Small-Town California

History Meets Culture and Charm

A charmingly preserved Gold Rush town in Central Mariposa County surrounded by beautiful scenery, the town of Mariposa, California will have something to offer to every traveler. Take a scenic hike, go on a culture-filled museum tour, or try one of Mariposa County’s delicious small-town restaurants and breweries.

The town of Mariposa, first settled in 1849, is one of the southernmost of the Gold Rush towns. The streets follow the original street grid laid out by John C. Fremont in 1850. Several disastrous early fires convinced settlers to rebuild with stone, brick and adobe.

Consequently, many of today’s existing structures in the historic downtown area of Mariposa were built by the late 1850s, with most of the remaining ones completed by 1900. Because they have always been in use, the old buildings haven’t had to be restored or recreated.

From attending the local Butterfly Festival to exploring the museums and hiking trails of the town, find out what Mariposa, California has in store for you.

Things to Do in Mariposa, California

Trails at Stockton Creek Preserve above Mariposa, CA
Stockton Creek Preserve

It’s a quick step from the charming streets of the town of Mariposa into the Stockton Creek Preserve. This area, managed by the Sierra Foothill Conservancy, contains more than 5 miles (8 km) of rolling trails that meander across hillsides and along Stockton Creek for a quick dose of natural beauty. In early spring, you’ll find blooming wildflowers, and the colorful butterflies that give Mariposa its name. This trail more than earns the title of one of the best hikes in and around Yosemite.

Mariposa is also the best place to get a view of Yosemite from above. Way above. Skydive Yosemite operates out of the Mariposa Yosemite airport, and is unquestionably the most thrilling view of Yosemite. You get full 360 panoramas the moment you’re free of the plane on a tandem skydive. And if you would like to stay inside the plane, be sure to check out Airborrn Aviation Services for more flightseeing options.

Mariposa Hotel Inn in downtown Mariposa, CA
Mariposa Hotel Inn
Mariposa Lodging

As spectacular as the surroundings are, you can also find a great place to stay in the town of Mariposa. The hotels in Mariposa span the range from spacious accommodations at Miners Inn, through the reliable quality of the Best Western Plus Yosemite Way Station, to special stays at historic hotels located in Mariposa, like the Mariposa Hotel Inn or the River Rock Inn. You can’t beat the Mariposa Hotel Inn for an authentic historic western experience.

For a personal experience you won’t forget, try one of Mariposa’s welcoming Bed and Breakfasts, like the Restful Nest, or Yosemite Plaisance. Or choose the privacy of one of Mariposa’s many vacation rentals, like the Yosemite Mountaintop Retreat on 100 acres of private land with an outdoor pool and jacuzzi overlooking the mountains, or a cozy home away from home in town like The Loft at 1850.

Stamp Mill at the Mariposa Museum & History Center
Stamp Mill at the Mariposa Museum & History Center
Museums of Mariposa

Experience pioneer history in the exhibits at the Mariposa Museum and History Center , named one of the best small museums in America by the Smithsonian Institute.

Get a fascinating glimpse of California’s mineral wealth, colorful history and geologic diversity at the California State Mining and Mineral Museum. The State’s official collection contains over 13,000 gems, minerals, and mining artifacts, including the “Fricot Nugget,” a rare and beautiful 13.8-pound piece of crystalline gold found in the American River in 1864.

Or combine the amazing rocks of Yosemite Mariposa County with tales of pioneers of a different type at the Yosemite Climbing Association Museum & Gallery. The trailblazers of Yosemite rock climbing pioneered new routes into the vertical world of Yosemite’s steep granite walls.

Epic burgers at the 1850 Restaurant in Mariposa
1850 Restaurant
mariposa wineries
Mariposa Restaurants and Dining

In addition to history, Mariposa, CA is also rich in restaurants and dining opportunities, with many tasty options close by and easy to explore. Find local brews at Mariposa’s 1850 Restaurant along with gourmet burgers that are literally the talk of the town. Sit down to a celebratory meal at Charles Street Dinner House where you’ll find delectable fare in a comfortable and welcoming setting. Visit the Butterfly Creek Winery, the largest vineyard in the country, to sample locally made wines. Or get into the groove at the Grove House with live music, 16 craft beers on tap, and a rotating farm-to-table menu the whole family will love. 

Explore more Yosemite restaurants for the best places to eat in Mariposa County.

Mariposa, CA History and Landmarks

In your travels through Mariposa County, you might hear it referred to as the “Mother of Counties.” That’s not meant as a boast. When California was granted statehood in 1850, Mariposa County was by far the largest county, comprising about one-fifth of the state. (It was later subdivided into eleven additional counties.)

Today’s visitors to Mariposa will find many remnants from those early days, from preserved landmarks to obscure ruins – like the Old Stone Jail, a preserved jail built in 1858 that’s a perfect taste of the town’s Wild West history.

Feel the Old West as you stroll up the historic main street or take a tour of the 1854 Mariposa County Courthousecompleted in 1854, the Mariposa County Courthouse is the oldest superior courthouse west of the Mississippi and the oldest courthouse in continuous use west of the Rockies.

mariposa history and landmarks
Mariposa Courthouse
events in mariposa
Events in Mariposa

With Yosemite National Park in Mariposa’s backyard, tourism played a role as far back as the 1870s, though it didn’t really take off until automobile travel did too. Nowadays, about four million people visit Yosemite National Park each year. Over the years, the county has become host to a wide variety of popular annual festivals and events. Whichever month you arrive in, you’re bound to find something fun going on.