From low elevation lakes to high elevation peaks. From the Sierra National Forest to the Stanislaus National Forest. Ziplining, skydiving, and white water rafting. Fishing and bird watching. Wine tasting and even olive oil sampling, Yosemite Mariposa County is the home to countless activities and the best things to do near Yosemite. We’ve taken the liberty of giving you 100 things to do in Mariposa County that don’t include Yosemite National Park to get you on your way to your own adventure.
There are some activities that you can find almost anywhere you are in Yosemite Mariposa County – taking advantage of this area’s access to the outdoors.
Starry Starry Night
Any cloudless night is the right night for stargazing in Mariposa County. Clear and dark, the mountain air is a reliable lens through which to relax and explore the universe.
All around Mariposa, the Sierra National Forest is your playground for hiking, fishing, and recreating.
Parks & Rec
Mariposa County offers beautiful parks and pools open to visitors. Grab something to nosh from a local market or restaurant and have a picnic!
Historic Marker Ahead
Check out this awesome website that maps Mariposa County’s historical markers, making for a scenic and informative road trip through the hills and dales.
Be a Rockhound
Study rocks and minerals at the California State Mining and Mineral Museum or in Mariposa County’s rock shops before setting out to discover them in the wild.
Find a Paddling Perspective
Whether you’re putting in for whitewater excitement along one of Mariposa County’s many rivers, or heading out for a sunset cruise on one of the serene lakes, getting out onto the water in a kayak or atop a SUP (Stand up Paddleboard) provides a fresh point of view.
Swing in a Hammock
Whether it’s in a hammock stand or strung between two trees, kick back in an hammock with a good book with the sounds of nature all around. If you’re looking for a good read, stop by the Mariposa County Library. The John Muir shelf is highly recommended.
Cool Your Heels by the River
Whether you’re wading in or just enjoying the music of the water as it tumbles by, spending an afternoon by one of Mariposa County’s many rivers or streams is a worthy delight. Here’s a guide to swimming in Mariposa County.
Indulge in a carefree refreshing dip at the end of the day. Look for hotel and vacation rental properties with a swimming pool for the ultimate convenience.
The northern portion of Mariposa County is home to trails for recreation at higher elevations, lakes for fun in the sun at lower elevations, and the historic towns of Coulterville, Greely Hill, and Buck Meadows. Museums, mine tours, and even spooky ghost tours will get you right in touch with the area’s gold-mining history that runs as deep as the mines that existed here over a hundred years ago.
Smith Peak Mountain Bike Trail
Propel yourself to a beautiful local summit on a fun 11.3-mile (18.2 km) mountain bike trail.
Rush to Riches
Immerse in California Gold Rush history at the Northern Mariposa County History Center in Coulterville, where the entire town is a registered historic district.
Exchequer Mountain Bike Park is a gem for any mountain biker.
Sierra Foodie Finds
On the hunt for the best small-town fare? There are some real gems in Yosemite Mariposa County. For example, the Coulter Cafe and General Store gets rave reviews for their delicious menu options and their great service.
Let’s just say over the years, a lot has gone down in Mariposa County. There’s an arc of history with a paranormal current coursing through it. Coulterville Gold & Ghost Tours explores this historic legacy with a spirited twist.
El Camino del Oro
Travel through Golden State history on Highway 49, the 300-mile-plus state route that runs through the heart of Mariposa County. Charming mining towns that still flash their 1850s charm dot the route, surrounded by the panoramic vistas and bubbling streams of the western Sierra Nevada foothills.
Swim Below a Waterfall
Take a short and relatively easy walk leads to a quiet pool below a waterfall and stop for a swim or simply enjoy the view at Dana Falls/Pools.
Merced River Recreation Management Area
Hike, raft, float, swim, camp, or just relax in the Merced River at the Merced River Recreation Area, one of the best outdoor things to do near Yosemite.
Dance through fields of plush purple, firecracker red and creamsicle orange on Hite Cove Trail, maybe the best wildflower walk in the region. This highlight-reel hike starts near the marker for Savages Trading Post, on State Highway 140, just past the Ferguson Bridge. Park along the road and look for the trail sign. A popular destination in spring, this trail follows the steep Merced River canyon while passing by nearly 50 varieties of wildflowers.
