemite with kids that the answer to this question is going to take a while.
Simply being out in the fresh air and attentive to what is happening around you is a way to become more connected with natural spaces, and make fascinating discoveries about the world we live in.
First thing on the list – Junior Rangers! The junior ranger program includes fun activities that get kids to engage with what they are seeing and experiencing in the park, encourages them to interact with park rangers, gives them a chance to earn a cool junior ranger badge, and even serves as a souvenir and memento of their time in the park. There’s nothing like experiencing Yosemite through the eyes of a would-be junior ranger. The Junior Ranger booklet is designed for kids aged 4 – 12, but Junior Ranger activities can be fun for all ages. If you look in the Junior Ranger log book in Yosemite, you’ll find people from pre-school to post-retirement ages who have taken the time to become Junior Rangers. Try it!
Whether you’re traveling with a budding young artist, or simply want a quiet day outdoors, The Yosemite Conservancy offers a wide range of art activities. Taking time to paint or draw in nature gives you time to be still and enjoy the scenery around you, fills the soul, and creates a unique souvenir of your time in Yosemite.
Places to Explore
Sometimes kids want to walk, and sometimes they just want to explore. Fortunately, you’ll find many short walks with great views that are also perfectly suited to a kid’s pace. Here is a small selection of trails you to investigate.
Yosemite History Museum
The Yosemite History Museum has an array of historic buildings on display, including an old jail that kids are free to explore. Best of all, during the summer months, if you’re lucky you can take a ride on a horse-drawn stage coach or watch a blacksmith in action over a forge.
Wawona Meadow Loop
Just across Highway 41 from the Redwoods In Yosemite cabins, the Wawona Meadow Loop is a peaceful trail that circles the Wawona meadow (and golf course), and is a great place to discover a variety of wildflowers in the spring. In true family-friendly spirit, this is one of the few mostly non-paved trails in Yosemite that is open to leashed pets and bicycles. The loop is 3.5 miles (5.6 km) with a 5-mile (8 km) variation.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias:
The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is a quick 15-minute drive from The Redwoods cabins. Park in the main lot near the South Entrance gate, and during the summer you can take the shuttle bus to the lower Mariposa Grove. Explore the boardwalks near the shuttle stop on the Big Trees Loop (0.3 miles), take a longer walk to visit the Grizzly Giant and California Tunnel Trees (2 mile loop), or hike all the way up to the Upper Grove of Giant Sequoias (6.5 – 7 miles).
Lower Yosemite Falls & Cooks Meadow
In the spring and early summer when the water is flowing, the short loop to the base of Lower Yosemite Fall gives you a chance to see this waterfall up close. The trail is even paved and stroller-friendly, though steep in spots. As an alternative, or a way to extend the walk to Lower Yosemite Fall, cross the road at the bus stop and walk through Cook’s Meadow on paved trails and boardwalks to zoom out on Yosemite Falls, and take in grand views of Half Dome at the same time.
Lower Yosemite Falls Loop: 0.5 miles (0.8 km)
Cooks Meadow Loop: 0.5 miles (0.8 km)
Happy Isles & The Fen
East of Curry Village, there are two beautiful kid-friendly strolls to explore. The fen is a lush wetland filled with songbirds, which connects to Happy Isles, a short trail out to two islands in the middle of the Merced River. A highlight of the Happy Isles area is the Art and Nature Center with kid-oriented exhibits and art programs.
Both trails are less than 0.5 miles (0.8 km)
This beautiful location is going through an identity crisis. A beautiful, reflective pond in spring, it dries to an open meadow by late summer. In the right part of this transition, the sandy shores create a popular family-friendly beach with shallow pools for swimming and splashing.
Mirror Lake/Meadow: 2.4 miles (3.8 km) round trip.
Indian Village behind the Yosemite Museum
A very short walk behind the Yosemite Museum provides a glimpse into the traditional homes and buildings built by the Miwok people in the late 1800s and early 20th century. If you keep your eyes open for the interpretive signs, you can also learn about some of the plants that were used to make arrows or baskets and food. Within the museum, you can also sometimes find cultural demonstrators who can provide even greater insights into how these people used to live.
