Giant Sequoias are truly impressive and can grow as much as 200 feet and up to 35 feet in diameter. There are about 75 natural giant sequoia groves in the world, and all of them are located on the Sierra Nevada slopes in California. Yosemite offers three groves for you to walk around these mighty giants. Tuolumne Grove is one of them and has about two dozen mature Giant Sequoias.
Tuolumne Grove of giant sequoias is located on Tioga Road near Crane Flat in Yosemite National Park.
Coming from Yosemite Valley
If you are coming from Yosemite Valley, take HWY 120 west. After 45-minutes of driving take a right at the intersection with Tioga Road. You will see the Tuolumne grove parking lot on tour left on about half a mile.
Coming from HWH 120
If you are coming from the west on HWY 120 you will pass by the park entrance at Big Oak Flat Gate. After 15 minutes of driving, turn left at the intersection of Tioga Road. Drive for about 2 minutes to the parking lot on your left-hand side.
Coming from Tioga Road
If you are driving from Tioga Road, this can be your last stop before reaching the Big Old Flat Road.
The popularity of the Tuolumne Grove is not a new phenomenon. Although not a large grove, the roughly 25 Giant Sequoias scattered around the grove have been more than enough to fascinate visitors dating back well over 100 years.
Although the hike is not an easy one, the trail has been in place for over 150 years, originally as a pack trail called the Big Oak Flat Trail. This trail was so popular that in 1878, in order to ease the journey somewhat, a wagon-size hole was cut in a still-standing Giant that had been killed by lightning untold eons before so that the road would pass through it rather than around the impressively rotund trunk. Visitors today marvel at the idea that horse-drawn wagons passed through the tree on their way to or from the settlements to the west of what would one day become Yosemite National park.
Nowadays, although wagons no longer traverse the Big Oak Flat trail, visitors are still able to hike the century and a half year old trail, walking in the footsteps of settlers, gold miners, entrepreneurs, and traders of a bygone era. Though the hike is strenuous at times, it’s nothing compared to what these pioneering trailblazers experienced in a time before park rangers, cell phones, and tour buses.
The trailhead starts at a picnic area and is well marked with “Entering the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias” sign. Parking and bathrooms are available.
Here is a Google Street View of the Parking Lot.
Insider Tip: There is no cell phone reception around this area. A payphone can be found at the Crane Flat gas station 0.5 miles away
The Hike is about 2.5 miles (4 km) roundtrip, 500 feet of elevation gain and loss. It is a reverse hike, so save your energy for the way back up. The Giant Sequoias trail is at 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) of elevation and is considered moderate. It is relatively easy on the way down as it is paved and shaded. On the way back up, you will definitely feel the steeper grade that you don’t notice on the way down. Please bring water with you as there is no water available at the grove.
Interesting fact: The Old Tioga road that takes you to the grove was closed to cars quite recently, in 1992.
At about 1-mile mark you will reach the grove and see some of the massive trees.
The most impressive trees are the ones that you see at the beginning of the loop trail. Allow yourself some time to take in the scale of these living giants. And make sure to take a lot of photos before entering the Grove Loop, as the thickest trees are located here. There are 25 giant sequoias in the Tuolumne Grove and the small Grove Loop takes you to most of them.
The trail continues with many interpretive plaques to show you what you are looking at and give you some great information.
This fallen giant sequoia provides a beautiful perspective of the massive scale as you walk the entire length of it. It has an incredible root structure as well.
Dead Giant Tunnel Tree
The last part of the Grove Loop holds one of the most photographed trees in the area. This tree is often called the "dead giant," aka tunnel tree. This sequoia was tunneled back in 1878 to attract tourists to the park. It is 29 feet in diameter at the base and is big enough for a car to fit through its tunnel. You can walk through the tree's mighty trunk and take some fantastic photos.
Address: Tuolumne Grove Trailhead, Yosemite National Park
Length: 2.5 miles
Elevation gain: 400 f
Pet friendly: No
Elevation at trailhead: 6,200 f
Time: 1.5 – 2 hours
Parking: Limited free parking lot at the trailhead
Tuolumne Grove has a lot to offer to hikers and nature lovers. This lesser known grove away from the waterfalls and crows of Yosemite Valley, holds a hike through a lush forest with towering giant sequoias. If you would like to see more of these unique trees, consider visiting Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias in the southern part of Yosemite National Park.
See you on the trail!
There are about two dozen mature giant sequoias in Tuolumne Grove. The biggest trees can be seen at a 1-mile marker of the trail. Some of the famous trees include the Fallen Giant and the Tunnel Tree.
The 2.5-mile round-trip trail to the Giant Sequoias is at 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) of elevation and is considered moderate. Keep in mind that the trail can seem easy on the way down to the grove and that you will have to hike uphill (450 feet elevation gain in one mile) on the way back.
The best time to visit Tuolumne grove is mid-April through mid-November. Though the Grove is open all year round it can become inaccessible during the snow season.
You can purchase snacks and water at Crane Flat gas station located within a 0.5 a mile drive towards Yosemite Valley. There is a pay phone there as well.
There are about two dozen mature giant sequoias in Tuolumne Grove. You can find the thickest trees at a 1-mile marker of the trail. Fallen Giant and the Tunnel Tree are among the most famous frees in the grove.
As Tuolumne Grove is located in the higher Sierras, it receives a significant snowfall in the winter. It becomes one of the best trails for snowshoers. Remember to check the road conditions before driving to the grove as some parts of the trail may be closed.
The name Tuolumne has a native American origin and is pronounced as [too·aa·luh·mee]. The name has many meanings, such as The Land of Mountain Lions, Many Stone Houses, and Straight Up Steep.