See our Sanitation and Safety Practices

Giant Sequoias of Yosemite

The spectacular groves of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park are surrounded by granite monuments, glacier-carved valleys and the Sierra Nevada mountains, making a perfect setting for Yosemite’s big trees.

The family of giant redwoods (Sequoioideae) in California includes the coast redwoods—the tallest trees on the planet--and their cousins, the Giant Sequoias. While these giant redwood trees have common characteristics, like cinnamon-red bark, they are actually two different species.

Yosemite groves of sequoias can be found in three places. The most popular, Mariposa Grove near the park’s south entrance, protects the famous Grizzly Giant. Two smaller—and less visited—Yosemite sequoia groves are  Tuolumne Grove and Merced Grove  near Crane Flat. Find them all in the Giant Sequoias map below.

Giant Sequoias grow only along the Sierra Nevada mountains' western slope at elevations of between 4 and 8 thousand feet. Giant Sequoias in Yosemite are the largest living things on the planet and are proudly California’s official state tree.

Giant Sequoias in Yosemite and surrounding Sierra Nevada wilderness inspired naturalist John Muir and photographer Ansel Adams. You can be inspired, too! If you are making plans to visit the giant redwood trees in Yosemite, we would like to help. Here, we’ve summarized the essential facts about each grove of giant trees, such as:

  • Why the Giant Sequoia grove is worth a visit
  • Best way to get to the grove of sequoias
  • What to know before you go there

We’ve added more tidbits for you in the frequently asked questions section where we answer questions that may be on your mind, like:

  • Which is the oldest Giant Sequoia tree?
  • Where is the largest Giant Sequoia tree?
  • Where are the drive-through trees?
  • How far are the Giant Sequoias from San Francisco?

Book an overnight tour to Yosemite for the ultimate Giant Sequoia experience.

Mariposa Grove in Yosemite Park

In the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia Trees, near Yosemite’s south entrance, stand 500 mature giant sequoia trees. History was made here. In 1864, President Lincoln signed the first ever federal legislation protecting scenic natural areas for "public use, resort, and recreation."

Getting to Mariposa Grove

Car. From Yosemite Valley Lodge to the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza:

Turn left onto Northside Dr

Turn left onto Southside Dr

Bear right onto Highway 41/Wawona Rd

When you reach the traffic circle, take the second exit onto Mariposa Grove Rd

The starting point is at the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza off Highway 41. The redwood giants are not located at this staging area. You will need to walk to the actual sequoia grove entrance.

During most of the year, you can catch a shuttle bus to the grove entrance.

If the shuttles aren’t running, it’s a pleasant ~2-mile hike (one way) along with Washburn Trail from the parking area at the Welcome Center at the Lower Grove.

Hike. You can also walk from Wawona to the Mariposa Grove. From behind the Wawona Hotel, follow a 6.5 mile trail to the Mariposa Grove. Be prepared for significant elevation change.

Bike. You may also bicycle on the paved portion of Mariposa Grove Road to the Grizzly Giant parking area until the road closes on or before November 30 (depending on conditions). Bicycles are not allowed on trails, unpaved roads, sidewalks, or boardwalks.

If you are traveling in a vehicle that has a disability placard or license plate, you may drive on the Mariposa Grove Road as far as the Grizzly Giant parking area.

Things to Do in Mariposa Grove

See the giant trees, especially the famous:

Grizzly Giant. The tree is 100 feet in circumference and is estimated to be 2,700 years old, possibly making it the world’s oldest sequoia.

Fallen Monarch, a toppled sequoia that gives a view of the species’ famed shallow roots. The giant tree had already fallen when the grove was discovered in the mid-19th century.

Wawona Tunnel Tree. A large, rectangular tunnel was cut through the tree’s enormous base in 1881 to permit horse-drawn wagons (and later cars) traveling along a route to drive through the tunnel tree.