Note: Local tribes have requested to be referred to as Indians.
The trail is less than a quarter-mile (0.4 km).
Swinging Bridge – Yosemite Valley and Wawona versions
There are actually two “Swinging Bridges” in Yosemite. The one in Yosemite Valley sports a river-side picnic area with tables and grills and doesn’t actually swing, but provides nice views of Yosemite Valley. In contrast, Wawona’s Swinging Bridge still bounces and sways as you cross, making it a fun adventure for small kids. Both are popular swimming spots once spring run-off has slowed and the water temperatures have warmed.
Wawona Swinging Bridge
Getting to Wawona’s Swinging Bridge is just a matter of stepping out the front door of your Redwoods In Yosemite cabin rental. At just 0.75 miles (1.2 km) round trip (from the Redwoods offices), and mostly flat this is a great place to wander with your little ones. The dirt trail is relatively flat, so it’s relatively easy with a rugged stroller or wagon for all your things. It’s fun to walk across a bridge that sways gently as you walk, and the scenery over the South Fork of the Merced River is a delight. This is also a nice place to get close to the water late in the summer when the river has slowed down.
Yosemite Valley Swinging Bridge: just a few steps from the parking area.
Figuring out Nap Time for Kids While Visiting Yosemite
If your kids are young enough that you want to protect nap time during your visit, there are a couple of easy solutions.
- If you’re staying in one of the cabins rented by the Redwoods In Yosemite, you can try to combine a short local excursion with a return to your vacation rental home for nap time. There is a wealth of options, but a few along those lines might include: the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, Yosemite History Center exploration, a trip to a local swimming hole, or a walk to the first cascade along the Chilnualna Fall Trail.
- Your car is another great place to retreat for a satisfying nap time. It can take a while to drive to various destinations in Yosemite, and many scenic overlooks to stop at along the way where you can keep an eye on the sleeping babes and still take in some amazing scenery. If there are two of you, you can also take turns stretching your legs while the other person keeps an eye on the napping kids. Try doing this on a trip to explore Tuolumne Meadows, for example.
- Admittedly, this solution is more gear-intensive, but some local parents have had great luck getting their kids to nap outdoors by bringing along small tents that can be easily set up anywhere. The tent walls help block out all the things that are going on all around to help little ones relax and rest, as well as protect them from the sun and any mosquitoes or other insects.
More Yosemite Activities for Kids that are a Little Older
If you’ve got a natural climber on your hands, your kid will love a class with the Yosemite Mountaineering School. Learn rope work, safety systems, and get great views while rock climbing. Kids need to be aged 10 or up to join a group lesson (12+ to attend the class without an adult present). However, younger kids (with their parents) can also sign up for a private lesson. This personalized format allows the climbing guide to give their full attention to their young protégé.
There are two kinds of rafting in the Yosemite area. You can take a scenic float through Yosemite, or paddle through the whitewater rapids just west of Yosemite with one of the guide services there.
Get the family together for a relaxing downstream float through Yosemite Valley. You can rent a raft that holds 2-4 people at Curry Village. Kids need to weigh at least 50 lbs to go ride in a rental raft, and you need to have at least 2 capable paddlers on board (at least 5 ft. tall and 12 years old).
Whitewater rafting options are a little further away, but provide a rollicking ride through the waves on a guided rafting trip. Age requirements will depend on the river conditions, so be sure to check with the whitewater rafting guides ahead of time. In spring when the rivers are at their fullest and most wild this will only be appropriate for older kids, but younger kids will be able to join as the water levels drop in late summer.
We like to recommend Yosemite Trails for nearby trail rides. Yosemite Trails is a small family-run business, and these folks really know their horses. No previous experience necessary. You’ll get a quick riding lesson before you set off on the trail. You can sign up for one or two-hour rides through the beautiful Sierra National Forest and experience getting to cross a mountain stream on your mount. Kids need to be at least 7 years old.
You can also take a ride along the Wawona Loop Trail from the guides at the Wawona Stables. The Wawona Stables are even closer to the Redwoods In Yosemite cabins than Yosemite Trails, but a little less remote-feeling. The age requirement here is also 7 and up, and the kids also need to weigh at least 52 pounds and be at least 52 inches tall.
