|(With thanks to my friends for permission to feature their girls)
Today’s post is part of “Where to Go in Yosemite With Kids,” a series about our favorite places to explore with kids in Yosemite National Park.
Nelder Grove of Giant Sequoias is by far the most secluded, off-the-beaten place I have ever written about here. But there’s no way I could tell you about all the great places we explored in Yosemite without mentioning it. It’s that amazing.
Why we went: We’re regular visitors of the better known Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias just inside the south entrance to Yosemite; it’s where the little explorer took his first hike last summer. But the heat turns up in the summer and there’s really only one hike for tykes – which is pretty steep for little legs. We were ready for a new adventure this year.
Where it is: Nelder Grove is technically outside Yosemite, about 10 miles south of the south entrance (just north of Oakhurst). From the turnoff on Highway 41, it’s quite an adventurous ride to the trailhead (see “Finding Nelder Grove” below).
Why it’s worth the trek: Nelder Grove’s one-mile Shadow of the Giants loop trail is perfect for little explorers. You are immersed in a forest of the Giants from the get-go and can’t help but to be entranced the entire time.
This is a self-guided interpretive trail with cool facts & information on signs posted throughout the loop, which our group loved. The kids ogled everything they saw (how can you not) – from the tree tops that seemed a million miles up to the varied pinecones, flowers and plants, and of course, the stream running alongside the trail.
The Shadow of the Giants trail was a welcome respite from the heat (except for far too many pesky mosquitoes), and a nice break from the usual Yosemite crowds (we passed three other groups on the trail).
If you’ve got the time and the inclination, don’t miss it. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Tips for Visiting With Kids
- Let the kids lead. Provided it’s age appropriate, give your explorers the freedom to lead the way along this often single-lane trail. Set some guidelines, then let them see what they can discover.
- Don’t leave home without your bug repellent. This was the most densely populated mosquito locale we visited. We sprayed multiple times and still didn’t get off bite free.
- Nelder Grove is located some 18 miles outside the south entrance to Yosemite
- Shadow of the Giants trail is an easy 1-mile loop; this is an interpretive trail with cool facts & information on signs posted throughout the loop
- Trail terrain is a dirt path, much of it wide enough for single-file hiking only
- Crowds on this trail are virtually non-existent, especially compared to those at the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
- Outhouses available at the trailhead; no other services available
- No picnic facilities are available
- There is a small dirt parking lot at the trailhead
- At the Nelder Grove campground area, there are several additional trails, plus an interpretive area with historical replicas & displays of logging techniques
- The route to Nelder Grove is an adventure in itself, so be prepared – there’s a 7-mile windy road followed by another mile off paved roads, then ½ mile to the parking lot of the Shadow of the Giants parking lot
Finding Nelder Grove
The turnoff for Nelder Grove (Road 632, aka Sky Ranch Road) is 10 miles south off Yosemite Park’s south entrance (and about 4 miles north of Oakhurst). Look for the large sign along Highway 41 for the Sky Ranch Inn or you might just miss it.
You’ll stay on Road 632 for about 7 miles – a very windy route for those of us who get carsick easily. There will be a sign pointing you to Nelder Grove just as the pavement ends, where you’ll head left. From here, you’ll be on very bumpy, unpaved roads for a little more than a mile.
When the road forks, go left to the “Shadow of the Giants” trailhead (turn right to go to the Grove campgrounds & other trails). It’s about a half a mile more to the parking lot, which will be up a very steep, barely navigable driveway. (Honestly, I thanked every lucky star in the universe that we made it in & out unscathed.)