The trails in Mariposa Grove have been recently renovated and are awesome. There is a variety of easy to strenuous trails within the grove, including these:

Big Trees Loop Trail (easy). A 0.3 mile (0.5 km) loop from the trailhead. This trail features the Fallen Monarch and interpretive panels on the life and ecology of Giant Sequoias. This loop is wheelchair accessible.

Grizzly Giant Loop Trail (moderate). A 2-mile (3.2 km) loop from the trailhead. The hike passes trees such as the Bachelor and Three Graces, Grizzly Giant, and California Tunnel Tree.

Guardians Loop Trail (strenuous). A 6.5-mile (10.5 km) round trip from the trailhead. After hiking to the grove's tranquil upper portion, a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) loop takes hikers past the fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree, Telescope Tree, and the Mariposa Grove Cabin.

Mariposa Grove Trail (strenuous). A 7-miles (11.3 km) round trip from the trailhead to Wawona Point. This trail follows a route to see famous sequoias such as The Bachelor and Three Graces, Faithful Couple, and the Clothespin Tree.  Be prepared for 1,200 feet (366m) of elevation gain on your way to scenic Wawona Point overlook.

Things to Know Before You Go to Mariposa Grove

Check local road conditions since Highway 140 may be closed from November through April due to snow. The drive takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes from Yosemite Valley.

Pets are not allowed on any trails in the Mariposa Grove. Pets are allowed in the parking areas on leash only. Pets are not allowed on shuttles.

Restrooms are located at the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza and Arrival Area, near the Mariposa Grove Cabin, and near the Grizzly Giant year-round.

Drinking water is available only at the welcome plaza and arrival area at Mariposa Grove (summer only), so plan accordingly.

There are no food services available at the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza or within the Mariposa Grove. The Depot, located at the welcome plaza, has a selection of books, maps, general information, and gifts.

In winter, the Visitors Center is closed and the park offers no formal services, but visitors can park at the start of the Mariposa Grove Road and cross country ski or snowshoe in to see the Giant Sequoias.

Tuolumne Grove in Yosemite Park

Tuolumne Grove offers a serene hike to a stand of old-growth Giant Sequoias that avoids the crowds at the Mariposa Grove. The grove has about two dozen mature giant sequoias, including a fallen one you can walk through, that are visible after a one-mile, downhill hike. If you go early enough in the morning, you may be lucky enough to get some alone time to contemplate the giant trees.

Getting to Tuolumne Grove

This grove of giant redwoods is located on Tioga Road just east of Crane Flat.

From Yosemite Valley, take highway 120 ten miles (16.8 km) to the Crane Flat/Tioga Road turnoff, then take Tioga Road half a mile (0.8 km) east to the Tuolumne Grove parking lot. From Yosemite's east entrance at Tioga Pass, take the Tioga Road west about 60 miles (95 km) to the lot.

It can be easy to miss the trailhead. On Old Big Oak Flat Road, look for the “Entering the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias” sign. You can find a Google Street View panorama of the trailhead parking area here.

Things to Do in Tuolumne Grove

The Tuolumne Grove has about 25 mature Giant Sequoia trees and miles of isolated hiking trails perfect for a more intimate experience with Yosemite National Park's natural wonders.

The hike to the grove of giant sequoia trees is 2.5 miles (4 km) round trip. It can be a strenuous hike for some since the trail begins at 6,200 feet (1,860 meters) and there is an elevation gain of 400 feet (120 meters) on the return to the trailhead. Plan on 1 ½ to 2 hours for the hike.

Look for the Dead Giant. This tunneled sequoia is no longer living but remains standing. The tunnel was cut in the early 1870s to attract stagecoach tourism traffic.

Ranger-led programs may be available on a limited basis; check local listings for dates, times, and locations.

Things to Know Before You Go to Tuolumne Grove

There are restrooms at the trailhead. Water is not available, so bring drinking water for everyone in your group who will be hiking this trail.

The one-mile hike back to the parking lot gains 500 feet and is strenuous. The drive takes about 45 minutes from Yosemite Valley. Parking is limited.

Plan your visit for June through October – since safe access to the trees may not be possible in winter when the trail is covered in ice and snow.