Best Places to Stay in Yosemite with Kids
Of course we’re biased, but we can’t say enough about how great the Redwoods In Yosemite rental cabins are for families visiting Yosemite National Park.
Vacation rental cabins give your family enough room to spread out while remaining together. This means that you can put the kids to bed, close the door, and still have some space for yourselves to relax and talk or watch TV. Or the kids can play happily in the living room while you’re making dinner or getting lunches together in the kitchen.
Rent a large cabin for extended family gatherings so there is room for aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents too. Sometimes we also see extra-large family reunions split up into multiple cabins next to each other for a little extra space and privacy, with the convenience of having more family right next door.
Some cabins also have some laundry access. This is ideal if you have a couple of dirt-lovers in the family, and helps keep the luggage size under control by allowing you to clean as you go. In the winter months, the drier can also come in handy to ensure that jackets and other clothes are warm and dry for the next round of outdoor fun.
Older kids and adults will also find better internet connectivity in a private cabin compared to other in-park hotels. Now, this is the mountains, so you can’t expect city internet in the best of circumstances, but hotel internet is shared between all other hotel guests. That means that in the evenings when everyone is trying to connect sometimes even checking email can be an exercise in patience, to say nothing of trying to stream entertainment.
Note: Regardless of where you stay, plan ahead and download the kids’ movies before you travel to Yosemite. It’ll take less time in the long run, and you won’t have to worry whether the internet capacity is sufficient.
What to Pack for Kids in Yosemite
Of course, you’ll need the normal things you would pack for traveling with kids – diapers, wipes, water bottles, snacks, plenty of clothing, toiletries, etc. Plus, here are a few additional items that could come in handy for a visit to Yosemite.
- Strollers or Collapsible wagons. There are a lot of paved trails where you can use them. And also…
- Baby carriers and backpacks. Strollers aren’t always easy to wrangle.
- Car toys. It’s a big park, and if you want to visit different areas, the kids will be spending time in the car each day.
- Outdoor discovery tools. Binoculars, magnifying glasses, bird guides, or any number of nature apps make outdoor discovery even richer. We love the John Muir Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada. It seems to contain all of the most common plants, animals, and even constellations that you’re likely to see.
- Pre-downloaded movies or other kid entertainment. Yeah, we just mentioned that above, but it’s worth repeating because mountain internet is likely to be slower than what you’re used to in the city.
- Foldable play mat / mini tent shades come in handy for impromptu nap time or just a comfortable place to stretch out for the little ones.
- Small first aid kit. Because letting kids run, jump and scramble in the woods is beautiful, and you might want to be ready with a few band-aids just in case.
Yosemite National Park brings in over four million visitors each year! Since 4 million yearly fans can’t be wrong, there are many reasons to want to visit Yosemite, and plenty of reasons to stay within the park boundaries during your next visit. During peak season, we expect large crowds, heaps of cars, traffic delays (sometimes 1-2 hours), busy attractions, and limited parking and lodging. Here are five reasons why staying in Wawona will allow you to spend less time in your car, and more time enjoying what this great park has to offer…
Avoid the Morning Wait at the Southern Entrance.
Waiting for any attraction is as certain as taxes, and the wait for the entrance to Yosemite can begin up to two miles before you reach the Southern Gate, or other entrances too. After finally driving up to the entrance, why would you want to squander extra waiting in your car? If you’re already in the park, the morning wait is one less thing to worry about, so you can spend your precious vacation time wisely.
How To Spend Less Time Spent Driving in the Valley
If you’re staying closer to Yosemite Valley (in the heart of the park), you have easier access to the park’s free shuttle. Once in the valley, we strongly encourage you to take the free bus rides or book a valley tram tour for example. The shuttle runs from 7 AM – 10 PM daily, and provides access to all of the valley’s hot spots. The more people who opt for the use of the shuttle, the less traffic within the park. It takes about 35-40 minutes, a 26 mile drive, from Wawona to Yosemite Valley. Renting a bicycle is also a great option!