Fishing in the Merced River
Cast your line along the Merced River from El Portal to the South Fork.
Check out some of the retreats and other educational activities hosted in the area by NatureBridge.
Churn, Baby, Churn
Chutes, haystacks and sleepers. Smokers, boils and ledges. This is some of the lingo you might hear in spring as snowmelt plummets over the cliffs of Yosemite Valley and turns the Merced River into a whitewater rafting thrill ride as it leaves the Park and drops dramatically through the narrow canyons near the town of El Portal.
Spring Wildflower Bloom
Soak in the beautiful wildflower scenery in spring. This activity is great anywhere in the county but maybe the best in the Merced Canyon where California Poppies paint the slopes orange.
Upstairs at the Louvre
Park ranger turned plein air artist Faith Rumm’s Mariposa gallery displays her work and more at the former Louvre Hotel (yes, how appropriate!).
The Blond King
This roadside history marker tells the story of James D. Savage, a complicated character with an uncanny knack for being present at pivotal moments in California history. We won’t play spoiler, only to say that this is a marker well worth a look.
Take off Into the Wild Blue Yosemite
Take an aerial tour high above Mariposa County and Yosemite National Park with Airborn Aviation Services, based at the Mariposa-Yosemite Airport..
Gold Rush History Hunt
Dig into Mariposa County’s Gold Rush past with historical markers showing the way for a scenic and informative road trip through the county.
Jerseydale Pumpkin Patch
Celebrate fall with a visit to the Jerseydale Pumpkin Patch.
Bicycle in Sierra National Forest
Pedal the challenging roads heading into the mostly wilderness Park.
Looking for a hearty breakfast before hitting the Yosemite Mariposa County trails? Here’s your best guide to “hometown” restaurants.
Swirl, Sip, Savor
Start with 200 acres of granitic Sierra loam soil, add mountain spring water plus crystal-clear air, and fine wine is the natural result at Butterfly Creek Winery, a gorgeous mountain-side Mariposa vintner.
Great wine, art, and conversation is always available in abundance at Casto Oaks’ Tasting Room in historic Mariposa.
Visit Casto Oaks in Historic Mariposa to sample locally crafted wines while savoring the work of local artists.
Fishing The Sierra National Forest
Drop your line into 400 lakes across the Forest.
To Your Health
Stock up on the good stuff and grab a healthy sandwich to go at High Country Health Foods & Café in downtown Mariposa.
If you can find it, the Hideout Saloon is a great place for local color, drinks and karaoke.
Kemble Road Hike
Check out the Chowchilla River under the William Sell Bridge.
Carstens and Feliciana Mountain Road Hike
Breathe the fresh mountain air on a pretty good hike.
Historic Walking Tour
Grab a map at the Mariposa Visitors Bureau and take a self-guided historic tour to the many buildings featured on the National Register of Historic Places. Discover buildings from the mid-1800s as well as charming shops, restaurants, and other contemporary diversions.
The commanding stone building in downtown Mariposa is the old Mariposa County Jail (1858). Fun fact: despite its fortress-like look it was curiously escape-prone.
Butterflies and Bookworms
Check in at the Mariposa County Library’s main branch in Mariposa and read up on Yosemite history. The John Muir shelf is highly recommended.
Did you know Mariposa means butterfly? The town got its name for the monarchs that migrate to it each spring. Each year in May, the Butterfly Festival honors the occasion.
Mariposa Butterfly Festival
Did you know Mariposa means butterfly? The town is named for the monarchs that migrate here each spring. Each spring the Mariposa Butterfly Festival honors the founding flyers.
Local and Organic
Every Wednesday May to October, the Mariposa Farmers’ Market freshens things up with local food, organic produce and crafts on display.
Your classic local grocery and provisions depot in downtown Mariposa.
Here Come da Judge
Mariposa County Courthouse is California’s oldest, the stately building having served continuously as the seat of county government since 1854 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The “Best Little Museum of Its Size West of the Mississippi” according to the Smithsonian Institution, the Mariposa Museum & History Center has Gold Rush documents and displays, artwork, photos, and Native American crafts.
