When most people think of Yosemite National Park, they think about Yosemite Valley. They envision the gray monolith of El Capitan and the climbers who scale it with little more than courage and bare hands. They fantasize about a night in the Ahwahnee, the venerable mountain hotel set smack in the middle of the grandeur. They might invoke John Muir, who quite rightly compared the valley to a temple that glowed with life.
With so much beauty concentrated in a canyon less than eight miles long, it's no wonder that an estimated 90 percent of the 4 million people who visited the park in 2019 spent time there.
But the valley is not the only place in Yosemite where you'll find soaring granite, graceful waterfalls, and tranquil forests. Three other sections of the park—Wawona, Hetch Hetchy, and Tuolumne Meadows—can be just as remarkable, without the crowds.
In our family, there are two ways to take in the immensity of a grove of 300-foot-tall giant sequoias: craning your neck skyward or lying on the ground and staring up at the tree canopy, mouth agape. My two older daughters call the latter maneuver "the Georgina," a reference to their younger sister's favored technique.
Georgina, then 4 years old, debuted this move in 2019 during the girls' first trip to Mariposa Grove in the southern tip of the park. The grove itself is a fantasy world of towering trees laced with an extensive trail system. Our relatively easy two-mile hike along the main path took us past about 50 of the grove's 500 giant sequoias, including the Grizzly Giant, a tree that is estimated to be 3,000 years old.