After we arrived to Yosemite and got our lodging, we decided to spend the afternoon hiking the trails around Mariposa Grove, which offers view of the giant Sequoia trees and one of the world’s largest trees, the Grizzly Giant. Mariposa Grove is right next to the park’s South Entrance (near Highway 41 to Fresno; 36 miles south of Yosemite Valley or about 45 minutes drive). There is a parking lot right by the trailhead, but it frequently fills up. When it fills up, you can park by the South Entrance or by Wawona and catch a free shuttle bus to Mariposa Grove.
The trails at Mariposa ranges anywhere from 2.2 miles roundtrip for the lower grove to 5-6 miles round trip for the upper grove. Anyone, young and old should be able to do the lower grove 2.2 miles round trip. There isn’t too much to see on the upper grove, so one should avoid the efforts to get up there and just focus on the short lower grove hike. The only real attractions to the upper grove are the Mariposa Grove Museum and the fallen original Tunnel Tree. Both upper grove attractions are not worth it as the museum is tiny with not much in there and the tunnel tree is dead version of the one you will find in the lower grove. Also, the $25/person tram tour is not worth it (a rip off I think) as you can easily walk the lower grove yourself and the only thing that the tram does more is the trip up to the upper grove to the aforementioned uneventful museum.
The Fallen Monarch (lower grove)
At the beginning of the lower grove hike, you will be immediately greeted with the Fallen Monarch, which is a great spot for photos. The Fallen Monarch is a dead tree that fell many years ago. This fallen beast is huge and the view of its roots really shows how big this tree is compare to your tiny frame. The upturned base of this tree is about 15 feet across.
The Grizzly Giant (lower grove)
After a short walk, you will find the Grizzly Giant, which is the grand star of Yosemite sequoias. It is approximately 30 feet in diameter at the base and more than 90 feet in circumference; more than 2x larger than the Fallen Monarch passed earlier. The Grizzly Giant is approximately 2700 years old and have survived many of the Yosemite fires which happens about once every 11 years or so.
The California Tunnel Tree (lower grove) (picture on top of page)
Continuing on about 100 meter after the Grizzly Giant, you will find the Tunnel Tree that you can actually walk through. The tunnel probably big enough for a small car to go through. This tunnel tree is the real attraction of Mariposa Grove and is the reason most people drove 1 hours from Yosemite Valley to see it. It is the only living sequoia in Yosemite with a manmade tunnel drilled through it. The tunnel was carved back in 1895. The photos and the views are definitely worth it.
Clothes Pin Tree (upper grove)
The Clothes Pin Tree is located on the upper grove route. As mentioned before, the longer 5-6 miles upper grove is probably not worth it. However, for those who want to continue just a bit more and try to see this the Clothes Pin Tree, it is less than 0.5 miles from the California Tunnel tree. The tree has survived numerous fires which have naturally hollowed a tunnel through the base of the trunk. Clothespin Tree’s tunnel is unique in that it stands 40 feet in height. While the base of the tunnel is wide enough to drive a vehicle through the tunnel has never been used for that purpose.
Mariposa is a unique place. Do not go there expecting that there will be gigantic trees everywhere you look. The grove is made up of many smaller trees with larger ones every 100 ft or so, and the few huge ones are as highlighted above.