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With their massive stature and multi-millennium maturity, the chunky high-rise sequoias of Mariposa Grove will make you feel rather insignificant. The largest grove of giant sequoias in the park, Mariposa is home to more than 500 mature trees spread over 250 acres. Walking trails wind through this very popular grove; you can usually have a more solitary experience if you come during the early evening in summer or anytime outside of summer.
Closed to visitors since the start of a major restoration project in July 2015, the grove reopened in mid-June, 2018. Visitors will see new trails, including accessible boardwalks, and the removal of most of the parking lot, gift shop, tram tours and grove roads, meaning less traffic congestion and a more natural visitor experience. A multimillion-dollar grant from the Yosemite Conservancy funded the building of a new trail from the South Entrance to Mariposa Grove.
On your right as you enter the lower grove, the Fallen Monarch may be familiar to you from an iconic 1899 photo of the US 6th Cavalry – and their horses – posed on the tree's length. Its exposed roots illustrate the sequoias' shallow but diffuse life-support system.
Walk a half-mile up to the 1800-year-old Grizzly Giant, a bloated beast of a tree with branches that are bigger in circumference than most of the pine trees in this forest. The walk-through California Tunnel Tree is close by, and the favored spot for ‘I visited the tall forest’ photos. Incredibly, this tree continues to survive, even though its heart was hacked out back in 1895.
In the upper grove, the more famous Fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree, however, fell over in a heap in 1969 – its 10ft-high hole was gouged from a fire scar in 1881. Other notable specimens include the Telescope Tree and the Clothespin Tree. It’s about a mile round trip from the Fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree to the wide-open overlook at Wawona Point (6810ft), which takes in the entire area.
Depending on your energy level, you could spend half an hour or a few hours exploring the forest. Between the new shuttle stop and the Wawona Tunnel Tree in the upper grove, the elevation gain is about 1000ft, but the trail is gentle.
Parking at the grove is limited to visitors with accessible placards; all others must take the free 2-mile-long shuttle bus ride from the Welcome Plaza at the South Entrance parking area to the Lower Grove. It takes an hour to drive from Yosemite Valley to the South Entrance. Snowfall closes Mariposa Grove Rd to cars from about November to April, but you can always hike, ski or snowshoe in (2 miles, 500ft of elevation gain) and experience it during its quiet hibernation.