11 Awesome Stops for your Tuolumne County Road Trip

11 Awesome Stops for your Tuolumne County Road Trip

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Tuolumne County makes the PERFECT stopover on a highway journey from San Francisco to Yosemite.

Full of historical past and heritage, epic landscapes and plenty of simply accessible nature, Tuolumne County is a improbable highway journey vacation spot all by itself.

Nevertheless it additionally occurs to be the gateway to Yosemite: house to greater than half of the Nationwide Park – together with one of many major entrances. So it’s a terrific vacation spot to go to for a couple of days in your solution to discover Yosemite.

Tuolumne County might be divided into three major areas. First is Gold Rush Nation, filled with historic, Previous-West cities based throughout the well-known California Gold Rush. Subsequent, the mountainous Excessive Sierras – good for climbing and nature days – and eventually the Yosemite space.

Brief on time? There’s a brief overview of the highway journey itinerary and all of the stops on the very backside of the web page. In any other case, preserve studying for all the main points you could plan the right Tuolumne County Street Journey. Joyful travels…

READ MORE: 7 Causes to Go to Tuolumne County California

Why Go to Tuolumne County in your San Francisco to Yosemite Street Journey

Yosemite Nationwide Park has 5 entrances to select from, relying on the place you’re approaching from and the place you wish to go to.

Two of those are in Tuolumne County, together with the favored Huge Oak Flat Entrance on Freeway 120, which offers easy accessibility to the Yosemite Valley loop. So driving by way of Tuolumne County in your San Francisco to Yosemite highway journey simply is sensible!

Plus, greater than half of the Nationwide Park falls into Tuolumne County, together with many lesser-known areas. So it’s straightforward to flee the crowds and have a slice of nature all to your self. Learn extra in my submit about why it’s best to go to Tuolumne County.

large granite peak with a tall waterfall plummeting down one side and a small green forest in front under clear blue sky in Yosemite National Park
The Yosemite Valley Loop is in straightforward attain of Tuolumne County

4 Day Tuolumne County Street Journey

Beneath is my really helpful itinerary for driving by way of Tuolumne County on the best way to Yosemite. I like to recommend spending not less than two days in San Francisco first, since that’s such a cool metropolis (I’ll be publishing a separate information quickly).

Day 1 – San Francisco to Sonora
Day 2 – Discover Gold Nation: Jamestown, Columbia State Park and extra
Day 3 – Discover the Excessive Sierras: Pinecrest Lake and Stanislaus Nationwide Forest
Day 4 – Discover the Yosemite space: Groveland, Hetch Hetchy, and surrounds.
Day 5 – Drive into Yosemite Nationwide Park

Tuolumne County Street Journey: Gold Nation

Your Tuolumne County highway journey begins in Gold County. Uncover historic cities, Previous West structure, classic railroads, and extra….

Emily standing with her hands in her pockets in front of a wooden covered bridge with a US flag hanging from the top of it and trees on either side. Emily is wearing a long red dress and a blue denim waistcoat and has her long hair loose. Covered bridge at Indigeny Reserve in Tuolumne County California
Coated bridge at Indigeny Reserve (Cease 5)

1. Sonora

The biggest city in Tuolumne County, Sonora makes a terrific base for exploring Gold Nation. It was based in 1850 by miners who hailed from the Mexican state of Sonora and retains a lot of its Previous West allure.

The historic downtown space, specifically, is stuffed with lovely previous buildings just like the beautiful Pink Church (St. James Anglican Church). Inbuilt 1859, it’s one of many oldest within the state.

exterior of a red painted saloon in Sonora Califoria with a wooden awning over the sidewalk and pot plants in front. the wooden hanging sign reads "Servente, grocery, liquor since 1926 & Saloon."

Right now, many of those enticing previous buildings are house to impartial eating places, bars, and cute boutiques. For drinks, don’t miss the stylish new Sonora Brewing Firm for craft beers, or the historic Servente’s Saloon the place the ceiling is roofed in crumpled greenback payments (an previous mining custom).

I used to be additionally a giant fan of The Armory, a brilliant cool bar and restaurant with superb cocktails, nice meals (particularly the tacos), and a mixture of indoor and outside seating.

Prime tip: Sonora makes a terrific base for exploring the remainder of Gold Nation and the Excessive Sierras. You might spend 1-2 nights on the town and take day journeys to the locations talked about beneath.

