Built-in 1856 the Wawona Hotel formerly Big Trees Lodge is on the National Historic Landmark located near the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and the Pioneer History Center in Yosemite National Park.
Big Tree Lodge features authentic Victorian-style architecture including authentic period furniture, marble top dressers, showcasing the authenticity of this mid-1800's hotel.
As of July 15, 2019, the name for the Big Tree Lodges has been restored to the Wawona Hotel.
If you are wondering how far Big Tree Lodge is from Yosemite Valley...The hotel is 30 minutes from Yosemite Valley and a quiet oasis from the hustle and bustle of the valley.
Rooms are available with and without a bathroom so you will want to make sure when you book a room.
Staying at the Big Tree Lodge is the perfect location for visiting Mariposa Grove and access to Oakhurst, California.
Big Trees LodgeWe stayed in a queen bedroom with a private bathroom located on the 2nd floor of the main lodge building. The room had an outside entrance on the deck. There were 20+ stairs to reach the 2nd floor. If you have any mobility restrictions you will want to let the hotel know when you make your reservations.
The room reminded us of a room we stayed in Venice, Italy....the floor sloped down into the bathroom. A marble would have rolled right into the bathroom. The outside deck also had quite a slope on it. Enough that our suitcases rolled down it on their own.
This is definitely something to know if you have any mobility restrictions. With two knee surgeries in my history, I had to be really careful to make sure my steps were stable as I walked to the stairs.
The room was decorated with Victorian-era decorations including a claw-footed tub in the bathroom.
Rooms with Private Bathrooms
Room types - 1 Queen Bed, or 2 Double Beds, or 1 Double and 1 Single Bed
Rooms with Shared Bathrooms
Room types - 1 Queen Bed, or 1 Double Bed and 1 Single Bed
WiFi - Wireless access is available in the Sun Room and Golf Shop.
Golf course on the property
During the summer there are Saturday night barbecues at the hotel
Outdoor swimming pool
YARTS (Yosemite Area Rapid Transit System) Bus offers free shuttle service from the Big Tree Lodge to Yosemite Valley.
There is also a free shuttle from the hotel to the Mariposa Grove of Trees offered often! Just make sure you don't miss the final shuttle back to the hotel.
Tuesday through Saturday evening from 5:30 to 9:30 there is live piano music in the parlor.
Big Tree Lodge Dining Room
The Big Tree Lodge dining room is located on the 1st floor of the lodge off of the main lobby. They offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.
You can also order drinks on the sun deck, in the piano bar, and in the lobby of the hotel from 5 pm to 9:30 pm.
Big Tree Lodge Summer Barbecue
During the summer you can enjoy Saturday night barbecues on the lawn! This is a great way to relax and soak up the beauty of Yosemite NP.
Also, keep an eye out for special musical performances that are held at the lodge.
Things to know when planning a trip to the Big Trees Lodge in Yosemite National Park
Check-In at 4:00 pm
Check-Out by 11:00 am
You can check current availability here.
There are no pets allowed on the property.
See all of our Yosemite National Park Posts!
If you are looking to camp in Yosemite make sure and check out this post on all of the Yosemite Campgrounds that are available in the park.
The Wawona Hotel is one of the oldest mountain hotels in California. Located in Yosemite National Park, the hotel is located about four miles from the south entrance.
The land which the Wawona Hotel now sits has a long history and the name itself is believed to come from an ancient myth of the first inhabitants of the land.
The Ahwahnechee people were the natives who lived in the Yosemite Valley for centuries. These natives were made up of the tribes Yosemite Miwok, Northern Paiute, and Kucadikadi Mono Lake people.
Stephen Powers was an American journalist and historian of the natives of California. The word Wawona is thought to mean “Big Tree.”
In 1877, after much research on the native’s beliefs and myths, Powers came up with this explanation of the word Wawona:
“The California big tree is sacred to the Western Mono people, and they call it Wah Who Nau, a word formed in imitation of the hoot of the great horned owl, which is the guardian spirit and deity of the great monarch of the forest.
It is productive of bad luck to fell this tree, or to mock or shoot the owl, or even to shoot in his presence. And when a teamster with a wagon-load of lumber made from these trees drives by they will cry out after him with evil luck.”
