As part of an ongoing series, we’re featuring the favorite places of Yosemite community members and park visitors. The Wawona Hotel grounds are a favorite place for Jessica Kennedy, who lives and works in Yosemite Valley.
“Like many Yosemite visitors, I drove past Wawona often without giving it much thought. Yosemite is full of incredible vistas, huge waterfalls, and jagged peaks, and I didn’t see how Wawona’s forests and rolling hills fit into that. It’s not the Yosemite that first comes to mind, but Wawona has its own special charm.
Summer in Yosemite is marked by hot, sunny days and crowds of tourists. But tucked away on the southern end of the park, the Wawona area reminds me of a peaceful visit to my southern grandmother’s home. The hotel’s façade is wooden and painted white, just as it was in the hotel’s early days when guests arrived by stagecoach. When I last visited on an afternoon in June, a cool breeze was blowing through the old sequoia trees on the property and groups of families and friends were sitting outside in lawn chairs reading or reminiscing together.
My favorite hidden treasure in Wawona is the golf course. I’m not a golfer and never plan to be, but this is the first golf course I’d ever spend an afternoon visiting. The atmosphere is so casual and welcoming that I’d even consider giving golf a shot. The edge of the course is lined with wildflowers, and the thick forest of trees along each hole makes it feel like your own private retreat. And then there’s the chorus of ever-chirping birds. I don’t need to be homesick for the South — the bright, warm afternoon, the tall pine trees, and the cold iced tea are all right here.
There’s no internet, not much phone signal, and no television, so Wawona is the perfect place to be fully present in Yosemite. The hotel prides itself on allowing guests to step back in time, and it really feels that way. I watch the YARTS bus pull up and can almost hear the stomping hooves and jingling rig of the stagecoach pulling up in the same spot in the early 1900s. With no phone or computer to distract myself, when the sun sets, my only option is to head inside, find a cozy seat in the parlor, and listen to Tom Bopp welcome the evening on the piano as he has for many, many years. As it turns out, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing.”
On your way into the park, stop by Wawona to look around, sip on an iced tea, or grab a meal. You don’t need a reservation to check out the golf course or admire the giant sequoias. If you want to know more about the Wawona area, sign up for our mailing list and look out for our August Yosemite in Focus newsletter all about Wawona.