From the National Park to its host of spirited getaway towns, Yosemite Mariposa County offers expansive — but not expensive — recreation. The sheer size of the county is matched only by its abundant options for every budget. With a little creativity and local knowledge from the destination experts (yours truly!), you can make your sojourn shine with extreme value and priceless vacation memories.

Our new series on Yosemite Value Getaways kicks off with three days and two nights in Yosemite Mariposa wonderland for around $300, based on two travelers.

Highway 140 leading to Yosemite The hot tub at Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort
Day 1

Arrive, Acclimate, Recreate

Vacation value begins with beautifully budget-friendly places to stay, and the sweet spot for Yosemite value accommodations is just outside the National Park at one of the gateway communities along the Highway 140 corridor.

Campfires at Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort
Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort

A trio of inviting tent cabin options: Indian Flat Campground on Highway 140 near El Portal; the Mariposa Fairgrounds Campground just off Highway 49 near the town of Mariposa; and the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort in Midpines. Search Yosemite Mariposa County Places to Stay for more options.

Downtown Mariposa
Mariposa Photo: Jon Kwiakowski

Base Camp #1: Mariposa

Situated at 2,000 feet, this buzz-worthy Highway 49 gateway is the perfect hub for your Yosemite Mariposa County value adventure.

With check-in handled and car unpacked, it’s time to stretch your legs. If you’re staying in Mariposa, the Mariposa Creek Parkway is a righteously riparian walking path that runs parallel to Main Street and is practically a public garden for California native plants. Another free and easy option: head to the Stockton Creek Preserve for a 3.1-mile loop trail just over a mountain ridge from downtown. This 410-acre preserve is a magnet for many bird species as well as the Western Pond Turtle, the west coast’s only native freshwater turtle.

Gold Coin holds the Little Shop of Ramen and Local Grape
Little Shop of Ramen and the Local Grape

Dinner time! Located on main street Mariposa, Little Shop of Ramen at about $15 per person is the place to slurp and save, homemade all the way with bowls of local farm-to-table ingredients and house-toasted rye noodles, including vegan and gluten free options. Finish with a double-scoop of mochi ice cream for $4 and call it a win.

Friends eating at the June Bug Cafe
June Bug Cafe

Base Camp #2: Midpines

All-season Highway 140 climbs out of Mariposa to Midpines Summit (elev. 2,960), a historic mining country where many a 49er staked a claim. The highway then descends through the woods and meadows of Midpines on its way to the Merced River at Briceburg. From Briceburg, 140 follows the Merced Canyon to El Portal and Yosemite’s Arch Rock Entrance.

Midpines is all about free and easy outdoor recreation. Much of the area is Sierra National Forest or BLM land, laced with hiking trails and Forest Service roads. To refuel, try the June Bug Café, the casual cafe at the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort. The affordable, hip, and hearty menu (with vegan and vegetarian options) changes daily with house-made flair. The dessert case is a highlight reel of scrumptious cheesecake, seasonal pies, and other rotating delicacies.

Yosemite Falls below star trails
Yosemite Falls shines at night.

Finish off an amazing arrival day with a free star show. Stargazing in Mariposa County is out of this world! (Astro tip: bring binoculars!) Wrap yourselves in a cozy blanket and imagine you’re riding with Hans Solo though the Milky Way at hyperspace. Infinity and beyond.

Lodging for both nights: approx. $70/night, total $140
Dinner for 2: $45
Stargazing: Free

Lower Yosemite Fall Tunnel View first light
Day 2

Yosemite All-In

Today is Yosemite’s day to shine. Start with a kick-starter cup of local roast from Mariposa Coffee Company and house-baked muffins and biscuits from Jantz Café & Bakery in Mariposa. Next, save some serious cash and stop by a local grocery like Pioneer Market to stock up on trail snacks, drinks, deli sandwiches, and fresh fruit for al fresco lunch or meals later in the Park.

Vernal Fall on the Mist Trail
Vernal Fall (Mist Trail)

World-famous amusement parks try to forge a Sierra California vibe, but why splurge on a fake when you can have the real thing? Yosemite National Park, the OG, opens its gates to 1,170 square miles of titanic scenery and recreation for $35 per vehicle, good for seven consecutive days of Park adventures. Even deeper savings: take YARTS, where a seat on a comfortable, air-conditioned bus includes free Yosemite admission. YARTS provides service to most Mariposa County communities. A round-trip Mariposa to Yosemite Valley ticket is around $20.

With titanic granite scenery, thundering waterfalls, and forest fun, Yosemite National Park is a renowned recreational realm. Once you’re inside the Park’s gates, it’s all about breathtaking scenery and hiking, no extra charge!

The path to Bridalveil Fall is an excellent warm-up walk, find it on your right just after entering Yosemite Valley. Hit your stride with waterfalls-of-fame Yosemite Falls and Mist trails. Add the Mirror Lake Trail for pure Yosemite wild-blue yonderful.

Family biking in Yosemite Valley
Explore Yosemite Valley by bike

Cruising on a bike never felt better than after hiking a few miles, and Yosemite Conservancy’s free bike share program offers free wheels to “IYKYK” visitors, June to October. Year-round, bring your own bike and ride along 12 miles of paved bike paths in Yosemite Valley.

After a day with Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and El Cap, there’ll be plenty to talk about over dinner. Burgers, pizza, and Mexican are ever-popular, easy on the wallet, and Yosemite Mariposa County offers something sure to please every palette and price point.

Yosemite National Park Entrance (Seven-Day Pass): $35
Hiking and biking: Free
Meals: $75

Woman hiking along the Merced River The Merced River near El Portal
Day 3

Vacation Vibes

Squeezing every drop of your trip through checkout day is the true measure of a vacation bon vivant. Take full advantage of your gorgeous Sierra foothill geolocation before mapping the way home!

Merced River and sign
Follow the Merced River. Photo: Tony McDaniel

Head on over to High Country Health Foods & Cafe for homemade baked wonders, grab-and-go egg wraps, and organic breakfast smoothies. Just up the road, the Merced River Recreation Area beckons. Located near Midpines and just 12 miles from Mariposa along Highway 140, this foothills gem follows the Wild & Scenic Merced River with plenty of swim, raft, and hike options. Starting near Railroad Flat Campground, the Merced River Trail follows the flow with plenty of places to scramble down to the river for a dip.

Before turning towards home, throw a blanket out for a Mariposa County birdwatching picnic. Mariposa County’s rivers, rolling foothills, and grassy plains attract a teeming range of feathered mountaineers – 300-plus bird species, in fact. Mariposa County is part of the Pacific Flyway, streaming a constantly refreshing cast of migratory birds on parade. Though they are endearing and persuasive, please resist sharing food with furry and feathered picnic partners; Nature Rules, after all!

Meals: Breakfast: $45
Hiking, swimming, birdwatching: Free

Hwy 140 in El Portal
The river awaits your return.

Easy Riding

Is there anything quite as satisfying as heading home with an unforgettable weekend getaway under your belt and budget? Punch up the playlist, ease on down the road, and car karaoke to your good fortune. It’s easy to see why this is one of the top weekend getaways in California. From rugged Sierra peaks to free-flowing rivers, from glittering Gold Rush towns to amazing local finds, there are few better places to go all in – and go lightly on the wallet – than Yosemite Mariposa County.

Weekend Total: Under $400
Yosemite Mariposa Memories: Priceless

(Note: all prices are estimates and may vary)