2. Columbia State Historic Park

two historic white clapboard buildings on a street with several trees in front, the closest building says Columbia Gazette on the sign, under a clear blue sky at Columbia State Historic Park

For a extra historic aspect of Gold Nation, don’t miss a visit to Columbia State Historic Park. That is an precise city, relationship from the 1850s, which was declared a state park in 1945 and has been preserved as a sort of “dwelling museum”.

You may wander the streets to admire the historic structure, go to a working blacksmiths, and even strive your hand at panning for gold.

There are additionally a number of traditional-style retailers to discover, together with an old school candy store, a couple of garments retailers, and a pictures studio the place you’ll be able to have a photoshoot in interval costumes. I liked Ebler’s Leather-based & Saddlery Emporium, filled with cowboy boots and western apparel (I couldn’t resist selecting up a Pendleton denim waistcoat!).

emily walking across a road in front of a red brick single storey building with a white sign that says St Cjharles Saloon. Emily is wearing a long red dress and a blue denim waistcoat and has her long hair loose.

For “vittles”, head to St Charles Saloon – an authentic gold rush saloon with a beautiful beer backyard. Alongside drinks, they serve the most effective pizzas on the town (perhaps in all Tuolumne). And DON’T miss the tater tots, served with a aspect of  Beer Cheese Fondue.

3. Railtown 1897 State Historic Park

Emily sanding on the steps of a yellow Diesel engine leaning on one of the rails. Emily is wearing a long red dress and a blue denim waistcoat and has her long hair loose. At Railtown in Tuolumne County California

Calling all prepare and movie followers (and anybody who can’t resist a tacky picture op!). Don’t miss a visit to Railtown 1897 State Historic Park when you’re exploring Tuolumne!

This quirky state park is house to an enormous assortment of classic steam trains and previous railway buildings. 

It’s often known as “The Film Railroad” as a result of a whole bunch of flicks and TV exhibits have been filmed right here – most notably, Again to the Future 3 (one in all my all-time favourites)!

The park can be house to the Sierra Railway. Hop aboard a prepare pulled by a historic diesel locomotive for a 6-mile spherical journey by way of Gold Nation.

4. Jamestown

closeup of the front of the Jamestown Hotel, a brick building with a verandah on the ground floor and a wooden balcony on the top floor. Large white letters saying HOTEL are on the roof.

When you’re visiting Railtown, don’t skip Jamestown itself. Like Sonora, that is one other fantastically preserved Gold Rush city that’s filled with attractive previous buildings.

Strolling down the excessive avenue feels just a little like stepping again in time – or wandering by way of an Previous West film set! The historic Jamestown Resort, relationship from 1859, appears to be like just like the sort of place you may see the likes of Buffalo Invoice or Butch Cassidy wandering out of – though in actuality, the lodge was extra fashionable with Spanish miners.

There are many cute impartial retailers and vintage shops to discover alongside the excessive avenue – and don’t miss a visit to the Jamestown Frosty. This small retro diner is a neighborhood establishment, identified for its epic shakes and ice lotions.

5. Indigeny Reserve

orchard with rows of small apple trees. there is a forest behind and blue sky above.
cellar with 3 rows of wooden cider barrels on either side beneath an arched wooden roof.

One final must-visit cease when you’re exploring Tuolumne’s Gold Rush nation… make sure you swing by Indigeny Reserve.

This scenic, 160-acre protect is house to a improbable cider distillery. Go to for a tour of the distillery and the possibility to style the newest ciders (often with some nice names like “grannies gone wild”).

Make sure to consider time to calm down on the gorgeous grounds overlooking the orchard. There are some nice climbing and biking trails on the protect, too – and the picket lined bridge on the entrance makes a terrific picture op!

Tuolumne County Street Journey: Excessive Sierras

6. Pinecrest Lake

wooden jetty on a large flat lake with mountains and pine forest on the far side reflected in the lake under a clear blue sky - Pinecrest Lake in Tuolumne County California

This was one in all my favorite stops on our Tuolumne County highway journey. Surrounded by mountain peaks and pine forest, Pinecrest Lake is a dream vacation spot for climbing and water actions.

There’s a climbing path throughout the lake. It’s a comparatively flat and fairly straightforward stroll – and crosses the dam and the Stanislaus River en route for some attractive views.

