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Travel with Purpose in Yosemite Mariposa County

Yosemite Mariposa County naturally activates a generous dose of stewardship for the responsible traveler. Wandering in the shadow of Half Dome and El Capitan, biking the gentle roller coaster of oak-dappled Sierra foothills, and feeling the thunder of Yosemite Falls, visitors feel at once uplifted and protective of this citadel of conservation.

NPS Volunteers work with Black Oak trees in Yosemite Valley

Get an up-close understanding of Yosemite when you volunteer to work alongside park rangers and scientists to preserve natural spaces for generations to come.

The benefits of national park travel are many, flowing both to the traveler via experiences and to the local tourism economy through economic impact. When the travel destination is Yosemite and its gateway communities, these benefits are amplified in both directions.

In addition to respecting the environment, there are easy ways for visitors to maximize their stewardship. From hotel booking to dining and shopping, making mindful choices can drive dollars deeper into local communities. Here’s a brief guide to traveling with purpose in Yosemite Mariposa County.

Hotels: Book Direct to Support Local Businesses

It all starts with your hotel reservation. Is it better to book directly with a hotel? Absolutely. Without going into a travel distribution tutorial, it’s always better to “book direct” instead of using an “OTA” (online travel agency) such as Expedia or Travelocity (which take significant commissions for their transactions).

Yosemite.com’s Book>Direct is the best resource for local lodging availability by connecting travelers directly to the hotel owner’s reservation system. Booking this way puts more revenue in the hands of local ownership and avoids extra fees paid to the corporate OTAs. Begin your Book Direct search by selecting your preferred lodging category: hotels & motels, Airbnb, cabin rentals, bed & breakfast, or camping/campgrounds. You’ll be able to quickly filter by region, budget, and must-have amenities that zoom in on your ideal place to stay.

The historic River Rock Inn

Locally owned businesses abound in Yosemite Mariposa County. Avoid cookie-cutter experiences by staying at locally owned businesses.

Further, by selecting an independent, locally-owned and operated lodging option, you’ll keep more dollars within the local economy. Places like the historic River Rock Inn, tucked just off main street in the heart of downtown Mariposa next to its adorable onsite coffee shop, Sticks Coffee, are independent businesses that employ local workers. It’s steps away from shopping, dining, drinks and the YARTS bus, a great public transportation option into Yosemite National Park. The Yosemite View Lodge is another locally-owned property, the closest resort to Yosemite Valley just minutes from the Park’s Arch Rock entrance, with a dramatic setting on the Wild & Scenic Merced River.

Airbnb and VRBO properties are bountiful across Yosemite Mariposa County, providing private vacation home and cabin rentals to visitors – and supplemental income to local owners. Locations are available both inside and outside of Yosemite National Park. Inside, there are plenty of options in Yosemite West, Foresta and Wawona. The Loft at 1850 is an excellent outside-the-park example, a Mariposa vacation rental owned by the same family behind the popular 1850 Restaurant.

Dining and Shopping: Go Local

1850s Restaurant and Local Brewery

Stop in at 1850s Restaurant. You won’t get a better taste of local culture anywhere. Co-owner, Jake, grew up in Mariposa, and this family-run business has slowly expanded to include not only the restaurant, but a brewery and a small rental apartment,

Another way to support local businesses while visiting Yosemite Mariposa County is by opting for independent kitchens and merchants. This is another simple step, as the great majority of restaurants and shops are “mom and pop,” independent businesses.

Homegrown dining options abound, including 1850 Brewing Company – equal parts craft brew haven and farm-to-table find. 1850’s awesome, from-scratch omnivore menu complements its rotating taps of flagship and seasonal brews. Coulterville’s Coulter Café & General Store is a foodie oasis where visitors can enjoy chicken & waffles for brunch or grab a bottle of local wine for that Mariposa County picnic.

Ken Yager introduces a group to Yosemite Climbing History in the Yosemite Climbing Museum

Learn about Yosemite climbing history from local climbing ambassador, Ken Yager at the Yosemite Climbing Museum.

Locally-sourced gifts bring part of your travel experience home with you. Check out our guide to local shopping, created for holiday gift inspiration but equally useful all year-long. The local artisan game is strong, with players and places like Chocolate Soup, Nativearth Footwear, and gift shops at Mariposa Museum & History Center and Yosemite Climbing Association Museum & Gallery. Inside the Park, the Ansel Adams Gallery sells original and authentic works of art, with one of Yosemite’s best collections of books, maps, handicrafts and Native American jewelry.

Feeling extra-inspired to support the local economy? Many local shops have online stores, including old town Mariposa’s Brick Wall Boutique featuring a dedicated Made in Mariposa tab.

Sign for The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Valley.

The Ansel Adams Gallery, located in Yosemite Village, is still owned and operated by the Adams family. Here you’ll find Ansel Adams prints, rotating art exhibits, and many tasteful gift items.

Going Deeper with Purpose and Stewardship

Thinking differently about how we travel opens up new paradigms and real-world opportunities. The simple act of staying longer in one destination (“slow travel”) as opposed to the whistle-stop tour lessens your environmental footprint, keeps fuel bills lower and fully activates a “vacation state of mind.”

Voluntourism is another way to dive in, a work-play hybrid that gives back and enhances your connection to local places, people and culture. You’ll make tangible and positive impact, and return home with an everlasting place in your heart for Yosemite Mariposa County. Benefits in both directions!

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