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early morning mist on the meadow in Wawona

Magical mornings in Wawona Meadow

Wawona may be less flashy than Yosemite Valley, its bustling cousin to the north, but make no mistake – there is plenty of natural beauty and history right at your doorstep when you stay at one of The Redwoods In Yosemite cabins.

Not only will you be tempted to linger on the deck of your cabin, surrounded by towering pines, or, in the winter, nestled in front of a cozy fire in the living room, you’ll find many nearby activities that will make a car trip entirely optional.

Here are just some of the ways you can spend a day in Wawona. (Use this map will help you get oriented.)

Roam the Yosemite History Center

Wawona Pioneer History Center in Yosemite National Park

During the summer, volunteers at the Yosemite History Center portray historical figures and really bring Yosemite’s history to life.

The Yosemite History Center spans the South Fork of the Merced River not far from the intersection with Highway 41. Take a stroll through Yosemite’s past and peer in the windows of furnished cabins and buildings, consider escaping from the old jail, and imagine arriving in Yosemite on one of the old horse-drawn vehicles. During the summer months, volunteers open the cabins and portray historical figures from Yosemite’s past. You can also take a 10-minute horse-drawn stage ride from the Wells Fargo Office in the History Center.

Go horseback riding at the Wawona Stables

Horseback riding saddles on a wooden rail

Saddle up! And explore Wawona from the back of your trusty steed.

Just behind the Yosemite History Center, you can take a guided horseback tour of the area at the Wawona Stables. During the season, there are several 2-hour tours throughout the day, and experienced riders might consider an all-day ride to the nearby Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.

Take a Dip in the Local Swimming Holes

Kid on an intertube in the river

Wawona is well-known for its refreshing, and not too crowded swimming holes.

Swimming holes dot the South Fork of the Merced River as it runs through Wawona. Stop by the front desk at the Redwoods for directions to some of our favorite swimming holes.

Tiptoe Across the Swinging Bridge

Wawona's Swinging Bridge

Wawona’s Swinging Bridge gently bobs and sways as you cross the South Fork of the Merced River. Photo by Theresa Ho

Unlike the Swinging Bridge in Yosemite Valley that doesn’t swing, the Wawona Swinging Bridge bobs gently as you walk. When you’re done exploring the bridge, spend the afternoon sunning yourself on the smooth rocks at the river’s edge – an idyllic mountain stream experience.

Learn From Rangers

Wawona's Thomas Hill Studio exhibit

Learn about historic painter Thomas Hill at this exhibit at the Thomas Hill Studio in Wawona. Photo: Theresa Ho

Tap into the knowledge of Yosemite’s NPS rangers to enrich your Yosemite visit. You can find them at the Visitor Center at the Thomas Hill Studio next to the Wawona Hotel. (Don’t forget to take a peek at the exhibit showcasing artist Thomas Hill’s artwork while you’re there!) Also, be sure to check the Yosemite Guide for current campfire programs, ranger-led walks, and evening entertainment.

Go Fish

Fishing is allowed on the South Fork from the last Saturday of April until November 15. You can obtain a California fishing license and guidelines at the Pine Tree Market.

Hike to Chilnualna Falls

Yosemite Chilnualna Falls

Start the hike to Chilnualna Falls right from the community of Wawona to see gorgeous cascades and enjoy Wawona’s quiet beauty.

Discover Wawona’s own waterfall – Chilnualna Falls.

A short 20-minute climb leads to a delightful small waterfall, which cascades over boulders and rocks just above town.

If you’d like to continue, an 8.2-mile roundtrip hike gains almost 2,500 feet over 4 miles and will reward you with views into Wawona Valley and wooded ridges beyond, as well as spectacular views of Chilnualna Falls. Allow 6 to 8 hours for the roundtrip hike, and take plenty of water in the summer, as the trail is sunny and temperatures can be very warm.

Stroll the Wawona Meadow Loop

The peaceful Wawona Meadow Loop Trail is also dog-friendly.

Enjoy a pleasant walk on the Wawona Meadow Loop Trail. This unpaved fire road skirts the edge of the meadow and then circles back through pine forests to the Wawona Hotel. Enjoy wildlife and solitude on this 3-mile loop, which should take 1 – 1.5 hours depending on your walking speed.

Savor a Bite to Eat at the Wawona Hotel 

Relax with a beverage on the wide front porch of the historic Wawona Hotel before enjoying a delicious dinner in the Wawona Hotel Dining Room.

Browse the Wawona Library

Part of Wawona’s charm is the small-town atmosphere, and the Bassett Memorial Library, is at the center of the community. Stop in to browse the shelves, curl up with a book, or enjoy one of Wawona’s community events.The Wawona Friends of The Library accepts donations. The library offers free internet and wifi.

We Hope You Enjoy Exploring Wawona!

As with any day exploring outdoors, plan to bring a pack with essentials like water, snacks, a camera, insect repellant, and sunscreen. Most scheduled activities, such as ranger-led programs, are offered primarily during the summer months.