Throughout summer season, you’ll be able to rent motorboats and kayaks to discover the lake. That is additionally a good way to achieve the far aspect, from the place you’ll be able to decide up one other nice climbing path: the hike to Cleo’s Tub.

view from the top of a large granite cliff of a large pine forest alongside a grey rocky peak under a clear blue sky
Climbing as much as Cleo’s Tub

This one is extra of a problem – following the river over uneven floor and thru the pines. The ultimate half mile includes scrambling over boulders and a few fairly steep climbs (comply with the blue arrows) – ultimately reaching a pure pool on the high of a waterfall. The views again throughout the forest to Pinecrest Lake from up listed here are insane – however it’s not for the faint-hearted!

7. Cowl’s Apple Ranch

slice of apple pie with the apple chunks spilling out between two scoops of white ice cream in a white china bowl

Swing by Cowl’s Apple Ranch for lunch in your approach again down from the Sierras. It’s a quaint little bakery and country-style restaurant on a working farm. They’re well-known for his or her apple pies – so that you HAVE to be sure you order not less than a slice – however all the opposite meals we tried was good too.

There’s additionally a small petting zoo the place you’ll be able to meet the livestock and feed the goats. Plus, there’s a cute little miniature railroad which youngsters (and young-at-heart adults) can trip for views of the ranch and orchards.

Tuolumne County Street Journey: Yosemite Space

8. Groveland

exterior of the Iron Door Saloon in Groveland, a large buildign with a mural showing a cowboy on a horse on a blue background. There is an empty street in front and blue sky above. Groveland high street in Tuolumne County California

Groveland is the primary “gateway city” for visiting Yosemite by way of the favored Huge Oak Flat Entrance. It’s one other historic Gold Rush city, centred round Predominant Avenue, the place you’ll discover a number of enticing buildings.

close up of two sticks of bread with a flight of mini beers behind and a bar out of focus behind that
Beer tasting at Across the Horn Brewing Firm

Groveland highlights:

Iron Door Saloon – The oldest regularly working saloon in California, relationship again to 1852.
Across the Horn Brewing Firm – An excellent microbrewery with a enjoyable vary of craft beers bought on faucet and in cans. You may create your individual flight to strive a couple of completely different ones – additionally they serve some tasty, seasonal dishes (I HIGHLY suggest the pretzel sticks – served with Round The Horn Beer Cheese).
Mountain Sage Espresso – An excellent cute little cafe with a beautiful backyard. Just a few others in my group headed right here for an early breakfast and had solely good issues to say about it.
Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum – For those who’re road-tripping to Yosemite, this little museum in Mary Laveroni Park is a must-visit. Be taught concerning the area’s indigenous peoples, the Gold Rush pioneers, and the event of the close by Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

Prime Tip: Groveland makes a terrific base for exploring the Yosemite Nationwide Park and the remainder of Tuolumne’s Yosemite space. You may spend 1-2 nights on the town (or close by) and take day journeys into the Nationwide Park or to the locations listed beneath.

9. Miller’s Off-Street Adventures

Emily standing leaning on a bright yellow jeep with pine forest behind and clewar blue sky above. She is wearing black leggings and a dark green jumper and has her hair in plaits.

When you’re in Groveland, don’t miss the superior off-roading expertise with Miller’s Off-Street Adventures. This was simply one of many highlights of my Tuolumne County highway journey!

Hop in a jeep and comply with your guides into the Stanislaus Nationwide Forest. Grime roads, tight S-bend curves, and unimaginable views – all miles from the crowds of Yosemite. You may additionally be fortunate sufficient to see some wildlife. We noticed a number of deer leaping away by way of the bushes.

For those who’re not sure about driving off-road, don’t fear: one in all Miller’s skilled drivers can take the wheel for you. I’m a fairly nervous driver, however I gave it a go – and completely LOVED it.

10. Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

large blue lake with grey rocky peaks on the far side and clear blue sky above.

Tuolumne County’s share of Yosemite Nationwide Park has many of those lesser-known (and due to this fact a lot quieter) areas. Among the many highlights is Hetch Hetchy Reservoir: an enormous, vivid-blue lake framed by dramatic granite peaks.

The views listed here are pure Yosemite – with a fraction of the crowds. Mountaineering trails lead across the lake to thundering waterfalls – or out into the broader Hetch Hetchy Valley to hidden meadows and lakes. Click on right here for a map.

Don’t miss the O’Shaughnessy Dam, added in 1923. Look over the sting to observe the water thundering out of the spillway (if it’s open).

Though controversial when it was first constructed, at this time the Reservoir is the first water supply for the San Francisco Bay Space (some 2.7 million residents). Two crops downstream additionally present hydroelectric energy.

After all, you’ll doubtless wish to discover the basic Yosemite Valley loop and see the well-known sights first. However I urge you to consider an additional day on your Yosemite highway journey to go to a few of these lesser-known spots.

