The postcard-pretty hamlet of Fish Camp, CA is located just two miles from Yosemite National Park’s South Gate in Mariposa County, making it the closest town to any entrance to Yosemite. Surrounded by the Sierra National Forest, Fish Camp offers lodging and activity options, from historic railroad tours to Sierra sledding hills, with four-season recreational appeal.
Today, Fish Camp is one of the recreational hubs of Mariposa County with a full realm of options in and around town as well as the perfect gateway to Yosemite National Park’s many attractions. Here are just a few highlights:
Fish Camp General Store
The Fish Camp General Store is a great place to stop for a few last-minute supplies.
Whether you’re staying in Fish Camp, or passing through on the way to the park, the Fish Camp General Store is a historical and well-provisioned outpost for groceries, beer and wine, souvenirs, and good conversation.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
Sequoiadendron giganteum, the Giant Sequoia is among the largest and oldest living things on earth. Located two miles from Fish Camp and tucked just inside Yosemite National Park’s South Gate, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is home to about 500 of these mature titans! The Grizzly Giant, the tallest and oldest tree in Yosemite National Park, is 209 feet tall and estimated to be 2,700 years old.
The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is home to many famous mature sequoias like the California Tunnel Tree.
Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad
The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad is a throwback excursion located off Highway 41 near Fish Camp in the Sierra National Forest. A pair of historic steam engine locomotives chug along the narrow gauge right-of-way of the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company. The on-site museum details the local logging legacy; open April – October.
The Shadow of the Giants Interpretive Trail is 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. The Nelder Grove is located south of Fish Camp on Highway 41 off Sky Ranch Road.
Find all kinds of great winter fun close to Fish Camp, including the Goat Meadow Snow Play Area.
The Goat Meadow Snow Play Area provides a classic snow play and sledding hill, located just off Highway 41 in the Sierra National Forest between Fish Camp and Yosemite National Park. Tubing, sledding, and snowshoe trails are here. Toboggan up!
Yosemite Trails Horseback Tours
Step (or maybe gallop) back in time with a horseback tour of Yosemite National Park that departs from Fish Camp, CA! Yosemite Trails Horseback Tours is a family-owned company that offers a number of horseback trail rides guided by a Yosemite cowboy that hit well-known Yosemite hotspots like Big Creek and the Grizzly Giant sequoias.
With its shady tree cover and fern grotto feel, the Lewis Creek Trail is located near Fish Camp and offers a two-for-one special when it comes to waterfalls. A few hundred feet from the turnout on Highway 41, the trail forks right (downstream) and drops .5 miles to Corlieu Falls. Going left (upstream) at the fork, the trail follows Lewis Creek to Red Rock Falls, a wider, more powerful cascade of 20 feet.
Video courtesy of Saltamonte on Youtube
Another option south of town is the trail to Jackson Hole and three granite-carved swimming holes. Just south of Tenaya Lodge, turn onto Jackson Road/Big Sandy (Road 6S67) and drive approximately two miles until you reach an abandoned fruit orchard and an old driveway. Follow the driveway past the metal gate to an abandoned cabin and you are at the trailhead for Jackson Hole/Lewis Fork Ditch.
The mostly-wooded trail travels approximately a half-mile to the lowest pool at Fish Camp Falls. To continue, you must follow a manageable yet unmaintained path creekside up to the next two granite-bowl swimming holes that go by the names of Arrowhead and Skinny Dip respectively. About 2.5 miles round-trip, not ideal for kids but perfect for the adventurous swimmer.
With the trailhead adjacent to Tenaya Lodge, the Tenaya Loop is a peaceful stroll through the seasonal wildflowers of the Sierra National Forest while being serenaded by the babbling of nearby Big Creek. Perfect for all ages and abilities, the hike is dog-friendly (on leash) and has some benches if you want to stop and smell the lupine.
Get a comprehensive tour of Yosemite from Yosemite 360 Tours, based at Tenaya at Yosemite in Fish Camp.
Based in Fish Camp at Tenaya at Yosemite, Yosemite 360 Tours offers guided excursions into the granite wonderland just up the road. See Yosemite National Park’s greatest hits – El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Tunnel View, Half Dome, and more – from comfortable van with all-glass ceiling and sides, creating unobstructed views of the park from every angle.