In winter, the trail to the Tuolumne Grove is marked for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

You can visit this location on Extranomical Tours’ Giant Sequoias and Yosemite National Park 1-day tour.

Merced Grove in Yosemite Park

If you are looking for a quiet, uncrowded grove of Giant Sequoias, look no further than the Merced Grove. This grove of giant sequoias in Yosemite is home to approximately 20 mature giant sequoias, accessible only on foot.

If you are lucky enough to be in Yosemite in the spring, you may get the bonus of blooming wildflowers. Look for big clusters of Western Azalea, one of Yosemite's most spectacular flowers, just past the last group of sequoias.

You can find more details about the grove at National park Service website here.

Getting to Merced Grove

The Merced Grove trailhead is located on the Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120), 4.5 miles southeast of Big Oak Flat Entrance to Yosemite. It is also 3.5 miles north of Crane Flat. The trail is marked by a sign and a post labeled B-10.

The trailhead and parking area is easy to miss, so here's a Google Street View panorama of the trailhead parking area.

Things to Do in Merced Grove

During summer, do the relatively easy hike down to the sequoia grove. This trail to the giant redwoods follows an old road that curves down into the Merced Grove. The sequoias are only visible after a 1.5-mile hike with 500 feet of elevation loss. The uphill return trip makes this a moderate hike.

Here is a map of the hike:

The grove features a 100-year-old log cabin that was the site of Yosemite’s first ranger station. Later, the log cabin served as a summer retreat for park superintendents and still stands today.

In winter, ski or snowshoe touring to the Merced Grove can be incredible. The first half mile is level and easy, providing a good warm-up for the steep 1-mile (1.6 km) descent into the sequoia grove. The trail is not groomed, so icy conditions or deep snow can make the trail difficult.

Things to Know Before You Go to Merced Grove

Water is not available; bring drinking water for everyone in your group who will be hiking this trail. Parking is extremely limited.

In winter, the trail is marked for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Giant Sequoia Groves Outside of Yosemite NP

Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park

Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park features terrain similar to Yosemite Valley, and is home to the deepest canyon in the United States. This massive Sierra playground is actually two separate parks. Their redwoods, like General Grant and General Sherman, are not only big, but they are old, too. Botanists estimate they are between 1,800 and 2,700 years old.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Calaveras Big Trees State Park is spectacularly beautiful and preserves two groves of giant sequoias. The park is a mixed-conifer forest where you will find the Stanislaus River, Beaver Creek, ancient volcanic formations, and natural meadows. In the fall, the dogwoods change color and make the experience even more special.

FAQs

Where are the Giant Sequoia trees?

Giant Sequoias are found on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada at elevations of between 4,000 and 8,000 feet (1219 and 2438 m). Forty different Giant Sequoia groves are protected within parks from Crescent City to Orick, CA. The most popular groves are located with a 5-6-hour drive of San Francisco.

Are sequoias and redwoods the same?

The family of giant redwoods (Sequoioideae) includes California’s coast redwoods—the tallest trees on planet Earth--and their cousins, the Giant Sequoias. While these giant redwood trees have several common characteristics, like distinctive cinnamon-red bark, they are two different species.

How old are Giant Sequoia trees?

A wedge-shaped section of a comparatively small 15-foot Giant Sequoia on display in the Mariposa Grove museum, shows an actual ring count of 1,830 years. Since many sequoias can reach 30 feet in diameter, botanists estimate that some of these trees are more than 3,000 years old.

Which is the oldest Giant Sequoia tree?

The ages of redwood trees are estimates. Nevertheless, here is the “unofficial record” of the five oldest Giant Sequoias:

  1. President                                3,200 years
  2. Washington                            2,850 years
  3. Mother of the Forest             2,500 years
  4. General Sherman                  2,400 years
  5. Grizzly Giant                          2,200 years

Where is the largest Giant Sequoia tree?

The largest known sequoia is General Sherman, in Sequoia National Park. This giant stands 275 feet tall, has a 102-foot circumference, and weighs an incredible 2.7 million pounds. It stands in Grant Grove near Lodgepole Village.

