Just a short hike from The Redwoods In Yosemite is the historic Wawona Swinging Bridge (which boasts one of the best natural rock waterslides in Yosemite)!
Wawona Swinging Bridge
To put a little bounce back in your step, take the short hike from The Redwoods In Yosemite cabins to Wawona’s Swinging Bridge. Unlike the more famous Swinging Bridge in Yosemite Valley, which doesn’t actually swing, this sturdy 40-foot span gently rocks and sways with each step. Pause in the middle of the bridge to enjoy the water-sculpted rocks and boulders that line the South Fork of the Merced River, and the swirling waters below.
Plus, in the right season, the water warms up and slows down enough for this area to become a refreshing place to wade through the water and enjoy a dip in the swimming hole.
Hiking to Wawona Swinging Bridge
Distance: 0.75 miles (1.2 km) round trip
Trailhead Elevation: 4,140 feet (1,260 meters)
Elevation Gain: very little
From your cabin, find your way back out onto Chilnualna Falls Road – the road you came in on that passes by The Redwoods In Yosemite check in area and the Wedding and Event Center. Keep going about 0.4 miles (0.6 km) past the parking area for the Chilnualna Falls Trail until you come to a dirt parking area with a sign that says “Swinging Bridge – .7 miles”.
In the spring when the water is flowing particularly high and strong, you’ll cross a small seasonal creek, Chilnualna Creek, just a few hundred feet up the trail. After that, it’s a comfortable and leisurely stroll through the forest.
If you keep your eyes open you can spot Wawona Dome peeking through gaps in the trees. Wawona Dome is an out of the way climbing area that can be home to peregrine falcons in the nesting season.
When the trail pops out next to the river, you’re nearly at the bridge.
Alternate Route to the Swinging Bridge
If even this short hike seems too long, you could also try approaching the bridge from the other direction. Instead of following Chilnualna Falls Road, drive back out to Highway 41/the Wawona Road and then turn in at the Wawona Store. This allows you to follow Forest Drive along the south side of the South Fork of the Merced River instead. Forest Drive also ends in a dirt parking area, and from there the trail is less than a mile round-trip. The dirt trail is wide and flat, and with a little energy you could navigate a sturdy stroller or wagon to the bridge from this side.
This side of the bridge is the best for spring wildflower spotting.
Wawona Swinging Bridge Swimming Hole
A note of caution before we begin: Swimming in a river requires caution and judgment on your part. This is not a swimming pool and there are no lifeguards on duty. During the spring snowmelt, the water flows in a torrent. It’s fast, unforgiving, and more powerful than many people imagine. The water is hardly warmer than the freezing snowpack it came from, and river rescues are rarely successful. If you aren’t sure if the water is safe for swimming, there are swimming pools at the Wawona Hotel or in Yosemite Valley at the Yosemite Valley Lodge and at Curry Village.
That said, the section of river near Wawona’s Swinging Bridge is a popular swimming spot during the heat of the summer after the water is warmer and slower. Warm rocks along the river banks provide a great spot to relax after a refreshing dip. And if you time it just right, you’ll find one of the best natural rock waterslides in Yosemite.