Wawona Walking Distance Perks
Staying in Wawona means you are within walking distance to two local markets, a restaurant in a historical national landmark such as the The Wawona Hotel, gas station, The Pioneer History Village, Thomas Hill Studio, Wawona Stables, barn dancing, stagecoach rides, river walks, swim hole hikes and dips, waterfall access, golfing, a beautiful library, a laundry facility, (deep breath!) and the Mariposa Grove. Basically, you have access to all of these perks from your private home rental nestled in a historic, mountainous, small town inside a national park.
Access to the Mariposa Grove Shuttle from Wawona
If you’re a guest at The Redwoods, then you’re entitled to a free Mariposa Grove Shuttle from Wawona (park and ride at the Wawona General Store near the gas station) to the newly reopened Mariposa Grove Plaza, from where another quick 5 minute bus/shuttle takes you inside the giant sequoia grove.
Fall asleep underneath the Redwoods or lay on a meadow stargazing
There is nothing more serene than staying away from the city buzz, to fall asleep underneath a clear sky in the shade of the Redwoods. You can see just why Theodore Roosevelt had his breath taken away when he first arrived here. There is nothing like enjoying the early mornings, sunset, and evenings in the tranquility of Yosemite’s spectacular natural beauty, so grab the blanket and a picnic basket, and find your spot under Wawona’s starry skies this summer and fall!
Have we convinced you to plan your next stay within the Yosemite National Park?
All of our cozy Redwoods cabins and spacious vacation homes are located in Wawona, at the Southern entrance of Yosemite, just 6 miles from the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias (don’t forget the free shuttle access). Relaxing and private, our fully equipped vacation homes and cabins border the wild and scenic South Fork of The Merced River, the Wawona swinging bridge and Chilnualna Falls (the second highest vertical drop waterfalls in Yosemite)! Our Event Center includes full use of the Fireside Room and adjacent deck, with an audio and visual equipment and a catering kitchen. Many of our cabins are pet friendly, some feature spa tubs, and all have private decks with BBQ’s and upgraded linens for that, “Home Away from Home” experience. Relax, explore, escape!
Text collaborator: Christina Kantzavelos, BuenQamino
*activities are subject to change. For the most up-to-date park news and accessibility please click or tap here here.
The Grizzly Giant is the most renowned giant sequoia in Yosemite National Park. Standing at a solid 209 feet (63.7 m) it is the second largest tree in the Yosemite, and one of the most photographed. You’ll need to take a panorama to capture that in one image!
We can’t know for certain how old this tree is until we are able to count the annual rings in the wood – something we can’t do now without harming the tree. However, based on its diameter in comparison with other trees, researchers estimate that it could be around 2000 to 3000 years old. That’s long enough for this gentle giant to have a story or two to tell.
Ready to visit? Check out these must-know facts about this wonder before you get to meet in person!
The Grizzly Giant Ranked the 26th Largest Tree In the World!
In the world of trees, Giant Sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) live up to their name. They are the largest trees in the world by volume. The Grizzly Giant, when measured in 1990, was 34,005 cubic feet (962.9 m3) in volume and roughly 2 million pounds in weight. That’s as heavy as a tower of 145 elephants standing on top of each other.
Even the branches of this mighty tree are noteworthy in their own right. The largest branch growing about 95 feet overhead is more than 6 feet (2 m) in diameter. If it were an independent tree growing out of the ground, just this branch would be much larger than many other non-sequoia trees. However, in context of the massive main trunk, it hardly attracts any notice.
Does that make you feel like a tiny pine cone in comparison? Consider that these massive trees all start their life as a small seed about the size of a flake of oatmeal.
These trees have done a lot of growing already, and unlike us humans, sequoias continue to grow larger with age. Expect generations ahead of us to be even more in awe.
Snag a Front Row Seat for a Sequoia’s Hardiness
As the Grizzly Giant aged, a snag formed at the top – those dead stems at the top of the tree. This is a feature that many mature giant sequoias share.
What causes those snags?
In its life, likely spanning thousands of years, the Grizzly Giant weathered many hardships that might have been the end of lesser trees. It has likely been hit by lightning more than a few times, and withstood droughts as well as both wind and snow storms.
