Thursday, March 13, 2014

Swinging bridge, swimming holes, natural waterslide await Yosemite NP day hikers

Swinging Bridge Trail marked in yellow

Old-time fun
just a short hike
in Wawona

Day hikers can enjoy an old-fashion afternoon of fun at the swimming hole on the Swinging Bridge Trail in Yosemite National Park’s Wawona area.

The 1.5-mile round trip out-and-back trail described here is a segment of the Swinging Bridge Loop suggested by the National Park Service. That longer loop, however, largely sends hikers on paved roads for much of its 4.5-mile length.

Your kids (and you) will much more enjoy the shorter hike and the time it allows for the trail’s swinging bridge, swimming hole, and natural waterslide. Pack a picnic lunch as well to make a day of it.

Swinging bridge
To reach the trailhead, from Wawona Road (Calif. Hwy. 41), turn north onto Chilnualna Road (Watch the road signs as this street makes lots of turns and becomes Chilnualna Falls Road along the way) Shortly after you cross a bridge over Chilnualna Creek, the road angles through rental cabins. At its end is a small, dirt parking lot for a half-dozen or so cars.

Fairly flat and easy, the trail briefly heads east then swerves southeast toward the river as angling through a forest with some open space between the tree clumps. In spring through early summer, wildflowers abound.

In 0.75 miles, you’ll reach the river and the swinging bridge. You can have lots of fun trying to keep your balance on the bridge. It’s quite sturdy, though, so don’t worry about it falling into the slow-moving South Fork Merced River below.

After crossing the bridge, follow the trail northwest along the river to granite slabs and perfectly placid swimming holes (except during years following a winter of high snowfall). While the granite slabs nicely radiate heat on a sunny day, be prepared for the water to be cold no matter the time of year, as it flows from snowmelt out of mountains to the east.

Natural waterslide
The granite slabs here also are a great spot to sunbathe or to enjoy a picnic lunch. For the latter, you’ll have to bring your own picnic blanket as there are no tables here. Remember to pack out all trash.

A natural waterslide into another pool is upriver southwest of the bridge. Be sure to wet your swimsuit before heading down the slide, however, as the granite can rip holes in the material. In fact, you may not want to bring your best, most expensive swimsuit for this outing.

When ready to head home, cross the swinging bridge and backtrack the trail to your vehicle.

Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.