To the south of Yosemite Valley lies an area of the park that is less busy and noticeably more quiet. Known as the “Wawona District”, the south end includes historic Wawona, the world-famous Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, and the road corridor that leads to Glacier Point.
Wawona and the Pioneer Center
Wawona is a historic community nestled on a beautiful meadow near the south fork of the Merced River. The Pioneer Yosemite History Center is a collection of preserved buildings that have been moved from other areas within the park. During the summer, park rangers and volunteers dress is period costume and populate the buildings. Each building represents a different time period in Yosemite’s history. Attractions include a restored covered bridge that crosses the south fork of Merced River built in the 1870’s, and a blacksmith that practices his trade while visitors watch.
The Wawona Hotel, a National Historic Landmark Hotel, offers guests a tranquil retreat. This Victorian-style lodge makes it a favorite for those who prefer a relaxed environment and the charm of a bygone era. Its adjacent golf course offer 9 holes and features lots of roughs and water hazards, making it remarkably challenging. Watch out for wild deer grazing the fairways, especially on the first hole.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
Starting behind the Wawona Hotel is a long, uphill climb to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Passing through forest most of the way, the trail offers excellent views of the Wawona Basin and Wawona Dome as it nears the big trees. The trail ends at the Mariposa Grove Museum in the Upper Grove near the fallen Tunnel Tree. This magnificent stand of sequoias is Yosemite’s largest and includes trees thousands of years old.
The Grizzly Giant is one of the largest trees in the Grove and, at an estimated age of 2,700 years, one of the oldest living Sequoias. As you wander around its base, look up. The huge limb on the south side is almost seven feet (2 meters) in diameter. Some 50 yards beyond the Grizzly Giant is the California Tunnel Tree, cut in 1895 for stagecoaches to pass through.
Because the elevation gain is 3,000 feet in 6.5 miles, the hike from Wawona is for the well-conditioned only. Figure on spending 8 to 10 hours making the up-and-back trip of 13 miles. For an easier alternative, take the summer shuttle bus to the Grove, located near the park’s south entrance on Hwy 41, and hike back to Wawona.