Hike Distance: 1 mile (1.6 km) loop
Distance from Yosemite: 18 miles (29 km)
Trailhead Elevation: 5,600 feet (1,680 meters)
Elevation Gain: less than 100 feet (30 meters)
Hiking time: 30 minutes - 1 hour
Why visit Nelder Grove? This is the best chance you'll get to have a grove of giant sequoias all to yourself, especially on a weekday.
Crowd Factor: Low compared to the sequoia groves in Yosemite. Sound carries well in the grove, though, so if there are other people on the trail, you'll likely hear them.
Scenery Factor: You could try to argue with the assertion that Nelder Grove is the most peaceful and soothing of the Yosemite-area giant sequoia groves, but then you'd be wrong, and why spoil your perfect record now? The grove resides in a narrow draw with a brook flowing through the center of it, and besides the giant sequoias, you'll find lots of other big evergreens, especially cedars, plus several dogwoods.
Difficulty: Easy. There's just a touch of climbing, but it's a short hike on a smooth trail. If the elevation winds you, stop and read the interpretive signs along the way.
Best Time to Visit: It's pretty any time the road is passable (it gets snowed in in the the winter), but there's bonus scenery in the spring, when the dogwood trees are blooming, and in October, when their leaves are turning.
Bathrooms: At the trailhead (outhouse variety)
Nearest Snacks: in Oakhurst, 10 miles (16 km) south
Driving Directions: Nelder Grove is off Road 632, also known as Sky Ranch Road. You'll find it 10 miles (16 km) south of Yosemite Park's south entrance. If you're approaching from the south, it's 4 miles (6.4 km) north of the intersection of highways 41 and 49 in Oakhurst.
The road sign for 632 is small and easy to miss if you're buzzing past at 50 mph, so watch for the larger sign to the Sky Ranch Inn, which (the inn, not the sign) is just up the road. Here's a Google Street View panorama of the turnoff.
Once you're on Road 632, stay on it for just under 7 miles (11 km), until you reach a signed left turn to the Nelder Grove just as the pavement ends. Take the left turn and travel just over a mile (1.6 km) until the road forks. There's a sign at the fork that appears to indicate that Nelder Grove is to the right, but it's actually the Nelder Grove Campground that's off in that direction. What the sign calls "Shadow of the Giants", half a mile to your left, is your destination. Once you reach the grove you'll find a sign and a short but steepish and rutted driveway leading to the parking lot and trailhead.
Parking: There's a dirt lot at the trailhead that will hold half a dozen or so cars. If it fills up, an uncommon occurrence, you can park along the road.
Hazards: The last two miles of the road to the grove are unpaved, and the short driveway leading to the parking lot can be a challenge for cars with poor clearance. The road is often undrivable in the winter, and there can be snow on the road well into May.
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