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Magical Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park, California

I’ve seen some big trees in my time – Cathedral Grove on the way to Tofino on Vancouver Island, Muir Woods near San Francisco and true virgin forest in northwestern Ontario where few people have ever trod. But my few hours wandering through Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park last week left me feeling like I’d entered a magic kingdom – and it wasn’t the Disney version. I’ve never seen a place quite like it.

"One of the first mega tress you come across in the parking lot"

One of the first mega trees you come across in the parking lot

Giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove

The giant sequoias are obviously the star of the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite. About 500 of them live in Mariposa Grove – and their presence is a testament to their ability to survive. On average, mature sequoias have endured 100 wildfires in their lifetime. They are very resistant to disease and insects too.

There are two other areas in the park that also have giant sequoias – Tuolumne and Merced groves located off California Highway 120 near Wawona though they have nowhere near the numbers of trees that Mariposa Grove has.

"looking up at giant sequoia trees"

Warning: You may incur neck problems looking up

"Even the understory is very beautiful"

Even the understory is very beautiful

I learned some facts about giant sequoia trees that you might find interesting too.

  • Giant sequoia trees are the fastest growing trees in the world.
  • Giant sequoias ONLY grow naturally in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California.
  • Giant sequoias grow at elevations of around 6,500 feet
  • Some giant sequoias have survived upwards of 2000 years.
  • Bark can be as much as four feet thick.
  • Coast redwood trees are taller but giant sequoias are bulkier and are the widest of all trees.
  • Giant sequoias need the dry heat of the mountains for the cones to open – and release their seeds. They reproduce by seed only.
  • It takes 20 years for a giant sequoia to mature and produce cones.
  • The largest tree in the world is a giant sequoia that goes by the name of General Sherman. At 275 feet tall, it weighs 2.7 million pounds.
"Giant root of a sequoia tree"

Giant root of a sequoia tree

"You can't help but continually look up"

You can’t help but continually look up

"Paths are easy for walking"

Paths are easy for walking

"A touch of snow only added to the charm of the day"

A touch of snow only adds to the beauty

There are some very famous trees in Mariposa Grove

  • The California Tunnel Tree was cut in 1895 to allow stagecoaches to drive through it. It is still alive.
  • The Grizzly Giant is one of the biggest trees in the park with limbs that boast a seven foot circumference. It is considered to be the 25th largest tree in the world standing 210 feet tall with a circumference at the base of 92 feet.
  • The Columbia Tree, a 285 foot tree located near the museum, is the tallest in the park.
  • It’s possible to walk inside the still living Telescope Tree and look up to the sky through the tree’s trunk.
  • The Wawona Tunnel Tree is no longer standing but until 1968 it was considered to be the most photographed tree in the world. Unfortunately it fell over with a heavy snowfall.
"people compared to sequoia trees"

There was barely a soul around so it was hard to show perspective

"The bottom of the Grizzly Giant - the largest tree in the park with a 96 foot circumference and an age of about 1,800 years"

The bottom of the Grizzly Giant – the largest tree in the park with a 96 foot circumference and an age of about 1,800 years

"The Tunnel Tree stops everyone in their tracks"

The Tunnel Tree stops everyone in their tracks

"Walking through the Tunnel Tree"

Walking through the Tunnel Tree

"It was beautiful with snow on the ground"

It was beautiful with snow on the ground

"Looking up a few hundred feet"

Looking up a few hundred feet

"The trail to the upper grove where you find the bulk of the sequoias"

The trail to the upper grove where you find the bulk of the sequoias

"Such a range in tree sizes in a few hundred square feet"

Such a range in tree sizes in a few hundred square feet

"The clothespin tree - with a space large enough for a pick-up truck to drive through"

The clothespin tree – with a space large enough for a pick-up truck to drive through

"easy walking among the sequoias"

"Love the colours of the bark contrasting with the snow"

Love the colours of the bark contrasting with the snow

"A full size museum looks like a toy building next to the sequoias"

A full size museum looks like a toy building next to the sequoias

"And another view"

And another view

"A beautiful scene not far from the parking lot"

A beautiful scene not far from the parking lot

Useful Mariposa Grove Information

  • Allow at least two hours for a visit.
  • There is an entrance fee of $20 per car and the pass is good for a week.
  • The road to Mariposa Grove was open last week but with recent snow it is probably now closed. You can ski or snowshoe into the Grove and then up on the trails to see the trees.
  • The museum is closed in the off season.
  • There are a couple of nearby towns to stay in including Oakhurst and Mariposa. Mariposa is also a good town to position yourself for entrance to the Yosemite Valley.

Magical Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park, California


Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
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Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure - & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project - a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

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Join the discussion 25 Comments

  • Really sweet photos of some amazing trees. I have been viewing a lot of crazy giant trees in the jungles of Singapore, Thailand, and Borneo. Good to remember that the U.S. has some fantastic trees too, and as you noted the biggest.

