Yosemite National Park is perhaps most famous for its beautiful Valley, but there’s so much more to see than that, including hundreds of giant sequoias. Mariposa Grove is home to the park’s largest concentrations of giant sequoias—over 500!—and the best place to get up close and personal with the most massive tree species on the planet. The stunning Mariposa Grove Trail takes you past some of the most stunning views and fascinating sequoias and views in Yosemite. So here’s everything you need to know about the Mariposa Grove Trail, the best way to explore Yosemite’s ancient sequoias.
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About the Mariposa Grove Trail
Length: 6.7 miles
Elevation gain: 1,217 feet
Dog-friendly? Sadly, you’ll need to leave the furry friends at home for this one. Although Yosemite is one of the most dog-friendly national parks, pups aren’t allowed on any of the trails in the Mariposa Grove area.
Pass or permit: To enter Yosemite, you’ll either need to pay $35 for a one-week pass per vehicle or, alternatively, have a valid interagency pass, like America the Beautiful pass, which lets you enter any of the U.S. National Parks or over 2,000 other federally managed parks for just $80 a year!
Pssst… the trail has several junctions that aren't exactly well-marked, so it’s not totally clear where you’re supposed to go while you’re hiking. Given that cell service is spotty to non-existent in Mariposa Grove, I’d recommend downloading an offline map of the Mariposa Grove Trail on AllTrails before you head to the hike. You'll need the AllTrails+ version of the app to download offline maps. Luckily, you can get a 7-day free trial, PLUS our awesome readers get a sweet 30% off discount for their first year—just use the code “Uprooted30” at check out! If you’ve been thinking about upgrading your AllTrails account to the paid version (I know it took me, like, five years to make the jump), we wrote a whole post about whether an AllTrails+ account is worth it.
How to Get to the Mariposa Grove Trail
Okay, the first thing to know about Yosemite is that it’s MASSIVE—1,169 square miles, to be exact! So be aware that, just because you’re staying in or around Yosemite, doesn’t necessarily mean that Mariposa Grove is super close by.
The trailhead is located here, on the southwestern side of the park, just past its south entrance. It’s located a little over one hour south of Yosemite Village, two hours south of Hetch Hetchy, and two hours and 40 minutes southwest of Tioga Pass. While shuttles are offered to get around certain areas of the park, like the Yosemite Valley, there aren’t any that will take you to Mariposa Grove from other areas in Yosemite. Accordingly, you’ll generally need a car to get here.
Once you arrive in the Mariposa Grove area, you’ll park in the Welcome Plaza Parking. There’s about 300 parking spots, with a special area for my RV brethren. When my husband, Justin, and I visited Mariposa Grove on a weekday in June, there were plenty of spots available, but I have read that the parking lot can fill up on particularly busy holiday weekends, like the Fourth of July—so come early if you’re visiting during one of those periods.
You’ll then need to wait for the shuttle to take you from the Welcome Plaza to the grove, which operates from April through November and picks hikers up every 10 minutes (May 15 through September 7) or every 15 minutes (from April 1 through May 14 or September 8 through November 30). Outside of this season, the shuttle no longer operates, as the road is closed, but you can still walk, snowshoe or ski the two miles from the Welcome Plaza to the Grove.
While most visitors are required to park in the Welcome Plaza and ride the shuttle, vehicles that display a disability placard are allowed to drive and park in limited designated areas at Mariposa Grove or the Grizzly Giant when the road is open.
What to Expect on the Mariposa Grove Trail
It’s believed that Yosemite is home to some of the oldest giant sequoias on the planet, dating back almost two THOUSAND years ago. While there’s a handful of hikes to choose from in Mariposa Grove, the Mariposa Grove trail will take you past the most ancient (and interesting!) sequoias and lead you up to Wawona Point, a overlook that is historically significant to the Indigenous people of the Yosemite area.
To start the hike, you’ll get off the shuttle and continue down the wide, wooden boardwalk, where you’ll immediately be surrounded by giant sequoias. There’s lots of educational signs along the boardwalk, with interesting information about how sequoias have evolved to thrive amidst wildfires and heavy snowfall.
This wooden boardwalk has been added to protect the fragile wetland ground and the sequoias’ roots. Interestingly, even though the sequoias are the most massive tree species on the planet, their root systems are quite shallow, going down, at most, 10 feet into the ground. Instead, these mighty trees’ root systems intertwine with one another and literally hold one another up!
But because their roots are so shallow, walking on top of them can cause some serious damage—so the boardwalk prevents thousands of people from trampling on them every day.
On the left hand side of the boardwalk, you’ll see the Fallen Monarch, an enormous fallen sequoia that scientists believe has been here for centuries. Towards the end of the boardwalk, you can walk around and examine its root system—while the roots are only about 6 feet deep, you can begin to appreciate how MASSIVELY wide they once were! Justin is 6 foot tall and looked teeny tiny against the upturned roots!
Here, you’ll cross over an access road and the trail will turn into a dirt path, climbing gently uphill through the woods. On your left will be the Bachelor and Three Graces, a cluster of one massive sequoia, surrounded by three smaller ones. If you continue 0.7 miles along the trail, you’ll reach the most famous tree in the park—the Grizzly Giant.
