Upper Mariposa Grove

Upper Mariposa Grove & Wawona Point: Past, Present, & Future

The Southern end of Yosemite gets no love, or at least not from me. I’ve been living here for over 4 years now and I still hadn’t visited the Upper Mariposa Grove – which is a little pathetic considering taking the tram to the museum and this upper reach of sequoias is an obligatory tourist stop for some… that is those who part with $26.50 per person far quicker than I do, but I (spendthriftly) digress.

Although I don’t visit the Southern reaches of the park as often as I could, these giant trees do see a giant number of visitors seasonally.  It is a tricky thing, balancing the sensitive nature of the sequoias with the popularity of this area – from the parking lot located directly next to trees and tram roads weaving through them, to the guy who is obviously going to jump the fence to take a vacation photo next to the tree.

Curtis and I decided to finally visit the Upper Grove early last month, at a time before the snow fell and we would need to ski into the grove but after the last tram for the season had shut down. It’s peaceful at the top of the grove at this time of year… and after visiting and seeing some construction happening I have now learned this upper grove might be become more peaceful, and less tram filled, soon enough.

As of late 2014 the National Park Service released it’s Final EIS for the Restoration of the Mariposa Grove. It explains Yosemite’s plans to remove the parking at the lower grove, discontinuing the tram service (and remove the roadways), move the museum out of the Galen Clark Cabin, and build a new accessible hub and bus drop off closer to middle section of the grove (among many other changes). Actually the website now says the final tram ran in November 2014… and I might be kicking myself for never getting to take that sweet, sweet guided tour (not really)(but just a little).

Upper Mariposa Grove Sequoias

Clockwise from upper left: Faithful Couple Treetop, Clothespin Tree, Curtis on the trail between groves, log near Galen Clark Cabin

Hiking Upper Mariposa Grove and Wawona Point, Yosemite

Trailhead: In off season, at least the off season of 2014, it is easy to drive up the lover grove parking area and find a spot. Check the road conditions to ensure the road to the parking area is open – this road quickly closes afteer snowfall. Map
Distance: ~6 miles? Past the Giant Grizzly the trail up to the Upper Grove is not very well marked, and we ended up taking the path on the East side of the grove road and zig-zagging back west to meet up with the Faithful Couple trees before heading up to the upper most portion of the Grove. All this meaning the distance is very approximate. You can find the current trail map here.

The great thing about the Mariposa grove is that you are never too far from seeing the next tree, but this uppermost section of the grove, by the Galen Clark Cabin/museum, is especially magical. The meadow with the big trees feel old in a way you can very well imagine you have been transported through time. Plus, the density of the “named” sequoias is astounding. There are even more named big trees than those marked with a sign, it would be a fun excursion to look up and “meet” these less famous sequoias.

Wawona Point

On a 1949 map of the grove it shows roads, open for general traffic, weaving through the trees and linking up with Wawona Point vista at the top of the trail. Prior our trip I had not noticed the marker showing “Wawona Point” on the map. I was pleasantly surprised, not only by the view, but by the peculiar sight of an almost abandoned feeling vista point at the top of the trail. This was probably due to just the rusting railing and being on of the last few visitors to start back down towards the parking area before sunset, but it would be a great spot to watch the sunset before heading down the trail with a headlamp.

The roads in the Mariposa grove were closed to general traffic in the 1970’s, and it looks like the asphalt will be properly removed in the next few years. Things are changing in the grove, but I think that it will actually make the upper grove and lower grove more equally accessible without causing visitors to bleed money for tram rides. More importantly I am sure these changes will help the sequoia keep doing their thing for a long time to come.