  • Muza-chan says:

    Looks amazing… great photos :)

  • Mette says:

    Wow, those trees are gigantic. And amazingly orange too.

  • Mike says:

    I always love a Yosemite post, Leigh! I was born and raised in the Central California Valley and we camped many times in Yosemite. It’s a couple hours drive south of Reno where I live now. Yes, I have been to Mariposa Grove and it’s so jaw-droppingly captivating and stunning. That Mother Nature was able to create such an amazing, living titan is just mesmerizing. National Geographic did a study of the trees a year or two ago where the guys climbed from trunk to tip to document it’s age and health. I hope we as humans will always take care of these treasures and the seemingly infinite others we have on this planet. Loved this post! :)

    • @Mike It’s hard to convey the sense of the size of the trees, the beauty and the other worldly feeling of Mariposa Grove unless you’re there yourself. The place does induce some jaw dropping – especially when you first drive up and see the tree in the parking lot. Yosemite NP is an amazing place on so many levels.

  • Rachel M says:

    Leigh, what should i say … those trees are just massive!

  • Marcia says:

    I didn’t realize they were resistant to disease and insects, and wildfires. I’d love to see them, love how beautiful and statuesque they are.

  • Mary {The World Is A Book} says:

    I love Yosemite NP and it’s one of my favorites. No matter how many times I see those giant sequoias I am still in awe. I’m glad you made it to Mariposa. They sometimes close it off when there’s too much snow. You’ve captured the size and beauty of those trees stunningly, Leigh. When you come down, next time, try to go to the neighboring Sequoia NP for more groves and to see General Sherman. Love the contrast of the trees and snow.

    • @Mary If I had been one day later I don’t think I would have made it up to Mariposa Grove in my rental car. I am so thankful I got the chance and of course now have a big interest in seeing Sequoia NP. I feel like I’ve barely made a dent in Yosemite either and hope to go back some summer soon and hike the John Muir trail.

  • I’ve never been to Yosemite, but I have seen the General Sherman. It’s so hard to give people a good idea of the size of these trees in a photo. Your picture of the “toy-sized” museum gives a sense of scale. I’ve never considered going in the winter, but these snowy photos are making me reconsider. I’m hoping you’ll be posting some of the Ansel Adams style pictures soon.

  • As I was going through your stunning photos, something was stirring in my memory. I kept thinking…I’ve been here! With the photo of the Tunnel Tree it all came back! I’d hate to tell you how many years ago we were here with our young children and relatives from San Francisco. Now I’d love to see the sequoia again…they really are magnificent!

  • Nancie says:

    How gorgeous! You caught some great light. Having people in some of the shots really puts the trees sizes into perspective!

  • Nancie says:

    PS…I love the cabin. I could live in that forever as long as someone would shovel the snow in the winter…haha :)

  • Life Images by Jill says:

    Wow those sequoia trees are massive! You would certainly feel insignificant walking through them. Thanks for sharing these fantastic images of the sequoias. I saw a sequoia tree once – it was in an arboretum in Pemberton, Western Australia. We have some huge trees down that way too – the Kari – though not as big as the sequoia.
    Have a wonderful week, and countdown to Christmas. I am only just been able to link up to last weeks Travel Photo Thursday.

  • Johanna says:

    Wow Leigh, as others have said those giant sequoia trees are spectacular. And the tunnel tree is amazing too. We have giant Kari trees in this part of the world which can be up to 400 years old, along with Red Tingle trees which also often have hollowed out trunks (one I know big enough to get a car through). Loved your pics of the trunks and their patterns :)

  • Don Nadeau says:

    Hi Jill,


    Please take the drive down through coastal Northern California. I love no area more in the world.

    Starting on U.S. Highway 101 at the Oregon border, highlights include

    Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park – Stout Grove a must here

    The Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway via Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park – simply sublime – not well-known, but one of the most beautiful drives in North America.

    Along 101 north of Arcata, you also pass through Redwoods National Park. It preserves a large area of old growth forest, including the tallest redwood, whose location is not disclosed. Very importantly, its establishment secured the watershed of the older state parks around it. Logging this area would have exposed those parks to disastrous erosion.

    Arcata, CA – America’s greenest community and one of its most fascinating (I’ve written about this)

    The Avenue of the Giants – South of Eureka, 101 has largely become a freeway through the redwood area. Therefore, take every exit possible on to the Avenue of the Giants, which is the original Highway 101.

    This is one of the most amazing travel experiences possible.

    I especially enjoy Humboldt Redwoods State Park along this drive, which contains some 10 percent of the remaining old growth coastal redwood forest. in this park, it is possible to get far from major highways, in contrast to some that hug 101 south of here.

    The best camping season extends from late April or early May to the first rains (which can be heavy) come in October. The area that hugs the coast remains cool during summer and sleep comes easily. I URGE you to book campsites within the parks as far ahead as possible.


    This trip can easily continue down California Highway 1 via Mendocino and then on to the Napa and Sonoma wine country.

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