The Grizzly Giant stands at 209 feet tall (the second tallest tree in all of Yosemite!) and over 100 feet around. Estimated to be a whopping 1,800 years old, it’s believed that it’s survived over 100 wildfires, thanks to the sequoias’ thick, spongy bark that protects their trunks. Take a moment to gaze up at the tree—there’s a branch hanging off the trunk that’s seven feet in diameter and thicker than almost all of the non-sequoia trees in the park!
The trail diverges here—the Mariposa Grove Trail technically continues on to the right, but I’d suggest making a small detour and heading, instead, to the left, through the California Tunnel Tree. A tunnel was cut into this mighty tree in 1895 to allow horse drawn carriages to pass through and is the only remaining living tree in Mariposa Grove that has been tunneled. It’s pretty neat to quite literally walk straight through a sequoia!
Continuing on past the California Tunnel Tree, the trail will meet back up with the paved Mariposa Grove Trail in 0.2 miles.
About 1.4 miles into the trail, you’ll pass the Faithful Couple, two sequoias that have grown so close together they’ve literally fused at their base.
Around another switchback, make a short detour off trail to the right to see the Clothespin Tree, which is perhaps the coolest tree I’ve ever seen. Like the California Tunnel Tree, it also has a 40-foot tall tunnel through it, but this one was actually carved totally naturally, over the course of dozens and dozens of wildfires. It’s pretty wild to me (no pun intended) that the sequoias have evolved to live with and withstand this kind of damage!
Once you’re back on the main Mariposa Grove Trail, if you want to make another small detour, there’s an offshoot 2.4 miles into the pathway to the right that leads a few hundreds yards to the Mariposa Grove Cabin. This historic cabin was built in 1930 and was formerly used to house the Mariposa Grove Museum. Although it’s now boarded up and inaccessible to visitors, it’s still quite a picturesque site, with an old log cabin, surrounded by wildflowers and the most enormous trees on the planet.
In fact, you can actually see the tallest tree in the park right next to the cabin—the Columbia tree, which stands at a whopping 286 feet tall!
Back on the main trail, the paved pathway continues to weave up and through the forest. One of my favorite things about the hike is how consistent and gradual the elevation gain is—most folks in decent shape won’t have an issue climbing along the mostly paved trail.
After passing literally hundreds of sequoias, you’ll finally reach the summit of the hike after 3.3 miles—Wawona Point. This point offers stunning panoramic views of the valley below and, given its high vantage point, was historically used by several American Indian tribes as a place to communicate with other tribes. There’s two scenic viewpoints here to take in the incredible vistas and a couple of benches to take a rest.
To return, simply retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
When to Visit the Mariposa Grove Trail
Mariposa Grove is open year round and is easiest to visit when the shuttle is running from April through November. Yosemite in the summer is BUSY (I seriously couldn’t believe the crowds when we visited!), so if you want to enjoy these ancient giants in peace, I’d suggest visiting either April, May, September, or October, when the park tends to be a bit quieter.
The sequoias would be absolutely gorgeous in the wintertime snow, but just remember that you’ll have to walk the two-mile road (one-way) from the Welcome Plaza to the grove when the shuttle is no longer running from December through March.
Tips for the Mariposa Grove Trail
- Bring enough water. Water is only available at the welcome area and Mariposa Grove arrival area (only in the summertime) so be sure to fill up at these locations. Justin and I take these comically enormous Nalgene bottles wherever we go and we LOVE them—they save us from having to buy bottled water all the time and they’re better for the planet. Win win!
- Pack a picnic. There’s no food sold in Mariposa Grove and between taking the shuttle and hiking the Mariposa Grove Trail, this will easily be a half-day adventure. Justin and I brought our lunch and ate at Wawona Point—can’t ask for a better lunch spot than that!
- Leave no trace. Hopefully this goes without saying, but please follow the Leave No Trace principles, including refraining from carving your name or initials or whatever into the sequoias and packing out whatever you pack in. Let’s leave this magical place a little bit better than we found it.
Where to Stay When Visiting the Mariposa Grove Trail
Staying near Mariposa Grove is a great base camp for Yosemite—it’s right near the main entrance that most visitors from central and southern California take to access the park and has easy access to both Mariposa Grove and the Yosemite Valley, which has the highest concentration of popular sites in the park.
Consider staying at:
- Tenaya Lodge: If you want to mix your outdoorsy trip to Yosemite with a little bit of busyness, consider staying at this cozy lodge, which has a full-service on-site spa, pet-sitting services, and a swimming pool with stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
- Best Western Plus Yosemite Gateway Inn: I never really think of Best Westerns as having incredible ambiance, but this one really has nailed it, with a dark wood and stone interior and an enormous fire pit to cozy up around. There’s other perks, like a solid continental breakfast spread, two pools and hot tubs to choose from, and a friendly staff, which makes this a great option.
- Sierra Sky Ranch: If you are into aesthetics, you’re going to love the vibe of this hotel, which was a historic cattle ranch that turned into a guest ranch in the 1940s. Now, the hotel dishes up a generous continental breakfast, has cozy chairs to relax on its veranda, and an outdoor pool.
I hope you enjoy the Mariposa Grove Trail as much as I did. Do you have any questions about exploring the mighty sequoias in Yosemite? Let me know in the comments below!