Mariposa Symphony Orchestra
Tune in to the soaring sound of the Mariposa Symphony Orchestra.
Mariposa County High School Drama Club
Witness Mariposa’s up and coming thespians at Mariposa County High School Drama Club productions.
Mariposa is home to three Museums including the California State Mining and Mineral Museum which honors not only Mariposa’s rich Gold Rush history but all of California’s
The California State Mining & Mineral Museum offers a golden glimpse into the state’s mineral bounty and mining history. On display: the Fricot “Nugget,” at 13.8 pounds, the largest remaining intact mass of crystalline gold from 19th century California.
Mariposa Event Center
Plan your special event at this lovely rental space, by the hour or all day.
Morningstar Lane Hike
Strut with peacocks on an easy hike on Mariposa’s Morningstar Lane.
Free Movie Nights
Experience your favorite films during Mariposa County’s summer Free Movie Nights.
Music on the Green
Relax with a free outdoor concert at the Mariposa Art Park every Friday and Saturday evening during the summer, hosted by the Mariposa County Arts Council.
Day use picnic areas are all along the Merced River and beyond. These sites generally offer tables, barbecue grills, and toilets, as well as paved parking areas, with many located riverside. Options include Indian Flat Picnic Site, Cranberry Flat and Mcclendon Beach.
Prospect Yosemite conducts tours where you can strike real gold. Should a nugget roll your way, you know what to say.
Get comfy with Nativearth, a local artisan shoe company that focuses on current styles as well as historical footwear. Your feet will appreciate your good taste.
Painting the Range of Light
A showcase for Yosemite paintings and fine gifts, Ridgeline Gallery & Gift is located on Highway 140 in Mariposa.
Costa Livos Mountain Gold Olive Oil
Sample local artisan olive oils at CostaLivos in downtown Mariposa before topping off the tasting with a homemade Italian dinner.
The Sierra Artists’ Gallery is a cooperative gallery featuring unique art and gifts from Mariposa County artisans, as well as from the surrounding Sierra foothill area and Yosemite National Park.
Cider House Rules
A Mariposa cidery in the heart of California gold country, Sierra Cider Farm crushes estate-grown heritage apples into varietal ciders like Farmhouse Style (tasting notes: English Bittersweets) or Early Harvest (honey and apple blossom, extra-sparkly and great with food).
Sierra Foothill Conservancy
Join one of the many outdoor events sponsored by the Sierra Foothill Conservancy.
Silver Fox Vineyards
Request a tour from the vintners at Silver Fox Vineyards.
The only skydiving center with amazing views of Yosemite National Park, Skydive Yosemite is located at the Mariposa-Yosemite Airport. Learn more about the founder of Skydive Yosemite in our video below.
Treat Yourself Well
The Wellness Nook offers massage, facials, waxing and more in downtown Mariposa.
Discover vibrant local and regional artists at the Treetop Gallery, curated by the Mariposa Arts Council and located upstairs from Chocolate Soup.
Get your ommm on with Balanced Rock, a hub for local yoga experiences ranging from day trips to full immersions.
Mariposa County encompasses a mighty range of Sierra topography and biodiversity. Alpine peaks transition to rolling foothills that flatten to grassy plains enabling nearly 300 species of birds to thrive here. The diversity of habitat attracts a teeming range of feathered mountaineers. Visit the Audubon Society to learn more.
Take it Higher
Experience the rich history of the mecca of rock climbing, Yosemite National Park, in Mariposa’s newest museum dedicated to the subject – the Yosemite Climbing Association Museum.
Tie One On
Create your own story of the one you hooked and released with Yosemite Outfitters, guides to the best fly fishing in Mariposa County.
Yosemite Family Adventures
Plan your own private, customized tour with Yosemite Family Adventures.
Yosemite Ziplines Adventure Ranch is a lot more than just zipping through the southern Sierra, take on the ropes course or pan for gold there as well.
Be a Zipline Hero
Make like a flying squirrel and fly through the Sierra Foothills with Yosemite Ziplines (closed for the 2021 season). The zipline ranch also offers an Aerial Adventure ropes course.
