As a hub for Yosemite Mariposa County recreation, Midpines possesses a restful, sunny vibe dappling through its canopy of conifers and infusing its canyon breezes. With deep Native American history, hardscrabble mining claims and quirky accommodations, this Sierra foothill oasis presents visitors with sublime choices and begs the question: what shall we do today?
A ten-minute drive from Mariposa along All-Season Highway 140, Midpines has everything from wildflower walks and whitewater rafting in spring, to year-round activities such as picnicking along the Merced River Canyon and exploring the vast network of roads in the Sierra National Forest. With its roadside country store and Yosemite National Park just 25 miles away, Midpines is a playfully rustic destination for a true California Gold Country getaway.
Call of Gold: Midpines History
“Many people, traveling through this domain, little realize the romance, tragedy, and comedy that has here taken place and the interesting places that still exist.”
– Newell D. Chamberlain, The Call of Gold
Over centuries the natural bounty of the Midpines area has played a vital role for the Southern Sierra Miwuk. The rich soil and numerous creeks have provided abundant plant life, from food staples such as acorns to medicinal herbs and wild mushrooms, as well as wildlife such as deer, coyote, black bears and mountain lions. With its nineteen historic village sites and numerous burial sites, Midpines’ connection to Native American culture has always been strong. The granddaughter of Chief Tenaya — Maria “Totuya” Lebrado (1840-1931) — called Midpines home. Her name means “Foaming Water” and she lived for years in a cabin along Bear Creek.
The discovery of gold in California (1849) had a significant impact on the Midpines area. For decades to follow, fortune seekers from across the globe flocked here to stake their claims with such colorful mine names as Nutmeg, Buffalo and Farmer’s Hope. The ramshackle towns that popped up were equally animated — Bonnet Garden, French Camp and Drunken Gulch to name a few. Some claims are still active and can be found on the Midpines map of historic and current mines.
Today’s outpost of Midpines was the brainchild of Newell D. Chamberlain (1880-1961) and came about with the construction of All-Season Highway 140 through the rugged Merced River Canyon. After buying 171 acres in the early 1920’s, Chamberlain was ahead of the game and opened Camp Midpines upon the highway’s completion in 1926. It was here that Chamberlain wrote Call of Gold: True Tales On The Gold Road To Yosemite based on newspaper accounts and pioneer interviews. He later became postmaster while hosting a new generation of car travelers on their way to the granite wonderland of Yosemite National Park.
Colorful Quarters: Midpines Lodging
Finding the right base camp is key to planning any Yosemite Mariposa County getaway, and Midpines couldn’t be more centrally located with its range of accommodations. Visitors are just 10 minutes from the historic Gold Rush town of Mariposa, and twenty-five miles to the Arch Rock Entrance of Yosemite National Park. The drive along Highway 140 is a delight unto itself as it winds and climbs with anticipation through the dramatic Merced River Canyon.
Leading the parade when it comes to wonderfully boho quarters, AutoCamp Yosemite is a shiny enclave of well-appointed Airstream trailers circled up in an upscale fashion so “campers” can have fun both on site and on the nearby trails. Complimentary AutoCamp experiences include on-site yoga, guided mediation and live music around the outdoor fire pit. Traveling with a furry co-pilot? AutoCamp welcomes well-behaved dogs!
For those visitors who like an international flair with lots of shut-eye options, the hits all the right notes. From its forested hillside location, the Bug as it’s affectionately known offers rooms ranging from hostel-type bunks to private cabins and even its own vacation homes. At the onsite June Bug Cafe, the food is tasty and the post-trail conversations lively with dishes such as house-smoked tri-tip and vegan mole enchiladas pairing perfectly with an IPA. For max wellness, the Yosemite Health Spa offers treatments such as cedar hot rocks sauna and aromatic soaking tubs to make your visit even more restful.
Midpines boasts over 30 vacation rentals set in beautiful terrain on country roads where mining claims once bustled. Ideal for families and groups of friends, Midpines vacation rentals provide a little extra room to relax and cook your favorite meals, with some properties featuring hot tubs, fireplaces, and EV charging stations. Gather here, ye of homey vibes!
For fans of Yosemite Mariposa County public transportation, there are three YARTS stops in Midpines: AutoCamp, Yosemite Bug and the Midpines Community Park. Let someone else do the driving and take in the views on your way up the hill to Yosemite!
Rivers & Roads: Things To Do In Midpines
When it comes to recreation, there are countless outdoor activities within proximity to Midpines. Spring welcomes two popular pastimes — Yosemite Mariposa County whitewater rafting and Yosemite Mariposa County wildflower walks. Based in Midpines, Zephyr Whitewater Expeditions drops with foamy gusto down the mighty Merced River navigating Class II to Class IV rapids with names such as Nightmare Alley, Stark Reality and Corner Pocket. One of the best wildflower hikes in the region can be found near Midpines – the Hite Cove Trail. This poppy-laden trek is perched above the South Fork of the Merced River and starts at Savage’s Trading Post along Highway 140.
With swimming, rafting, fishing and hiking all available in the same area, the protected Wild & Scenic Merced River in nearby Briceburg is an inside straight when it comes to outdoor recreation. The star of the show here — you guessed it, the river itself — transforms from a powerful cascade during spring snowmelt to an idling brook by late summer. Add to that the historic Briceburg Suspension Bridge and you have a postcard-pretty destination, with the fascinating saga of the Yosemite Valley Railroad imbuing the scene.
Picnicking is all about a bountiful blanket in Midpines. Playfully known as Yosemite Mariposa trailgating, there are numerous designated picnic areas such as Red Bud, Cranberry Flat, Indian Flat, McClendon Beach and Briceburg Put-In along the Merced River. All are stone-skipping distance from the current and feature picnic tables, drinking water and restrooms.
Surrounding Midpines is the network of OHV roads that make up the northwest corner of the Sierra National Forest. This ruggedly beautiful terrain offers mountain biking opportunities and has no services so be sure to be fully mapped (print) and bring your own food and water.
Just a ten-minute drive away from Midpines, the Gold Rush town of Mariposa is an essential place to explore during your stay. From fresh roast at one of its many coffee houses to live music at local saloons, from avocado toast in the morning to BBQ brisket for dinner, Mariposa has been voted #2 Best Small Town Culture in America by USA Today. Come enjoy the “big city” for a spell, then head back to your Midpines oasis for deep quiet and unobstructed Yosemite Mariposa stargazing.
Midpines: Fun Facts & Beguiling Branches
- For such a quiet outpost, Midpines has tons, yes, tons of PokeStops on Pokemon Go for kids and adults alike.
- The skill-building outdoor recreation program Outward Bound has Midpines as its base camp for courses in alpine backpacking, mountaineering and rock climbing.
- The Midpines Country Store & Gas is great place for quickie supplies and often has the cheapest gas in Mariposa County.