11. Spa at Rush Creek Lodge

large rectangular hot tub set into the ground surroudnedby grey tiles with a rock wall ont he left where a mini waterfall runs into the hot tub. Beyond the tub is a view of pine forest on a sunny day with clear blue sky behind the trees.

Spherical off your time in Groveland with a visit to the unimaginable spa at Rush Creek Lodge.

This lovely mountain resort is only a five-minute drive from the Huge Oak Flat Entrance, so it could additionally make a terrific stop-off on the finish of a day exploring Yosemite (even higher – keep at Rush Creek for the best entry!).

interior of a spa with pine wood walls and cielings with a double bed hanging from the cieling on ropes. There is a light grey mattress on the bed. Spa at Rush Creek Lodge Tuolumne County California

The small-but-mighty spa is tucked into the again of the lodge overlooking the forest. So although you’re on a busy resort – it feels such as you’re in the course of nowhere! Services had been impressed by Yosemite’s nature: anticipate heat waterfall showers, aromatherapy Steam Room, Himalayan Salt Sauna and a cool mist room designed to mirror the mist on the base of Yosemite falls.

Outdoors, there’s a terrace with attractive forest views (wildlife sightings are usually not unusual), a big sizzling tub, and recliners – together with a dangling day mattress. Pop on a number of the complimentary under-eye masks, lay again, and RELAX!

The place to Keep in your Tuolumne County Street Journey


interior of the Sonora Inn lounge with whitewashed walls and dark wooden beams on the cieling. there is a grey sofa in the centre of the room and six framed photographs in a grid on the wall
The historic lounge at Sonora Inn

Sonora Inn – This cosy inn on Sonora’s charming excessive avenue was inbuilt 1896 – so it’s good if you wish to immerse your self in Gold Rush historical past. There are black and white photographs on the partitions, and the inn is rumoured to be haunted.

After I stayed on the Sonora Inn, the rooms had been at present being refurbished and nonetheless felt a bit drained in spots. However once they’re achieved, this needs to be a beautiful place to remain.


interior of a wooden lodge with large windows opening onto a view of a forest. There is a large black leather corner sofa in the lounge in front of a stone fireplace.
Lillaskog Lodge

Lillaskog Lodge – if you happen to’re a giant group, this attractive Swedish-style lodge a brief drive from Groveland may very well be good. It has 7 bedrooms, 7 bogs and beds for not less than 18 folks. Click on right here to observe my Reel for a full tour of the property.

Rush Creek Lodge and Spa – This needs to be among the best locations to remain en path to Yosemite (and even as a base for exploring the Nationwide Park). It’s proper on Freeway 120, a 5-minute drive from the Huge Oat Flat entrance. An enormous outside pool, a stunning spa, a improbable restaurant… what extra may you probably want?

Evergreen Lodge – Escape all of it at this attractive resort on the sting of Yosemite, with 88 spacious cabins scattered amongst the woodlands. There’s a pool, a comfy rec centre, an excellent restaurant and a historic 100-year-old tavern.

Tuolumne County Street Journey: The Fast Model

First day – Discover Gold Rush Nation (stops 1-5)Second day – Head into the Excessive Sierras for climbing and nature (stops 6 & 7)Third day – Discover Groveland and the quieter areas of Yosemite Nationwide Park (stops 8-11). Though this may be squeezed into someday, two can be higher.

Sonora – cute impartial retailers and eateries (a superb base for exploring the realm).
Columbia State Historic Park – old-west-style Gold Rush city preserved as a dwelling museum with actual retailers and streets.
Railtown – historic trains and railway buildings, plus a working steam railway.
Jamestown – fairly city filled with basic Gold Rush structure.
Indigeny Reserve – native cider makers.
Pinecrest Lake – boating, kayaking and climbing.
Cowl’s Apple Ranch – a terrific cease for lunch (don’t miss the apple pie!)
Groveland – historic Gold Rush city within the mountains, a terrific base for exploring Yosemite Nationwide Park.
Miller’s Off-Street Adventures – jeep excursions of the Stanislaus Nationwide Forest.
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir – pure Yosemite landscapes (with approach fewer crowds).
Rush Creek Lodge – unwind at this mountain resort’s beautiful spa.

READ MORE: 7 Causes to Go to Tuolumne County

Are you planning a highway journey by way of Tuolumne County? Scroll down to go away a remark if in case you have any questions – or any nice suggestions of your individual.

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