Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
36.00 ft (10.97 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
2.50 mi (4.02 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

There are two swinging bridges in Yosemite National Park, and both offer swimming. The most well known is in Yosemite Valley and is a large, solid structure that doesn't swing at all. The second swinging bridge is a small, rickety, old wooden bridge loaded with bounce and sway. This is the Wawona Swinging Bridge and the place you want to go. Often touted as Yosemite's "secret spot" swim hole, it's now one of Wawona's most popular swim spots, so expect company. The bridge is well maintained. You can get to it by driving, but the hike is short, friendly, flat, and so incredibly pleasant that walking is really the ideal way to go.

The path serves up a pure Sierra Nevada experience. The dusty trail softly ambles through meadows below the Wawona Dome (yes, there are other domes and monoliths outside of Yosemite Valley)! You'll hear the South Fork Merced in the distance. Lupine, yarrow, and other wildflowers are common. Summer air is hot, dry, and the perfect medium to serve up the bear clover's signature scent, a strong spicy-cinnamon-citrus-pungent aroma. It's unique to California's Sierra Nevada and only grows in specific areas at certain elevations.

Because much of the path goes through meadows, you'll be on the receiving end of the sun's full force. By the time you get to the Swinging Bridge, you'll be more than ready to jump into the chilly waters. It's a sweet swim spot. If the water levels are right you can slip down a natural water slide, jump off the bridge, or laze around in the sun on granite slabs and boulders. The water fans out into shallows along the left bank making a shady splash zone for little ones. An extended, large pool comfortably accommodates whoever is swimming, and a protruding boulder located near the pool makes a small, friendly jump spot.

If you're staying at any one of Wawona's 91, privately-owned cabins that are available for rent, you can just walk to the trailhead. If you're driving in, go down Chilnualna Falls Road and park at the Chilnualna Falls trailhead. Then continue down the road on foot.

Right away, you'll cross a bridge that spans Chilnualna Creek. The road veers right, and within a half-mile the road ends. This is where the trail picks up. From this point, it's 0.7 mile to the bridge. Follow the meandering path. In 2018, a fire ripped through the area, so you'll see an interesting display of succession ecology taking place. Look for young pine trees, older trees that were equipped to survive fire, lots of ground cover and swaths of wildflowers (depending on when you go).

When you're done, just retrace your steps when you're ready to return.

Alternatively, if you wish to drive, follow Forest Road and park in the dirt lot then follow the trail for about one-quarter mile. 

Tips: There is a vault toilet in the Chilnualna Falls parking area and another near the parking area at the end of Forest Rd. Bonus points for using reef-safe sunscreen. Trout live in the South Fork Merced and would appreciate your effort. It's tempting, but don't drink the water as it contains giardia.

Due to its accessibility, the Wawona Swinging Bridge can get quite crowded in the summer. The water may look tempting, but resist drinking as it now contains giardia. An alternative route is to hike the trail from Chilnualna Falls Road.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Flat. Easy to find. Fragrant. Pretty views.

Cons

Hot and dry. Fire burn in 2018.

Trailhead Elevation

4,072.00 ft (1,241.15 m)

Highest point

4,108.00 ft (1,252.12 m)

Features

Vault toilet

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

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