Basics: This 6 mile trail near Yosemite’s southern entrance connects the Wawona Hotel to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. From mid-spring until the first snowfall, a free shuttle bus runs between these two locations, so this hike can easily be done one-way only. Alternatively, one could hike out and back for a total of 12 miles. The loops around Mariposa Grove are several miles long- so this could potentially make for a very high mileage day. It’s all uphill from the Wawona Hotel to the grove, so naturally we decided to be lazy take the shuttle to the grove, then walk downhill back to the hotel.
We took the first shuttle leaving the Wawona Hotel at 9:00 am. The shuttle was completely empty until we reached an overflow parking lot near the park entrance. The main Mariposa Grove parking lot was already full, so the shuttle picked up a number of people that had parked in the overflow. After another mile or two, we were dropped off at the main lot.
I briefly considered paying for the open air tram tour of the grove, but the $26 price tag seemed a bit steep, so we just walked. We wandered through the lower loop and part of the upper loop. We saw the main attractions- the Clothespin tree, the Grizzly tree and the tunnel tree. There were lots of people from lots of different countries taking lots of photos.
After seeing the big trees, we made our way towards the Upper Loop and the trail towards Wawona (which is signed and also shown on the little $0.50 tourist map available at the parking lot). By the time we made it to the junction (where the Upper Loop splits from the trail to Wawona) it was already 11:30 am. We climbed a giant boulder to rest and eat snacks.
After our break, we hit the trail and walked nonstop back to the hotel. It took approximately 2 hours. The trail started off with switchbacks, descending through dense forest.
Eventually, dense forest turned to sparser forest with a plant commonly called mountain misery covering the ground under the trees. It didn’t seem particularly miserable, so I’m not sure how it got it’s name. Seems like it would be a better name for poison oak or something.
After about 4 miles, we reached the road (Hwy 41). A trail split off down to the road, but we continued to the right, staying on the northeastern side of the highway. Soon we passed another junction – this one with no sign. A trail split off to the right, heading down towards the South Fork Merced River. The trail to the Wawona Hotel is pretty easy to follow: just stay to the left and hike parallel to the road without ever going down to it or crossing it.
In another mile past the junctions, we reached the water tanks. Shortly after, we made it to the dirt road behind Moore Cottage – the apparently haunted cottage at the Wawona.
All in all, this hike did not provide spectacular views or anything really special, aside from the Giant Sequoias at the grove of course. It was a nice walk through the forest and definitely a respite from the crowds. After leaving the Mariposa Grove, we did not see a single person on the trail.