Put yourself in the boots of a California ‘49er. Dipping your pan into that crystal clear swirl of High Sierra snowmelt all the livelong day, with nothing to show for your trouble except blisters and a bad mood. Finally, out of the sandy river bed grit tumbles a glittering golden nugget, free for the taking.
Now transport that joy of discovery to today. While golden ore may be running low, there’s still a bounty of valuable local treasure to be had. Yosemite Mariposa County is so much more than Tunnel View, so read on. Here are 10 free things to do in Mariposa County just to get you started. Eureka, indeed.
California gold rush legacy still runs through Mariposa County, a rambling, topographically diverse realm with history crackling through it like current through a wire. There are at least 80 historical markers in Mariposa County, making for an informative throwback road trip itinerary through the scenic hills and dales.
Is there anything better than a riverside picnic spread, really? Day use picnic areas are available all along the banks of the Merced River. These sites generally offer tables, barbecue grills, and toilets, as well as paved parking areas. A perfect trio of options is Indian Flat Picnic Site, Cranberry Flat and Mcclendon Beach ($10 day-use fee applies).
Set out across flower-carpeted hillsides in spring. This trail starts on Highway 140 and passes some of the most brilliant wildflower displays in the region on its way to Hites Cove.
No one can put a price on hillsides filled with gold – golden California poppies, that is. Take a walk on the Hite Cove Trail in spring to stake your claim. 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 just past the Ferguson Bridge on State Highway 140. A popular destination in spring, this trail follows the steep Merced River canyon while passing by nearly 50 varieties of wildflowers.
More charismatic superflora awaits via the Shadow of the Giants Interpretive Trail, 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. Access the Nelder Grove via the Nelder Grove campground, about four miles north of Oakhurst on Highway 41 off Sky Ranch Road.
You don’t need a million dollars to generate a million smiles on the sledding hill at Goat Meadow. Snow angels are also welcome.
Goat Meadow Snowplay Area is under the radar for many travelers rushing by its nondescript Highway 41 turnoff on the way to Yosemite National Park. But for those who take this road less traveled, there’s a great payoff: pure sled ecstasy. After any nice snow flurry, Goat Meadow becomes a hive for puffy-coat family fun. The sled hill starts at the edge of the parking area and drops into the clearing below, gentle yet angled at just the right pitch to deliver long runs and wild peals of joyful laughter. If it starts snowing during the day, remind your friends that snowflakes are Yosemite Mariposa’s winter butterflies because… butterflies are free!
The early photographer gets the shot this morning at Glacier Point.
There are few landscapes that beg to be photographed more than those in Yosemite Mariposa County. You’ll find people from around the world snapping photos on their phones, DSLRs, and even on hulking 10×12 large-format cameras. Wide-angle lenses stretch to take in the epic landscapes in Yosemite Valley and Hetch Hetchy, while telephoto lenses strain to pick out people rock climbing on El Capitan.
In addition to capturing precious moments with friends and family, for some people making meaningful images is a quest in and of itself. Being in the right place at the right time, waiting in breathless anticipation for Mother Nature to arrive and work her magic is a priceless experience – and totally free.
The free Yosemite Bike Share in Yosemite Valley offers a great way to get around and see the valley floor, including El Capitan, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls et al. Using the bike share is easy: download the Yosemite Bike Share app, unlock a bike and start pedaling! The Yosemite Conservancy and the National Park Service work together to run the bike-share program.
Yosemite Mariposa County covers more than 1,460 square miles of the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, rising from the edge of California’s Central Valley through golden foothills and all the way up to the alpine heights of Yosemite National Park.
If you’re wondering, “What is there to do in Yosemite besides hike?” then look no further. Plan your next trip to visit Yosemite with the free resources at Yosemite.com including where to stay, region by region guides, webcams, the official Yosemite Vacation Planner, and 100 Things to Do in Mariposa County.
Whether you’re looking for a peak challenge or just a few days to get away from the computer and relax and recharge, Yosemite Mariposa County has affordable and fun options for everyone.
Autumn in Yosemite Mariposa County is the season locals wait for all year for its fine weather and quiet forests. It’s a great time to get away to the mountains with the kids (or maybe just sneak off on your own!)
Choose to stay in historic hotels and lodging in Yosemite Mariposa County and experience this region’s legacy firsthand. Staying in these historic places makes you a part of their long-standing history, and adds a unique dimension to a visit to Yosemite Mariposa County.