Hike-in Required
Open Year-round
ADA accessible
Guided tours
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Most tourists are eager to go from Yosemite National Park's Mariposa Grove (big trees!) to the famous Yosemite Valley (big rocks!). Along the way, most zoom right by one of Yosemite Park's quiet treasures: Wawona and the Pioneer History Center. Tucked behind a shuttle stop, the gas station, and Wawona Hotel (which spent a few years under the moniker Big Trees Lodge) is a captivating collection of buildings and scenery bathed in the fragrance of bear clover and pine.

Park in the lot near the Wawona post office and market and head to the timbered, covered bridge. This bridge is solid, comforting, and carries the aroma of decades filled with mountain men, horses, and pioneers. It spans the Merced's South Fork, and you'll catch glimpses of the water between the wood planks. Emerge on the other side into a different world. There will be a collection of cabins, a blacksmith pounding away, and perhaps a line of horses coming in from a trail. 

It may look like a cohesive village, but the Pioneer History Center is a collection of historic cabins and buildings procured from different places and times representing different aspects of Yosemite's storied past. During the summer, a scant crew of living history volunteers occupy some of the buildings to fill you in on the history.

In the Homestead Cabin, you may find fresh cookies or bread. The blacksmith offers his or her wares for sale. A functioning barn and corral holds a small herd of saddled horses and mules ready for guided trail rides. There's even a tiny jail. Yes, go on in!

If you do nothing else, spend $5 and take a ride on the stagecoach with Buckshot Burrel. It's the real deal, and Buckshot has been driving stagecoaches in Wawona for more than 50 years. It's worth it just to hear the sound of the wheels and horse feet thudding across the old wooden bridge. During the summer, there is a barn dance in the large gray barn every other Saturday. The Fourth of July hosts an old-time celebration complete with a tug-of-war and other pioneer games.

Visiting the Pioneer History Center is free. However, Wawona is located inside Yosemite National Park, and you'll need to pay an entry fee to get into the park. It's open all year, but volunteers are there during limited hours during the summer.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass



Authentic vibe. Not crowded. Fun to explore. Stagecoach ride.


Always closed buildings. Not adequately staffed.

Pets allowed

Not Allowed


Historically significant
Family friendly



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