Highway 41’s serpentine path leads south from Yosemite Valley, past Glacier Point Road through bucolic Wawona and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, on the way to Yosemite National Park’s South Gate. This is Mariposa County’s Southern Yosemite region, rich in history and dotted with attractions. It’s mid-elevation terrain rewards visitors with milder temperatures and year-round access.
See & Do
Wawona is quite literally a hub of Yosemite history. The mid-elevation bowl (approx. 4,000 feet, similar to Yosemite Valley) was originally home to Native Americans who thrived here. Later, the Wawona area became a prosperous settlement and primary waystation for early tourists traveling to Yosemite Valley. In 1875, the original Wawona Road opened and the Wawona Hotel was built. Still in operation today, the Wawona Hotel is a National Historic Landmark, and has been visited by centuries of Yosemite travelers, including President Theodore Roosevelt.
Established in 1918, the Wawona Golf Course claims to be one of the few organic golf courses in the world. No pesticides are applied to the course and only reclaimed gray water is used for watering the greens. Designed to blend into expansive Wawona Meadow – one of Yosemite’s largest – the 9-hole, par-35 track measures just over 3,000 yards with a pair of par-5s.
Wawona’s Pioneer Yosemite History Center is a showcase of park history. Historic buildings, horse-drawn wagons, a covered bridge, and authentic buildings from Yosemite’s early days are here. The visitor center explains how Yosemite was the inspiration for national parks across America and throughout the world.
Chilnualna Falls is one of the relatively few Yosemite waterfalls flowing year-round. Pronounced “Chil-noo-al-na,” it’s comprised of five large cascades sliding across sheer granite formations. The strenuous trail along Chilnualna Falls rewards with views of the tumbling torrents, and Wawona below.
Wawona Stables offers two hour and half-day horseback rides.
Located near the South Gate of Yosemite, Mariposa Grove is the park’s largest collection of giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) in the park with more than 500 mature specimens. Trails ranging from easy to strenuous lace through the grove, and include ADA accessible trails. Wander among these soaring, ruddy-barked titans and see why “cathedral” is an oft-used metaphor for the grove. Plan for a little over an hour’s drive from Yosemite Valley to Mariposa Grove.
Giant trees, peaceful rivers and wide open meadows await in Southern Yosemite.
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