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Tuolumne Grove

Yosemite National Park

August 6th, 2010

2.3 miles
470 vertical feet
Total Time: 2:04

Starting elevation
6255 feet
Max elevation
6255 feet

Rating: 7/10

Directions: From Big Oak Flat Entrance, enter the park. Turn left onto Highway 120 (Tioga Road). Shortly, turn left into the parking lot signed for Tuolumne Grove.   View Driving Map

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GPX File

The large parking lot was mostly full when we arrived. I'd passed by this lot many times on the way to Tuolumne Meadows and it always seemed crowded. For that reason, I think I expected more in the way of facilities. In fact, there's just a couple of pit toilets and nothing else. No vendors selling anything, just a lot of people headed out on the trail to Tuolumne Grove.

At the start of the trail, there's a display with a large stump for illustrative purposes. The trail itself is really a paved road. It's now a road for authorized vehicles only, and in somewhat disrepair, but a road nonetheless. You'll probably be accompanied by hordes of tourists, people in heels or flip-flops, or parents pushing strollers. We sure were.

That being said, it wasn't a trivial hike. The starts out relatively flat, but then starts descending, somewhat steeply at times. A few of the tourists started turning back.

Flowers next to the trail

Flower close-up

The trail, up to this point, is pretty much nondescript, but I'll try to describe it anyway. It runs through a conifer forest, nothing spectacular. There were a few flowers here and there. Eventually, we saw a sign stating "Entering Tuolumne Grove". Shortly, we saw the first of several large sequoia trees.

Entering Tuolumne Grove

Once we reached that tree, we took the right fork, an actual trail (not road) which leads toward the Tunnel Tree. This tree was apparently already dead when they bore a hole through it in 1878 so that people could ride through it. The lower perhaps 40 feet of it still stand, and you can walk through it. An interpretive sign on the other side of the tree explains its history.

One of the first sequoias in the grove

What's left of the Tunnel Tree

We started to continue along the trail, but then I noticed a small side trail on the right, barely noticeable. If we had missed it, it would have been fine since we could have entered the sequoia loop portion later. In any case, we took this trail to the right and, after crossing over a stream, reached a hollow fallen sequoia. You can walk right into it, if you're really short.

Looking inside a fallen sequoia

The side of the fallen sequoia

We continued along the loop trail, which contains several more sequoia trees -- the living, standing variety. I always love to see sequoias, especially in afternoon light. All the sequoias here, unlike most of the ones in Sequoia National Park, are fenced off for protection.

Nice section of trail through the sequoias

Another sequoia

After completing the loop, we reached the start of the loop, where there a few picnic tables and 5 different trails to choose from. There are the two ends of the loop, one of which we had just been on. There's another trail that heads back up to the Tunnel Tree. Then there's the paved road, leading left (up) and right (down). To the right is Hodgdon Meadow. We went up the paved road to the left, heading back up to the trailhead.

We climbed steadily up. Just as we neared the trailhead, some hikers in front of us silently motioned into the brush to the right. It was the unmistakeable signal that there was a bear nearby. We looked across and saw what looked to be a little bear cub, clawing away at something at the base of a tree. The bear was relatively far, maybe 150 feet away, in thick forest. We observed it for a little while before returning to the trailhead. If you're interested, I posted a short video of the bear on the Facebook page.

Bear cub

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