It’s thick, spongy bark is estimated to be about 2 feet (0.6 m) thick. The tree is filled with tannic acid which increases its resistance to threats from fungus, insects and fire. Still, if you look at the base of the tree, you will notice charred hollows, fire scars that are probably hundreds of years old. The Grizzly Giant survived these lightning fires – a good thing since fires are an essential part of the Sequoia lifecycle. However, fire scars interrupt the flow of water from the roots to the tree tops. When this happens the top of the sequoia dies back to reduce the water requirement, producing a snag top. A new branch can take over as the leader, only to die back again when another fire comes through, or during an extensive drought.
For a giant sequoia, the presence of a snag in the top is a proud banner of its ability to endure across millennia.
The Grizzly Giant Gets A Little Help From Its Friends
As long-lived as giant sequoias are, they couldn’t do it without help from their neighbors. If you walk all the way around the Grizzly Giant, you’ll notice that it has a pronounced lean. The trunk lists almost 5 degrees to the south and 1.5 degrees to the west. Even with the 96.5-foot (29.5 m) circumference at ground level, that puts the roughly 2 million pounds (907 metric tons) of weight decidedly off center.
It looks so precarious that in 1904 supporting cables were proposed to help the Grizzly Giant remain standing. Though the cables were never installed, they have so far been unnecessary.
Do sequoia trees have a secret power that helps keep them upright?
Sequoia root systems don’t plunge deep into the ground with a tap root – instead they reach out to the side, remaining close to the surface. You can see this shallow root system in toppled trees like The Fallen Monarch. As the roots grow out to the side, they interlace with the roots of their neighbors so the trees can help hold each other up.
This shallow root system appears to be one key to the Grizzly Giant’s longevity. It’s also the reason that walking around the base of the tree and compressing the soil around these fragile roots can be so harmful to these ancient trees.
The Coolest Kid in the Grove
The Grizzly Giant Loop is one of the most popular trails in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. By now, you can probably see why. Who wouldn’t want to meet the Grizzly Giant in person?
The numbers and photos can’t do justice to this rare and ancient tree. You have to see it in person, tilting your head back – way back – to look into its massive branches, and contemplate all that it has seen in its lifetime.
The Mariposa Grove is home to more than 500 mature sequoias. Named after the county that it’s in, Mariposa, the Mariposa Grove was first visited by non-natives in the 1850s. Over the next few years, the Grizzly Giant would become a poster-child for this magnificent area, posing with such notables as Yosemite’s first guardian, Galen Clark, as well as President Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir. These famous photos were sent back east and became viral in their own way, helping to make a case for preserving this grove of trees for us to enjoy today.
If the Grizzly Giant were the only giant sequoia in the grove, it would be worth visiting, but luckily for you, it is surrounded by other notable giants that you’ll want to stop and greet along the way. Say hello to the Bachelor and Three Graces, and elegant grouping of giants that you’ll pass on the way. And don’t forget to continue a short distance beyond the Grizzly Giant to walk through the still-living California Tunnel Tree.
If you make it even further up the trail, you’ll encounter even more tree-mendous characters. The Faithful Couple Tree is united into a single trunk at the base, though overhead you can see that it is two sequoias that have grown together over time. Also keep your eyes open for the Clothespin Tree, the Telescope Tree and many many more.
Stay Nearby at The Redwoods In Yosemite
One of the best places to stay to explore the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and see the Grizzly Giant is in a private vacation home in Wawona. Be sure to explore the biggest selection of vacation cabins offered by The Redwoods In Yosemite.
Relaxing and private, these fully-equipped rental cabins are conveniently located in the charming community of Wawona. There are many things to do in Wawona itself. Plus, your cabin is inside the park gates, making it easy to explore other parts of Yosemite, as well as the Mariposa Grove.
Many cabins are pet-friendly, some feature spa tubs and all have private decks with BBQ’s and upgraded linens for that ‘home away from home’ experience.
If you’re planning a trip for a group, be sure to also check into the convenient Event Center for a centrally-located place to gather. The Event Center includes the use of the Fireside Room and the large adjacent deck, along with access to state of the art audio and visual equipment and a catering kitchen.
