After you’ve explored Pioneer Village, get back in the car and head down Forest Road (that’s where you turned to get into the General Store parking lot). Drive two miles until you see the parking lot for Swinging Bridge on your left, just past Camp Wawona. Cross the bridge (not too many at a time, it does swing slightly) and climb the granite boulders to the hiking trail. Easy to follow, the trail will meander through forest that at present is ablaze with wildflowers and out onto a dirt road. Follow the dirt road until it crosses the car bridge that spans the south fork of the Merced River. On the right, you will see Chilnualna Falls cascading down the mountainside; on the left, the Merced River at the full height of its power. To climb up for a closer view of the falls, head up the hill from the bridge and look to your right for the signs to Chilnualna Falls. The hike to the top is four miles, but walk in just the first quarter mile and you will be rewarded with an up-close and personal view of the lower falls.
Parent tip: Swinging Bridge is fun but we’ve found children feel best about crossing it when someone is holding their hand. Likewise, the lower portion of Chilnualna Falls is a fast, easy way for young children to experience a waterfall but the rocks can be slick. Hand-holding advised here too.