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Hiking Trails

Hike to the Wawona Swinging Bridge in Yosemite National Park

With fewer crowds than in Yosemite Valley, this walk through the forest to Wawona Swinging Bridge is quaint and quiet.

Stand on the Wawona Swinging Bridge to gently sway above the south fork of the Merced River in Yosemite National Park. This easy hike is open year round, but it’s most popular in summer, when the wildflowers pop and the waters are serene enough for wading and swimming. With little gain in elevation and only about a mile of walking, it’s worth the short trip for views of the river between the towering redwood, ponderosa pine and cedar trees.

How Do I Get to the Swinging Bridge in Wawona?

Wawona is located at the southern edge of Yosemite. It’s about an hour’s drive from Yosemite Valley toward the park’s South Entrance. The Wawona Swinging Bridge crosses the south fork of the Merced River, and the trail runs parallel to the river.

To get to the trailhead, you can travel two different routes. The first is by driving through South Wawona to the trailhead at the end of Forest Drive. There is a dirt lot that fits about 20 cars or so, and there is also a vault toilet. The second, slightly longer route starts at the end of Chilnualna Falls Road. This lot fits between five and 10 cars. Instead of following signs for Chilnualna Falls, take the trail to the right.

The Wawona Swinging Bridge
The Wawona Swinging Bridge (Photo: Flickr/IanCollins)

How Long is the Hike to the Wawona Swinging Bridge?

The walk from Forest Drive to the swinging bridge in Wawona is 0.75 miles round trip. The walk from the end of Chilnualna Falls Road to the swinging bridge is 1.4 miles round trip. Several wayfinding signs indicate the direction to the bridge. The trail is mostly flat through the forest, following the south fork of the Merced River. Once you reach the bridge, large boulders mark either end. Watch your step because these rocks can be slippery even when dry. The bridge is made of wooden slats and suspension cables, which you can hold on to. Only with excessive movement does the bridge actually swing. Otherwise, it only moves slightly as you cross.

To extend the hike into more of a half-day adventure, follow the park service’s recommendation. For a 4.8-mile loop that follows roads and dirt pathways, start at the Wawona store and Yosemite History Center and follow the paved Forest Drive for two miles to the Seventh Day Adventist Camp. From there, veer left onto a dirt road and continue a half-mile to swinging bridge. Once you cross the bridge, bear left onto the trail that eventually turns into a dirt road and then paved Chilnaulna Falls Road. Continue on this road back to the start.

How is the Wawona Swinging Bridge Different From the Yosemite Falls Swinging Bridge?

With two swinging bridges in Yosemite, it’s easy to get confused. But the swinging bridge at Yosemite Falls is more famous and therefore more crowded. Crossing the central fork of the Merced River, this more popular bridge is upstream from the lesser-known Wawona Swinging Bridge.

Can You Swim at the Wawona Swinging Bridge?

When the river is low in summer, this is a hotspot for wading and swimming. The riverbed is shallow and the water is gentle albeit cold, and several flat boulders in the water make for ideal sunning spots. However, always be cautious swimming in rivers. Adults and children should wear flotation devices and should not enter the water unless they feel safe to do so. Never jump from the swinging bridge, and never wade into the water when the river is rushing.

What Should I Bring on My Hike to the Wawona Swinging Bridge?

Even though this trail is mostly flat, sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots with good tread are recommended. Bring a small daypack with water, snacks, and your camera. If the water is low and you plan on swimming, pack swimming clothes, dry clothes, and a towel. Dogs are not allowed on this trail.