Volunteer with Mariposa Trails to rehab neglected or bring back forgotten hundred-year-old trails and receive an interesting history lesson as well! There are also snacks after the day’s work is done.
Hunt for Treasure
Yosemite Crystals is Mariposa’s one stop shop for local crystals, gold prospecting supplies, and gold tours.
Go Forest Bathing – Spa Style
Treat yourself to a relaxing massage followed by soaking baths including a soak in the hydrogen peroxide and UV hot tub at Yosemite Health Spa at the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort.
Self-Starters Work Harder
Originally a Mormon encampment just outside of present-day Mariposa, Mormon Bar became the largest Chinese community in Mariposa County with a hotel, blacksmith shop, and a vibrant merchant scene. Their work ethic was legendary in the face of widespread discrimination.
Go on an Antique Roadshow
Set off on a treasure hunt for a little piece of history that you can take home with you. Perhaps staying in historic lodging has whet your appetite for a few antiques of your own? Swing through the gorgeous antique shops in Mariposa to discover your own kind of gold.
Escape … Alive
Test your wits to see if your group can figure out how to get out of an “abandoned mine” escape room alive. A great activity for groups located right in the Visitor’s Center in downtown Mariposa.
Meander Down Mariposa Creek
Stroll or cycle through the town of Mariposa along the Mariposa Creek Parkway. This two-lane walking/biking trail starts at Creekside Nursery and passes many interesting shops and destinations before arriving at the Mariposa Arts Park.
Take the Triangle Tasting Tour
Discover the perfect trifecta of tasting tours! Highway 140/Downtown Mariposa, Triangle Road and Highway 49 lead you past a sumptuous sequence of craft breweries, wineries, coffee houses and unique eats. Don’t forgot to stop to sample locally produced olive oils, and hard ciders too.
For one of Mariposa County’s most epic lookouts, bike up to Signal Peak Tower at Devil’s Peak in the Sierra National Forest.
Goat Meadow Snow Play Area is a classic under-the-radar sledding hill, located just off Highway 41 in the Sierra National Forest between Fish Camp and Yosemite National Park. Tubing, sledding, and all-around snow play abound.
Each winter Tenaya Lodge opens up an ice skating rink on the property where you can learn to skate or perfect that triple-axel. Even better, there’s a firepit nearby. Roasting marshmallows and making s’ mores is encouraged!
Skate the Sierra
Glide across the ice at the open-air ice skating rink at Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite and learn to skate or perfect that triple-axel. Roasting marshmallows and making s’mores happens at the nearby fire pit.
Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite offers over-the-top activities including archery lessons, rock wall climbing, ropes courses and more.
Ride through snow and sand on unstoppable fat tire mountain bike rentals from Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite.
Tenaya Lodge-based Yosemite Tours offers guided excursions into the granite wonderland just up the road. See Yosemite National Park’s greatest hits from a Mercedes Sprinter Van with all-glass ceiling and sides, creating unobstructed views of the park from every angle.
Enjoy the breeze on an easy mountain bike ride through the forest along Tenmile Grade.
Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad is a throwback excursion located off Highway 41 near Fish Camp. A pair of historic steam engine locomotives chug along the narrow gauge right-of-way of the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company. The on-site museum details the local logging legacy; open April – October.
Hiking the Sierra National Forest
Get moving on the backpacking and hiking trails.
Sequoia Shadow Play
The Shadow of the Giants Interpretive Trail is a pleasant one-miler with a huge payoff: the Nelder Grove of Giant Sequoias. There are currently about 100 mature sequoias in the 1,540-acre grove including the massive, 246-ft. tall Bull Buck. The Nelder Grove and Nelder Grove campground is located about four miles north of Oakhurst on Highway 41 off Sky Ranch Road.
Settle in for a Soothing Spa Treatment
Nothing refreshes like a relaxing spa treatment or massage at Ascent Spa. Warm up in the sauna or steam room, then feel tension melting away with a massage, body therapies or a deluxe 90-minute pedicure. Located at Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite.
