We visited the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias during the first week in April. There was still snow on the ground, and the park gateways were giving out advice about snow chains for tyres! Americans are awesome at clearing snow from roads though, so the roads were clear, and the snow was all piled up at the side and around the base of the trees. Later, when we were walking, it wasn’t so clear but the hike wasn’t unmanageable in trainers.
There is a free shuttle service between the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza (near South Entrance) and the Mariposa Grove, but it wasn’t running when we were there. Instead, we walked the Mariposa Grove Road, since it was closed to vehicles. There was an option to hike from the car park, through the trees, but the trail was closed after one mile due to there being too much snow.
It is a two-mile walk along the Mariposa Grove Road to the first shuttle bus stop, where there are toilets. From here it’s a quarter of a mile to the first of the famous trees – Fallen Monarch.
The Fallen Monarch fell so long ago that no one can remember it standing. Biologists think it fell centuries ago, and we don’t know how old it was before it fell. Isn’t that amazing?
You can see the roots of the Giant Sequoia trees are short, even though the trees are super tall; the roots are about 2 metres (6 feet) into the ground, but fan out about 45 metres (150 feet).
When we were on our California road trip around 9 years ago, you could walk right up to this tree and wander a natural forest trail. Now they’ve put decking over the many of the paths (but not all).
The paths were packed high with snow – so high, in fact, that when we slid the boys down onto the decking, only the top of James’ head could be seen and Noah was shorter than the snow!
Huge Giant Sequoia pine cones
We found a few huge pine cones on the ground at the Bachelor and the Three Graces trees. Later, at the visitor centre, we found out that the cones contain around 200 tiny seeds, around the size of porridge oats! Maybe the saying should be “from tiny oat-sized seeds doth Giant Sequoia grow”! We didn’t remove the cones from the area we found them; no matter how much Noah wanted to take it with us!
At this point, Noah needed a poop and so he and I had a very interesting walk through mounds of snow (it went up to my knee) to the toilet, while Rob and James waited at the Grizzly Giant tree. The Giant Sequoia is one of the largest trees in Mariposa Grove and they think it’s around 1,800 years old.
You can see that the bottom of the tree looks scorched. Apparently the Giant Sequoia need fires to clear the soil of needles and other debris, otherwise, they can’t germinate and grow. So the fires are necessary, even though they look damaging!
California Tunnel Tree
Nearby is the California Tunnel Tree. This was carved out to allow horses with carriages to pass through the park. It’s pretty exciting to be able to walk through a tree!
From here, in warmer weather, you can stroll on to see the other famous Giant Sequoia trees, like the Faithful Couple, which is two trees fused together at the base and then separated further up, and others. We had to turn around and return the way we had come. We tried to take a different route but the snow covered the trails and they sort of petered out. We didn’t fancy getting too wet or lost!
From the car back to the car, the loop took us around six hours and was just shy of 8 miles.