One full day in the Valley is not nearly enough to enjoy Yosemite’s splendor. Jacqui had a packed morning itinerary for us this morning, but Aaron being more practical (and the one who does most of the driving) requested that we be more selective in our morning sight-seeing. This probably was the right choice, as it takes longer to pack up and organize with a toddler. We wanted to make sure to get on the road for Sprout’s nap.
Once we hit the road, we followed signs for California 120 (Tioga Rd) via Big Oak Flat Rd., which climbs the valley wall into Yosemite’s Wilderness. Heading away from the valley, you get a sense of just how big Yosemite is. Some of the views of vast forest are spectacular. Tuolumne Grove is only a half-hour from the valley along Big Oak Flat Rd. (along which we saw zero oaks, incidentally). The parking area for the trail is just off B.O.F. Rd. on Tioga (CA 120) on the short segment of 120 that is open to private vehicles in early spring.
There were more cars parked than we expected, given the “strenuous” designation on the park’s hike info pamphlets. The giant sequoia grove is nestled in a valley, and the trail is an old logging road (that has since been paved, so it is, in theory, stroller accessible). We brought our lunch with us and let Sprout do some of the walking on our way down to the grove, which she appreciated after our marathon trek yesterday. The trail was shaded and some of the people coming back up appeared a bit winded, so maybe the “strenuous” designation is appropriate. However, we were expecting a slightly more rugged trail.
The grove seems to be a popular destination for picnickers, although there are many fences to protect the trees and wildlife in the forest, so you do not have much freedom regarding where you picnic. Picnic tables are provided in a designated area at the beginning (and end) of the main segment of the Tuolumne grove loop. After a leisurely lunch, we started around the loop, and it took us about 45 minutes with several stops. Sprout walked most of the loop by her own power and particularly enjoyed exploring the inside of one of the fallen giant Sequoia. By the time we reached the tunnel tree, she was ready for a nap. By the time we packed her up the hill again, she was fast asleep. We said a bittersweet goodbye to our friends, and sped off to cover as much as possible of the long drive back to Utah with our sedated Sprout. Goodbye Yosemite! Can’t wait to see you again someday.