The Redwoods In Yosemite Year-Round Vacation Home Rentals, Wedding and Event Center Reopening News Release
Wawona, CA – We are excited to confirm that as of July 28, 2022, visitors of Yosemite National Park are able to stay in our vacation home rental accommodations at The Redwoods In Yosemite.
A reminder, Yosemite National Park day-use reservations are not required for Redwoods guests. As usual you can make a cabin or vacation home reservation online at www.redwoodsinyosemite.com.
Our wedding and event center has resumed operations as well and you can find out more about the current wedding/group size requirements by calling our Events Coordinator at 877-496-3052 or visiting our website.
As you may know, on July 8, 2022 we had to close our Redwoods facility on Chilnualna Falls Road and evacuate due to the Washburn Fire burning near Wawona and The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. All of our Wawona employees were evacuated for a 14 day period and we thank everyone who helped with housing our staff during this time! Simultaneously, The Redwoods team worked closely with our Wawona Rangers and first responders on evacuating over 70 vacation homes that day, ensuring all of our in-house visitors have left the area safely and quickly. Over 470 reservations made by visitors from all over the world had to be canceled by our front desk team. More importantly though, we are so relieved that the preservation of Mariposa Grove and Wawona was successful, without loss of human life, and we are back in Wawona to serve guests, homeowners, and the Wawona community to the best of our abilities. Thank you once more, Yosemite Fire and Aviation + NPS, Incident Teams 6 + 15 and all first responders, hot shot crews and fire fighting vendors and personnel for saving historic Wawona and The Big Trees!
These days the saddest news however, come from Mariposa, where currently the Oak Fire is still burning with 45% containment. The blaze, although more than 10 miles away from Wawona, feels very close to the soul and is burning a scar into our #MariposaStrong hearts. With over 100 single-home residences now destroyed in the Jerseydale/Midpines area of the Oak Fire, we would like to focus on finding ways to help the victims in any way possible in these harsh times.
To anyone able to help, please consider the following:
Make monetary donations to the Mariposa Community Foundation
Make monetary donations to the Alliance for Community Transformations
Make clothing and shoe donations to the American Red Cross at the below locations:
Mariposa Elementary School
Stage Stop Gas Station
Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) is accepting any person or group wishing to volunteer
Call: (209) 966-5911 or (559) 683-4911
To our incoming guests, please visit https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/conditions.htm for the most current conditions and information in the park. The smoke impact of the Oak Fire has significantly reduced in the last few days and we recommend for you to keep your reservation and not lose your place in line for the home rental of your choosing at The Redwoods. Although Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias remains closed at this time for post-firefighting cleanup and debris removal, Nelder Grove, Merced Grove and Tuolumne Grove are open for visitors.
The Redwoods In Yosemite Mariposa Strong Team
The Redwoods In Yosemite News Release
Release Date: February 25, 2021
The Redwoods In Yosemite Vacation Home Rentals, Wedding and Event Center Reopen on March 1, 2021
Wawona, CA – We are excited to confirm that beginning March 1, 2021, visitors of Yosemite National Park will be able to stay in our vacation home rental accommodations at The Redwoods In Yosemite.
Yosemite National Park day-use reservations are no longer required for all park visitors and Redwoods guests, including annual and senior pass holders.
As usual you can make a cabin or vacation home reservation online at www.redwoodsinyosemite.com and for Covid-19 related health and safety information, please visit: https://redwoodsinyosemite.com/blog/covid-19-measures-and-precautions-at-the-redwoods-in-yosemite/
Our wedding and event center is resuming operations as well and you can find out more about the current wedding/group size requirements by calling our Events Coordinator at 877-496-3052.
Please be mindful of ongoing infrastructure related construction in the area. There will be utility and tree removing crews working in Wawona for the next few weeks and more, so please be alert and drive with caution. If your stay with us is heavily dependent on a solid internet connection, we advise to contact our Reservations team at 888-225-6666 before booking your vacation home. As of now, our homes and main building show low to mediocre bandwidth internet/data speeds.
For the most up-to-date current conditions in Yosemite National Park, please visit https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/conditions.htm.
Have a safe trip and we look forward to re-connecting with you all!