Last but definitely not least, Fish Camp is located at the doorstep to Yosemite National Park. It’s just out side Yosemite’’s South Gate and has easy access to the park’s 1,200 square miles of outdoor recreation with some of the most majestic scenery in the world. Fish Camp also puts you within walking distance from the world-famous Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias where hundreds of the world’s tallest and oldest living trees stand guard.
Walk amongst the giants in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.
Where to Stay in Fish Camp
Fish Camp’s proximity to Yosemite National Park makes it the ideal base camp for a Yosemite Mariposa vacation. True to its legacy of hospitality, Fish Camp today offers charming vacation rentals and Tenaya at Yosemite, one of the Sierra Nevada’s most fully-featured family resorts with a breadth of activities from hot tubs and swimming pools to snowshoeing and an archery range.
The beautiful resort property of Tenaya at Yosemite includes a stunning lodge with multiple swimming pools, and a full-service spa, as well as a collection of private Explorer Cabins.
Whether you’re staying or just passing through, the delicious restaurants in Fish Camp are worth a stop. Summer stays even include the possibility of dining out on Jackalopes Patio.
Stop and take a bite in Fish Camp at one of the town’s friendly local restaurants! Jackalope’s Bar and Grill at Tenaya at Yosemite is a terrific spot for delicious burgers and sandwiches, while Timberloft Pizzeria offers brick-oven pizzas ready for the whole family.
At the end of the day, Fish Camp is a charming place surrounded by gorgeous forests, fields and streams. When you consider Fish Camp is also the closest town to any Yosemite National Park gate, its appeal only grows deeper. Somehow this hidden gem is under the radar, for now.
Tucked away in a grove of mountain pines and seated just outside of Yosemite National Park, Fish Camp is a tiny mountain town that boasts dozens of activities nearby.
North of Oakhurst along State Highway 41, Mariposa and Madera counties play hopscotch as you approach Fish Camp, which is located in Mariposa County. The town, with elevation ranging from 4,900 to 5,300 feet, is nestled on the western slope of the central Sierra Nevada range. Big Creek burbles cold and clear through Fish Camp on its merry way to the Wild & Scenic Merced River, with many of the town’s vacation rentals set on this beautiful tributary.
Early on, the local Miwuk Nation used the area as a fishing and trading area (look for the rock grinding holes near the south end of the Big Creek Bridge). One theory is that Big Creek flowed strong enough to host salmon for a few months every year. Another was a large grove of California Black Oaks (“Teleli” to the Miwuk), providing an abundant supply of acorns, which were a dietary staple.
The construction of a highway into the southern entrance of Yosemite, today known as CA Highway 41, brought tourist traffic into the small logging community early in the 20th century and continues to today.
The second half of the 19th century introduced commercial ventures, including logging, apple orchards and nascent tourism-related activity. The rise of the town of Wawona and the road to Yosemite Valley spurred the development of a road through Fish Camp as well. The Madera Sugar Pine Logging Company worked the forest around Fish Camp, providing lumber for early construction in Yosemite and Central Valley cities. Sheepherders utilized local meadows created by the active local logging industry. Around this time, another of Fish Camp’s aliases came into view. “Happy Camp” was a forest clearing just south of present-day Fish Camp that developed into a “red lamp” district serving the loggers and mill workers of the Sugar Pine Mill.
Image Caption: The construction of a highway into the southern entrance of Yosemite, today known as CA Highway 41, brought tourist traffic into the small logging community early in the 20th century and continues to today.
Local logging was largely curtailed in 1893 with the designation of the Sierra Forest Reserve (now Sierra National Forest). Also in 1893, Fish Camp was briefly renamed when Summerdale Post Office opened. However, much of Summerdale burned in 1898 and when rebuilt was renamed as Fish Camp once again.
Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant in 1864, placing Yosemite under the protection of the state of California. An Act of Congress designated Yosemite National Park in October 1890, making it the third national park in the United States, after Yellowstone (1872) and Sequoia (1890). Travel to Yosemite swelled, and Fish Camp was directly in the path of many new travelers – a status it enjoys to this day.