Where are the drive-through trees?

The 2,100 year old Wawona Tunnel is located in the Mariposa Grove.

The Pioneer Cabin Tree, with its hollow trunk, is located in Calaveras Big Trees State Park

The 276-foot-tall Chandelier Tree is still growing in Leggett, California.

The first tunnel tree is in the Tuolumne Grove in Yosemite National Park.

Where are the Giant Sequoia trees in Yosemite?

Yosemite National Park has three groves of Giant Sequoias. The most easily accessible (especially in winter) is the Mariposa Grove near the park's South Entrance. Two smaller—and less visited—groves are the Tuolumne and Merced Groves near Crane Flat.

How far is Sequoia National Park from Yosemite?

Sequoia National Park is a 3–4-hour drive to the south from Yosemite. The National Park Services manages the Sequoia and Kings Canyon parks as a single entity.

How do you get to Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias?

You have a few options to get to the Mariposa Grove, depending on your starting point.

From the Highway 120 entrance:

Head southwest on Highway 120 toward Crane Flat

Continue straight on Big Oak Flat Rd heading toward the Valley

Turn left onto El Portal Rd

Slight right onto Southside Dr

Slight right onto Highway 41

At the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit onto Mariposa Grove Rd

From the Highway 140 entrance (Arch Rock):

Head northeast on Highway 140 toward Yosemite Valley

Slight right onto Southside Dr

Slight right onto Highway 41/Wawona Rd

At the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit onto Mariposa Grove Rd

From Fresno/Wawona Rd/Highway 41:

Head north on Highway 41

At the traffic circle, take the 1st exit onto Mariposa Grove Rd

From the Welcome Plaza, you can either take a free shuttle (if available,) or hike the approximately 2 miles to the Mariposa Grove trailhead.

How do you get to Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias?

From the Highway 120 entrance:

Continue on Highway 120 to Crane Flat

Turn left onto Tioga Rd/Highway 120

Turn left into the Tuolumne Grove trailhead parking lot

From the Highway 140 entrance (Arch Rock):

Head northeast on Highway 140 toward Yosemite Valley

Turn left onto Big Oak Flat Rd

Turn right onto Highway 120 at Crane Flat

Turn left into the Tuolumne Grove trailhead parking lot

From Fresno/Wawona Rd/Highway 41:

Head north on Highway 41 toward Yosemite Valley

At the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit onto Wawona Rd

Continue straight onto Southside Dr

Turn left onto El Capitan Dr

Continue straight onto Northside Dr

Continue straight onto El Portal Rd

Turn right onto Big Oak Flat Rd

Turn right onto Highway 120 at Crane Flat

Turn left into the Tuolumne Grove trailhead parking lot

How do you get to Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias?

From the Highway 120 entrance

Continue straight on Highway 120

Turn right into the Merced Grove trailhead parking lot

From the Highway 140 entrance (Arch Rock):

Head northeast on Highway 140 toward Yosemite Valley

Turn left onto Big Oak Flat Rd

At Crane Flat, continue straight onto Highway 120

Turn left into the Merced Grove trailhead parking lot

From Fresno/Wawona Rd/Highway 41:

Head north on Highway 41 toward Yosemite Valley

At the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit onto Wawona Rd

Slight right onto Soutside Dr

Turn left onto El Capitan Dr

Continue straight onto Southside Dr

Turn left onto El Capitan Dr

Continue straight onto Northside Dr

Continue straight onto El Portal Rd

Turn right onto Big Oak Flat Rd

At Crane Flat, continue straight onto Highway 120

Turn left into the Merced Grove trailhead parking lot

How far are the Giant Sequoias from San Francisco?

From San Francisco to either the northern gate (Highway 120) or the southern entrance (Highway 140) is approximately a 4-5 hours by car or bus. Times can vary based on traffic and road conditions. There is no direct public transportation from San Francisco to Yosemite.

You can find more helpful information about Yosemite National Park in our BLOG.

Customer Reviews