An Opening-Day Visit to Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove
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Three years will hardly leave a mark on the ring of a giant sequoia — the trees can live for more than 3,000 — but for die-hard nature lovers, the lengthy closure of Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove was a tough pill to swallow.
The collection of more than 500 mature giant sequoias has been an eco tourist hotspot since it opened in 1906, but the site was closed in 2015 for a massive $40 million restoration.
President Lincoln signed legislation protecting Mariposa Grove in the middle of the Civil War, in 1864, but many of the area’s trees had already been around for more than a thousand years — Grizzly Giant, pictured above, may have even been standing at the time of Jesus’ birth.
Following a long restoration period, Mariposa re-opened to the public this past Friday, June 15. In addition to a new shuttle service, the Parks Service added a modern boardwalk and trail, intended to give guests a great view while also preserving the trees and their surroundings.
I was fortunate enough to be in the park on Friday, and had a chance to visit just an hour after the grand re-opening. You’ll need to snag one of the ~300 parking spots in order to hike up to the trees — we were turned away initially, since the lot was full, but managed to get in on our second attempt.
After a two-mile shuttle ride up to the main area, it’s a short walk to some of the highlights, including the California Tunnel Tree pictured above. Mariposa Grove has clearly attracted visitors for quite some time — one of the wood carvings even dates back to 1927!
Visiting Mariposa Grove
Located just beyond the southern gate at Northern California’s Yosemite National Park, Mariposa Grove is a very hot ticket at the moment. There are only about 300 parking spots available, and unfortunately during my visit employees weren’t allowing guests to walk in — so parking down the road and hiking over to Mariposa might not be possible. Instead, you might want to arrive right when the area opens at 8:00am, or risk being turned away.
It costs $35 per vehicle to get into the park, but there are also a couple more free days to take advantage of if you’d like to save on the entry fee — keep in mind that Yosemite may be especially busy during those periods, however, so it might be worth paying the fee to visit another time, instead.
While there aren’t any points hotels inside the park, you can rent a tent, cabin or book a stay at some of the hotels. The Majestic Yosemite Hotel is by far the most luxurious option, but at $485 before tax, it’s also the priciest. Lodging in Half Dome Village will run you $143 and up, by comparison — arguably a steep price to pay for a very basic canvas tent. While an overnight trip to Yosemite probably won’t come cheap, the hikes — and scenery throughout — make a visit more than worthwhile.
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