California history glitters all across the “Golden State,” but Mariposa County has something special in store. From the rich Gold Rush history & ever-present Western Cowboy cattle culture of old-town Mariposa and charming main streets of its satellite towns, Central Mariposa County offers time-travel treasure with a Wild & Scenic Merced River bonus.
See & Do
Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite is a destination of its own, located in Fish Camp just south of Yosemite National Park on Highway 41.
A fully loaded vault of landmarks and legends, the authentic legacy of the California Gold Rush runs like a vein of ore through charming small-town main streets in Mariposa (the county seat), Midpines, Bootjack and Briceburg, and Yosemite gateway towns El Portal and Fish Camp.
Authentic California history is present in the town of Mariposa’s splendid streets and structures, many among the oldest in California. The Schlageter building, Fremont Adobe, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, escape-prone Old Mariposa Jail and Mariposa Hotel Inn make the town a time-travel masterpiece. Don’t miss the stately Mariposa County Courthouse (the oldest courthouse in continuous operation west of the Mississippi and listed on the National Register of Historic Places), and the Mariposa Museum & History Center, a “Best Little Museum” according to the Smithsonian Institution, the California State Mineral & Mining Museum and the Yosemite Climbing Association Museum.
Small-town charm continues along Highway 140 with Midpines, Briceburg, El Portal, all set along the Wild & Scenic Merced River canyon with numerous turnouts and picnicking opportunities. Day use picnic areas such as Red Bud, Cranberry Flat, Indian Flat, McClendon Beach and Briceburg Put-In are all great choices. This area is also the county’s hub for whitewater rafting. In spring here, the Merced River turns into a churning whitewater playground where several rafting guides ply their trade.
Whitewater rafting on the Merced Wild and Scenic River in Central Mariposa County is the coolest game in town.
The Highway 41 hamlet of Fish Camp, two miles from Yosemite National Park’s South Gate and home to Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, is a hub for hiking, biking and a great pre-Park supply stop. Goat Meadow Snowplay Area is under the radar for many travelers – yet cherished by sled-heads who take its nondescript turnoff between Fish Camp and the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park.
Fish Camp is the county’s jumping off site to the Sierra National Forest where horseback riding, swimming, fishing and mountain biking are all activities that can be enjoyed. Yosemite Trails Horseback Adventures, which operates out of a high-country pack station, leads daily horseback riding tours into the Sierra National Forest and Yosemite National Park’s Giant Sequoias. For off-road enthusiasts, Jackson Road is a great way to get the tires of your 4×4 or mountain bike dirty and if that just wets the whistle of adventure for you, the Sierra National Forests spiderwebbing roads make for great exploration opportunities!