Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
Although the oldest giant sequoias may exceed 3,000 years in age, some living specimens of the ancient bristlecone pine (found in the mountains east of Yosemite and at Great Basin National Park in Nevada, among other places) are more than 4,600 years old.
The tallest trees are the giant sequoia's cousin—the coast redwood, which you can see at Muir Woods National Monument and Redwood National Park, among others.
To get there: The two-mile Mariposa Grove Road is open from approximately April through November. When open, you can drive to the grove from Yosemite's South Entrance (off of Highway 41). During summer, however, the small parking lot fills frequently, resulting in periodic road closures. So, it's best to take the free Wawona-Mariposa Grove shuttle.
When the road is closed during winter, you can still walk, snowshoe, or ski up the road from South Entrance (two miles with about 500 feet of elevation gain).
What to do: Once in the Mariposa Grove, you can hike to see more sequoias than those visible from the parking lot. A brochure (available for 50 cents in the grove or for free download [256 kb PDF]) has a map. Most people hike the 0.8 miles from the parking lot to the Grizzly Giant and California Tunnel Tree (about 500 feet of elevation gain).
A one-hour tram tour is also available from approximately May to October. This tour is available in English, French, Spanish, Japanese, German, and audio description (for the blind).
Accessibility: People with mobility impairments may drive their own vehicles on the tram road through the grove behind tram tours for free (coordinate with the tour kiosk). People driving behind the tram can pay for the tour in order to listen to the audio tour (also available in audio description for the blind). You can find more information about accessibility in Yosemite's accessibility guide [200 kb PDF].
Brochures containing natural history and hiking information:
Did You Know?
In Yosemite Valley, dropping over 594-foot Nevada Fall and then 317-foot Vernal Fall, the Merced River creates what is known as the “Giant Staircase.” Such exemplary stair-step river morphology is characterized by a large variability in river movement and flow, from quiet pools to the dramatic drops of the waterfalls themselves.