Glide Through a Winter Wonderland
Lightweight cross country skis are just the ticket for a fun winter day. Explore the snow-covered countryside and delight in a bit of slip-sliding merriment to boot.
Get the Hang of It
Keeping the local birds of prey company, the non-profit Mother Lode Sky Riders Association (MLSRA) promotes and stages hang gliding at Lake McClure.
Shift Your Gears
The local elevation gradient means that gravity is fully in play, and music to mountain bikers’ helmet ear holes. Ride the trail network at Exchequer Mountain Bike Park, with 700 acres of crunchy, chain-stretching joy overlooking the beautiful Lake McClure.
Reel in the Fish Stories
Reel in finned fighters at Lake McClure and Lake McSwain, Mariposa County’s twin fishing holes fed by the Wild & Scenic Merced River. Trout and salmon galore, bass, catfish, and more.
Swimming and Watersports at Lake McClure and Lake McSwain
Spend a fun day on the water at Lake McSwain. There’s everything from trout fishing to jet skiing and great lake-side camping.
Floatilla of Fun
Splash-n-Dash Aqua Park is an inflatable, on-water obstacle course located at Lake McSwain. Find the impressive array of inflatable challenges and on-water acrobatics by the lake’s day-use picnic area.
Barrett Cove Camping and Recreation Area provides everything you’ll need for a lakeside camping trip at Lake McClure.
Hornitos Day of the Dead
Celebrate a traditional Day of the Dead with the residents of Hornitos.
Hornitos Enchilada Dinner
Be part of a 70-year-old tradition at the annual Hornitos Enchilada Dinner held annually in March.
Hornitos Flea Market
Find treasures at the Hornitos Flea Market at the yearly gathering in October.
Best in Show
Among Mariposa County’s historical markers, the Catheys Valley marker is standout with multiple panels and a wealth of information displayed.
Tequila and Chocolate
Hornitos is a rough-and-tumble Gold Rush ghost town with the first Wells Fargo stagecoach office in the county. Legend has it that bandit hero Joaquin Murrieta built a tunnel from a local dance hall to his private horse stable to evade lawmen. Back in 1855, Domenico Ghirardelli built his first store here, before moving to San Francisco, and everlasting chocolate fame. Today there remain stone and brick buildings, some still whole, including the Plaza Bar.
Get Yer Old Time Religion
Visit a pair of historic churches of Mariposa County. In Hornitos, St. Catherine Catholic Church (1860s); in Mariposa, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church (1862).
Combine Art and Alpacas
Mona Jean creates beautiful felted and sculpted art using fur from her own herd of alpacas! Don’t miss out on this unique and vibrant artwork at Mona Jean’s Art Studio in Hornitos.
Take a hike around Indian Gulch, one of the first areas to be settled in Mariposa, and imagine how things were during the Gold Rush.
Wave to the Ghosts in Agua Fria
Once a bustling town center, in 1850 Agua Fria boasted a hotel, pool hall, bowling alley, two banks, and about a dozen stores and several houses of ill repute. Now, little remains to be seen of the mining town that became the first Seat of Justice of Mariposa County except a Historic Marker and a scattered foundations. But if you drive through on your way to Mariposa, tip your hat to the ghosts of this town so they don’t get lonely.
Swing by Catheys Valley Park
In addition to a fun playground for the kids to run around and a baseball/softball field, the Catheys Valley Park has a historic schoolhouse and a elegant stone monument built of Mariposite – a beautiful green-flecked rock that was first identified in Mariposa in 1868. This rock is and which is often found close to gold – indeed it even sometimes has tiny inclusions of gold in it.
Get to know the community of Foresta! This small neighborhood offers a bit of history, some incredible views and it’s very own waterfall in addition to a collection of conveniently located vacation rental cabins.
Embark on a journey to discover some of the small towns in Yosemite Mariposa County with big stories and plenty to see and do. Charm doesn’t begin to describe the unique historic buildings and friendly people you’ll find.
Fall foliage abounds in Yosemite Mariposa County. Take a look at where to find the best autumn color in the high country, at mid-elevations like Yosemite Valley, and in the rich rolling foothills of Yosemite’s gold country.