Welcome to the second installment in a series of posts called “Where to Go in Yosemite With Kids,” especially young kids like mine (5 ½ and 2 years). If you have any specific questions, please feel free to email me at tdj2004 [at] gmail [dot] com.
If I had to pick the single thing I love most about Yosemite, it would be the trees. I am awestruck by their size, strength, perseverance and grace. Most of all, I love that year in and year out, they remain – a permanent fixture to mark the places of my youth.
So it should come as no surprise that I was eager to share some of my favorite trees in Yosemite – those at the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias – to my kids as soon as I could. In fact, this is where the big explorer added a very important word to his expanding vocabulary on a visit when he was about 2 ½ – “trees.”
Funny thing is, these trees aren’t the oldest living things. Nor are they the tallest. What captivates visitors like me is that this grove consists of about 500 mature trees that, by volume, are some of the largest living things on earth.
Now that’s impressive.
WHY IT’S GREAT FOR KIDS
The trees, of course! Before bringing the big explorer here for his first visit some years back, I worried that he’d be bored looking at a bunch of trees. Instead he was enthralled trying to look up to see the tops of the trees. He oohed and ahhed during most of our visit that first year.
This year, the little explorer was equally fascinated on what was his inaugural visit to the Big Trees.
Of course, there are plenty of other cool things to see at the Grove. No visit would be complete without chipmunks, squirrels and birds of several varieties.
OUR NOTES FROM THE FIELD
We opted to take our group of three 5-½ year olds and the little explorer on a hike to the California Tunnel tree, a distance of a little less than a mile one-way. Having conquered Chilnualna Falls the day before, our gang was ready for the challenge!
Hiking the Grove gives you a great chance to see (read: ogle) these beauties up close. First up, the Fallen Monarch, which biologists suspect has been down for centuries.
Along the way, we were in for some surprises, like this snow flower, which is usually gone long before summer.
And this little critter, who got way too close to us humans for my liking. Of course, he or she sent the kids into a fit of delight.
Catching your first glimpse of the Grizzly Giant is always the same – a collective gasp at its sheer size. It’s nearly impossible to capture in a photo, but I gave it a try for you guys!
Just to give you some perspective, that huge branch on the south side is almost seven feet in diameter!
A few yards away from the Grizzly Giant was the main attraction for us: The California Tunnel Tree.
This tree was cut in 1895 to allow horse-drawn stages to pass through. Now it’s probably the most photographed tree in the Grove. The kids get a kick out of being able to walk through a tree, and I like that we can see the inside of one.
This is our favorite spot to stop and enjoy lunch. There are no picnic tables, but we managed to crowd around a bench under cover of some much-needed shade.
Meals always taste better outdoors, and the kids are always happy after these little breaks.
When it came time to hit the trail back, the little explorer refused to get back in dad’s backpack carrier. He was ready to be one of the big kids. We were thrilled.
The walk back is mostly downhill and with full tummies, everyone seemed happier – in spite of the growing heat. The big explorer wanted to compare himself to this huge tree. (This will be a fun one to revisit in the future.)
We caught a close-up glimpse of a woodpecker enjoying a yummy treat right out of a tree, jumped in muddy puddles and threw rocks into streams while enjoying our time on the trail.
Near the end of the hike, the little explorer took off running ahead of us (nothing unusual in that, by the way!) toward a young tree – which he promptly hugged. I managed to snap this shot as proof.
I think it speaks to the spirit of our experience at the Big Trees this year. I’m thrilled this is where he took his first hike.
- The Grove is open May through October, conditions permitting
- There is a small, free parking lot available that fills up fast during summer, resulting in road closures; best to take the free 20-minute shuttle from Wawona-Mariposa Grove instead
- Several maintained, dirt foot trails are available; paths are wide enough for strollers, but steps & steep areas make backpack carriers preferable
- Summer temperatures can get high, so bring sunscreen & plenty of water
- A 60-minute, audio-guided tram tour is available for a fee – adults cost $24.95, children 6 and older cost $18, kids 5 and under are free
- Brochures of the Grove are available for 50 cents near the parking lot
- Several non-flush toilets are available in the parking lot area
- The Grove has a gift shop with drinks, snacks and memorabilia
- No picnic facilities are available
MY TIPS FOR A GREAT VISIT
- Skip the tram ride & hike instead. The open-air ride can be hot and the audio tour (which requires listeners to hold a wand to their ear) is a bust with young kids. Plus, it’s expensive! Explore the trees on foot instead.
- Prepare for the heat. Summer temperatures get pretty warm at the Grove. We take plenty of measures to keep cool, including bringing plenty of water and soaking hats with water or wearing a wet cloth.
FINDING THE MARIPOSA GROVE OF GIANT SEQUOIAS
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is located two miles from the South entrance of Yosemite National Park (off of Highway 41). Turn right as you enter the park entrance and follow the road until it ends at the Grove’s parking lot.