With its multi-verse of soaring rock & plunging water, Yosemite Mariposa County just hits different as one of the best vacation spots for young adults. That first time you feel it IRL all the senses come alive. From low-key hikes with cool waterfall mist on your face to Spidey-esque rock climbs and Gold Rush drip, your lead expedition is guaranteed to be iconic.
What’s even better? It doesn’t take serious cash to live your best life in Yosemite Mariposa County. Affordable lodging, good eats, and plenty of wide-open spaces to sit back with your fam, all in the most supremely Tik-Tok-worthy wonderland.
The Best Time to Visit
Affordable travel to Yosemite Mariposa County begins with affordable accommodations. Midweek or off-season visits mean next level savings as you shift into mountain mode with a lighter tap of Apple pay. Combine that with a Park entrance fee that’s a million miles from Disney and we’re talking 2 for 2 “” two days for $200 “” on a stunning main stage where so many unforgettable points are made.
If you plan on coming off-season, check out some of our favorite winter activities in Yosemite.
Where to Stay Near Yosemite on a Budget
The Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort flexes international with a range of sleeps from tent cabins to funky bunkhouses, not to mention wellness perks like soaking tubs to hot rock saunas. On site, the June Bug Cafe serves up well-curated grub like wild gulf shrimp in drunken noodles and smoked tempeh enchiladas, all in a lodge-centric setting where you can sip IPA and swap stories with co-travelers at the end of the day. Cruise up the hill to Yosemite National Park or down the hill to Mariposa and bet you’ll find yourself well-fed and well-centered.
For the blacktop buccaneers who are primed to ditch the office for the freedom of the open road, Indian Flat Campground and RV Park is the heart of the Merced River Canyon and its multitude of activities from swimming to trails & taprooms. Just 8 miles from the Arch Rock Entrance of Yosemite National Park, roll your rig to Half Dome at sunset and pose proud as shadows bring its towering face to life.
Explore the Gold Rush town of Mariposa where live music, fresh-roasted coffee and vintage thrift all come together. Tipping the brim of its buffalo hat as the best little villa outside Yosemite National Park, Mariposa rides the mountain breeze with affordable hotels such as the Quality Inn Yosemite Valley Gateway, the Yosemite Miners Inn and River Rock Inn. Spotify live with strumming six-strings at the Grove House, the Alley Lounge and the Hideout Saloon where roots run deep.
Camp 4 offers a great option for travelers who want to save a few bucks. From spring through fall you will need to register with a ranger before setting up your camp, but during off-season Camp 4 operates on a first-come, first-served basis for about $6 per person per night. The campsites are tent-only sites, so you won’t be able to park your van into a camping spot.
Budget-Friendly Things to Do
There are plenty of things to do in Yosemite that don’t require spending money at all. From hiking, to biking, and photographing the waterfalls, the opportunities are endless.
Rock Climbing & Other Outdoor Activities
Rock climbing in Yosemite Mariposa is pure adrenaline fuel. From easy warmups to some of the most iconic bouldering problems and climbs in the world, Yosemite Valley is a lifetime “must” for every climber. Just getting started? Every ascent of El Cap begins with the first pitch, and Yosemite Mountaineering School has the pro guides to get future Spideys face-to-face with granite. For those who are not into climbing, there are plenty of other outdoor activities you can do in Yosemite.
If you like to keep things low-key, then Fish Camp is the spot. Just two miles from Yosemite’s south entrance, it has access to some of the world’s biggest trees at Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and water that literally slaps as it plunges onto granite at Chilnualna Falls. Outside the Park, Sierra National Forest boasts a matrix of forest service roads primed for hiking or fat tires of any sort, be they car or bike.
Everybody knows the hard cider game is fresh ““ pun intended, and Sierra Cider Farm & Cidery offers that perfect upgrade to a Yosemite Mariposa County getaway. Sample in the orchard with libations such as Early Harvest and Kingston Black, all while learning the ropes from owners Dana & David. Their new shipping container tasting room hits just right, the perfect place to kick back with all the apples of your eye.
McSwain in the Membrane
Another splashy upgrade on your way to/from the mountain mecca of Yosemite Mariposa County is Lake McSwain and nearby Lake McClure. Stop by Splash n Dash Aqua Park for flips & giggles or go roughshod at Exchequer Mountain Bike Park perched steeply above its shores.
Additional Tips for Travelers
Shop Groceries at Village Store
The cheapest way to travel Yosemite is to buy food in bulk before your trip, or shop at Village Store, the main grocery store in Yosemite. It has a great selection of fresh food, ready-made meals, firewood, and camping supplies.
Millennials and Gen Z know how to save some cash on Yosemite Mariposa getaways by sharing the cost of a vacation rental. Wi-Fi? Chill deck with a BBQ? Hot tub? Groups can huddle up in one incredible abode while getting a feel for how the locals live. Vacation rentals range from cabins to entire houses, and are dipped and dotted throughout the county. It’s called ballin’ on a budget.
A More Rural Daily Bus Route
The journey is the destination in Yosemite Mariposa, and getting around takes many forms. Whether you hop in your ride, rent bikes and pedal along the Merced River in the Valley, or bomb down its many fire roads, there’s valid pedal power in Yosemite Mariposa County. Want the ultimate soundtrack? Slip on your AirPods and witness nature’s glory passing blissfully by while someone else does the driving. Check out one of the many options for Yosemite Tours. Public transportation takes many forms in Yosemite Mariposa from YARTS to the Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows shuttles.
To explore lodging options, things to do and places to eat, visit Yosemite.com, the #1 trip planning site for vacations to Yosemite National Park and historic Mariposa County. To stay up to date, follow @YosemiteNation on social media and subscribe to our newsletter, “The Wanderer”. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for great videos on the people and places of Yosemite Mariposa County.