“A trip to the smallest, but least crowded Giant Sequoia grove in Yosemite National Park.”
— David Hitchcock
Highway 120 can be closed or under chain restrictions in the winter and early spring. Make sure to carry chains with you in the winter. You can check road conditions at nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/…
or by dialing 1-209-372-0200, dialing extensions 1/1.
Features: River/Creek — Wildlife
Dogs: No Dogs
The trail is relatively clear of obstacles, although it is all downhill until you get to the grove and you have to turn around to get back. Since it follows an old road, it's not bad for running.
The smallest of the three Giant Sequoia groves in Yosemite National Park, the grove consists of just over 20 mature trees, but it's probably the least crowded. The trailhead is located on the right on Highway 120, 4.25 miles east of the Big Oak Flat Entrance Station. There is a small parking lot where you can leave your car.
The trail leaves the back of the parking lot and follows the Old Coulterville Road for the first part of the trip. It's fairly level for the first half mile. Then the trail begins its descent to the grove (roughly 600 feet of elevation loss). At roughly 3/4 of a mile, the trail to the grove branches off to the left through a forest of firs, sugar pines, and dogwoods. Running parallel to Moss Creek for a little bit, the trail finally arrives at the first set of Giant Sequoias at 1.4 miles. They live in a relatively dry gully where water flows in the wet season, providing nourishment for these thirsty giants. The Giant Sequoias have wide root systems that allow them to soak up lots of water.
As the trail continues, several more Giant Sequoias can be seen along the trail. At around 1.5 miles, the trail arrives at a cabin that was completed in 1935 and used by park superintendents as a summer retreat. It's a good place to rest before exploring a little further or returning to your vehicle. 200 yards down the trail, you encounter the last mature tree in the grove and the end of the trail. In this lower section of the grove, there are a large number of saplings even though they are hard to identify because they are easily confused with incense-cedars. There are about 200 young trees growing in the grove, whether you recognize them or not. It takes centuries for these trees to become giants like their mature, older siblings.
At this point, most people return to their cars via the path that they followed to get to the grove. If you are looking to continue your adventure, the Old Coulterville Road continues to descend, although the trail is less maintained from this point forward.
This trail is open in the winter and available for snowshoeing. Overnight trips can be arranged on certain dates through the Yosemite Conservancy.
Flora & Fauna
Giant Sequoias are the star of the show, but there are a variety of trees, including incense-cedars, Douglas Firs, white firs, sugar pines, and dogwoods.
Western Azaleas can be seen in the spring time.