While the Mariposa Grove is the largest and by far the most popular grove of large sequoias in Yosemite National Park, the Tuolumne Grove is probably the second most visited grove. Located west of Yosemite Valley near Crane Flat and the junction of Big Oak Flat Road and Tioga Road, the grove consists of a handful of large sequoias scattered in a tall and dense pine forest of Douglas firs and sugar pines. The most notable landmark of this hike is a morbid curiosity--the Dead Giant Tunnel Tree, the stump of a fire-scarred sequoia that was tunneled out in 1878 to attract more tourism.
The Tuolumne Grove trailhead is located near the start of Tioga Road, roughly .6 miles from the Crane Flat gas station at the junction with Big Oak Flat Road. The parking area is fairly large, but on a touristy summer day, it can get crowded, especially when a tour bus or two show up. If the lot is full, some roadside parking is available, but please obey all parking signs and do not block the neighboring camps.
|Rating:||Easy to moderately strenuous hike|
|Access:||Tioga Road, roughly .6 miles past the Crane Flat gas station at the junction with Big Oak Flat Road|
|Time Required:||1.5-3 hours|
|Length:||3 miles round trip|
|Elevation Change:||Gradual 450-ft descent from road to Tuolumne Grove|
|Tuolumne Grove: 5770'|
|Seasons:||Early summer to autumn (whenever Tioga Road is open for the season and is not covered in snow)|
From the parking lot, hike along the remnants of the Old Big Oak Flat Road as it heads north and makes a steady descent into the forest. (Note the 400-ft elevation loss as you will have to hike back up this on your return!) After roughly a mile of hiking, you will reach the junctions of two short loop hikes with almost a dozen giant sequoias scattered throughout. The first loop goes past the infamous Dead Giant Tunnel Tree and is a great photo op. The second slightly longer loop goes past several fallen sequoias and is a big attraction to young children who love to climb on top of and explore inside the trunks.
While you can hike Old Big Oak Flat Road another 4 miles all the way down to Hodgdon Meadow and the Big Oak Flat Entrance Station, most people will turn back to the Tuolumne Grove parking lot and continue on to their next destination along Tioga Road.
The Tuolumne Grove is a worthy spot to visit even if it doesn't have as many cleverly-named attractions as the Mariposa Grove. And if you want a bit more calm, try to get here early in the day before the tour groups take over the area.