We are dwarfed by Earth’s most massive tree. The giant sequoia fills Yosemite visitors with awe and astonishment. It’s hard to believe that a living thing can be so immense. For me, standing next to one of these trees, a sense of time and age overcomes the senses.
The sequoia dwarfs all other trees around it rising like cathedral spires in the surrounding forest. More then any other kind of forest, walking in a sequoia grove is like walking in a sacred place, filling a person with a sense of respect, wonder, and humility. Like a church, monastery, a native american smoke house or any other place we go to find enlightenment, sequoia groves are a place to find something more than ones self.
John Steinbeck wrote, “They carry their own light and shade. The vainest, most slap-happy and irreverent of men, in the presence of redwoods, goes under a spell of wonder and respect.... One feels the need to bow to unquestioned sovereigns. There’s a cathedral hush here. Perhaps the thick soft bark absorbs sound and creates a silence. The trees rise straight up to zenith; there is no horizon….”
The giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) is the world's most massive tree, and arguably the largest living organism on Earth. It is neither the tallest species of tree (that distinction belongs to the coast redwood), however, with a height of 286 feet (87 m) or more, a circumference of 113 feet (34 m) or more, an estimated bole volume of up to 52,500 cubic feet (1,487 m3), and an estimated life span of 1800–2700 years, the giant sequoia is among the tallest, widest and longest-lived of all organisms on Earth.
Massive, ancient giant sequoias live in three groves in Yosemite National Park. The most easily accessible of these (spring through fall) is the Mariposa Grove near the park's South Entrance, off of the Wawona Road (Highway 41). Two smaller—and less visited—groves are the Tuolumne and Merced Groves near Crane Flat.
The park is currently restoring the largest grove of Sequoias in Yosemite. The Mariposa Grove restoration project will restore the grove's dynamic ecology and increase its resilience. As a result of this project, the Mariposa Grove is currently closed and is expected to reopen in November 2017.
Once the project is completed, visitors to the Mariposa Grove will notice:
A consolidated parking area and information station at South Entrance.
Many of the roads within the grove converted into hiking trails.
Over a half-mile of new accessible trails and boardwalks providing universal access for all visitors to the grove.
Flush toilets replacing vault toilets in the grove.
Removal from the grove of commercial activities such as the gift shop and tram tours.
Inside Yosemite National Park this grove is located on the Tioga Road just east of Crane Flat, the Tuolumne Grove has about two dozen mature giant sequoias. Sequoias are only visible after a one-mile hike with 500 feet of elevation loss. (The one-mile hike back to the parking lot gains 500 feet and is strenuous.) Water is not available; bring drinking water for everyone in your group who will be hiking this trail. The drive takes about 1.5 hours from South Entrance. Parking is limited.
When the Mariposa grove was open to the public, this grove saw little in the way of crowds. Yet it has some of the best and lovely trees in the park. Now it is very busy. I imagine after the larger Mariposa Grove opens, the Tuolunme Grove will once again go back to relative obscurity.
Don't forget this grove! It is worth the hike and time spent there.
Also inside the Yosemite National Park, this grove is located on the Big Oak Flat Road east of Big Oak Flat Entrance. The Merced Grove has about two dozen mature giant sequoias. Sequoias are only visible after a 1.5-mile hike with 500 feet of elevation loss. (The 1.5-mile hike back to the parking lot gains 500 feet and is strenuous.)
Water is not available; bring drinking water for everyone in your group who will be hiking this trail. The drive takes about 1.5 hours from South Entrance. Parking is extremely limited.