Glen Clark was born in Canada and traveled to the Yosemite area with a tourist group in 1855.
A former gold prospector, Clark had become ill and was determined to either die in the beautiful mountain air of Yosemite or live out his last days there, so he decided to stay.
He settled in the area that the Wawona Hotel is now located. During his first years in the area, Clark played a vital role in establishing what is now Yosemite National Park.
In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln transferred the area of Yosemite Valley to the State of California for recreation and visitors so long as a guardian of the land was in effect.
While many were involved in the role, Clark was the popular and ever present guardian of the valley. Clark recognized what a treasure the area was and tried to open a hotel for visitors to stay, relax, and enjoy, as that area had become a popular stage coach stop.
Unfortunately, Clark was not as good of a businessman as he was a caring guardian. His mortgage was unsuccessful and he will forever be remembered as a hospitable and generous man to the visitors who passed through the valley.
He will always be known as the first protector of Yosemite. Prior to his death, Clark chose his burial spot and actually dug the grave himself. In 1910 he was buried near Yosemite Falls in what is now the Valley Cemetery which is a little over 20 miles from the Wawona Hotel.
Having lived 55 years after his first trip to Yosemite, maybe the mountain air was his saving grace after all.
In 1874, Clark sold the road-building area to the Washburn brothers.
The three brothers had moved to California from Vermont and in 1876, built a hotel they originally called the “Long White” or “Clark Cottage.”
The area was an instant success due to the Washburn brother’s hard work and determination to make the area a favorite spot for visitors as well as being located along a stagecoach stop. They formed a stage company in 1882 and created a toll road.
Access to relaxation in Yosemite had never been easier. In 1878, a fire destroyed much of the additional buildings, but “Long White” remained and became the standing historic building for the Wawona Hotel’s future. The main hotel building opened in 1879 and the manager’s residence in 1884.
Famous artist Thomas Hill had a studio building on the site which was completed in 1886. Hill was famous for his painting of the landscape of Yosemite.
By 1916, the hotel had grown from one building to seven and from 160 acres to over 4,000. The brothers welcomed hundreds of visitors a week which were now brought in by motor coaches instead of horses.
By the time private automobiles were accessible to most Americans, visitors often had to repair their vehicles after traveling on the rough stage roads to reach Wawona.
More construction on roads would be needed in the future. In 1932, Clarence Washburn sold his family’s share of the land to the National Park Service.
The longstanding history of the Washburns and the Valley was evident. Clarence’s first child, a daughter was born at the Wawona Hotel.
She was named Estella Florence Washburn, in honor of her two grandmothers, but from infancy to death, she was called “Wawona.” Yosemite Park and Curry Co. owned the hotel from 1932 to 1993 at which time Yosemite Concession Services began managing the hotel and welcoming guests.
The feel of the rural, Late Victorian era hotel built on the stagecoach stop is still prevalent today. Today’s buildings have a number of features in common with one another.
All buildings are of wood frame with painted exterior finishes. All buildings include porches or verandas, most with ornate woodwork.
Over the years, many upgrades have been added such as light fixtures, bathroom fixtures, and wallpaper. Many pieces of furniture are true to the original time period, but not necessarily original to the buildings themselves.
An addition to the north end of the main hotel building dates back to 1914, which contains a majority of the dining room and kitchen.
The lobby dates to 1917, when it was remodeled by the Washburns. The manager’s residence, completed in 1884, still contains the original four panel wood doors and hardware.
The Hill Studio, created as a painting studio and salesroom for the famed artist, has been used for many purposes since Hill’s death in 1908.
It has served as an ice cream parlor, a recreation room, and a dance hall. The fountain seen today in front of the main hotel lobby was constructed in 1918, but sits on the location of the first fountain which existed before 1899. The fountain is made of river cobbles, just as the entrance to the property is.
The Wawona Hotel property is listed on the National Register as important in the areas of art and local exploration and settlement.
Although the buildings themselves have not been made noteworthy compared with other National Park hotels, it is significant to note the wide range of styles used inside and outside the buildings that represent a time period from the 1870s through World War I.
Wawona is truly a location built by hardworking and determined citizens who appreciated the beauty and significance of the location in the great Yosemite Valley.