Fall can be a quiet and cozy time of year filled with brightly colored leaves, outdoor fun in the crisp air, hearty meals and perhaps a wildlife sighting or two as animals prepare for winter. You can do all of these things and more in Yosemite National Park during this gentle season, and there is no better place to experience fall than the historic Wawona Hotel.
You’ll find fall color in a variety of ways at Wawona. From the hops vines that trail over the verandas of the hotel to the dogwood trees that line the west end of the Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary golf course to the black oaks along the Meadow Loop Trail, fall is found in a range of shades. The Meadow Loop Trail also offers the chance to view Wawona’s wildlife: mule deer with proud antler racks and squirrels caching acorns for the winter. You may even be lucky enough to spot the great gray owl that calls Wawona home. The nature of the Meadow Loop complements the culture in this historic area of Yosemite, as you can spot acorn grinding holes in the granite outcroppings along the loop left by Native Americans. At the Pioneer Yosemite History Center, you can experience different periods in Yosemite’s history all in one place: a collection of historic buildings from all over the park relocated here in the 1950s and 1960s. You’ll see a blacksmith shop, calvary office, resident cabins, the Wells Fargo office and one of the only covered bridges located inside a national park.
During this time of year, the emphasis may be on the show created by trees and shrubs shedding colorful leaves, but don’t forget that the greatest trees of all reside in Yosemite: the Giant Sequoias. Though the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is a short drive from the Wawona Hotel, it is closed for restoration until spring 2017. Yosemite has two other giant sequoia groves located near the Crane Flat area of the park: Merced Grove and Tuolumne Grove. Both groves require a moderate 2 mile round-trip hike to view the big trees. An afternoon hike in the grove can help you work up an appetite for hearty meals served in Wawona’s old-fashioned setting.
Thanksgiving at Wawona is celebrated with a special dinner in the Victorian-era hotel’s dining room. The Thanksgiving dinner menu includes classics like roasted turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. In addition to the classics, Chef Dwayne McFann will also treat you to delicious fall treats such as wild salmon roulade, corn polenta cake, spiced apple & brown sugar roasted pork loin and butternut squash spinach lasagna paired with California wines. Activities and events through the season include the Fall Gathering in Wawona hosted for donors to the Yosemite Conservancy, stagecoach rides at the Pioneer Yosemite History Center, and nature walks with a park ranger in Mariposa Grove. To experience vintage music of Yosemite, join singer Tom Bopp at the piano in the lobby of the Wawona Hotel from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm Tuesday through Saturday. Day or night, you’ll find a fall filled with plenty in Wawona to make your visit to Yosemite one to remember.