Yosemite and the surround areas in the Sierra Foothills area of California is probably one of the most in-demand areas this summer. That's true for us as well since we're now planning a potential visit this summer. However, while it makes for a family vacation destination, it's also a fantastic area to visit for a guys trip too. We loved talking with Tony from Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism so much earlier this year that we asked him to follow-up with some advice specifically for guys planning a weekend getaway.
You came to the area fairly recently, what were some of the first things that surprised you about the area?
Answer: I always tell people that I moved here for a National Park and a job, but found so much more. Living in Mariposa County is the mountain experience that I always dreamed of. We’re a rural county and the people that live here are all very warm and welcoming. Everyone knows about the treasures of Yosemite National Park, but people are missing so much that’s just outside the gates in Mariposa County.
There’s just so much to do without ever setting foot in the park. Things like fishing at the low elevation lakes, McClure and McSwain. Relaxing along the wild and scenic Merced River. There’s great live music nearly nightly at places like the Grove House and Hideout Saloon. And of course there’s abundant outdoor recreation literally everywhere you turn – one of my favorite things about working here is how I end my work week. From the front door of our office to the trail head of some great hiking at the Stockton Creek Preserve in Mariposa is a five minute drive. You just can’t beat living here.
If you were inviting some of your friends to join you for an epic guys weekend and showing off your new home, what would that look like?
We’d kick off Friday night in the town of Mariposa and grab a quick dinner at Happy Burger Diner where there’s something for everyone on “the largest menu in the Sierra” before walking downtown for some great craft beer at The Grove House and to listen to some music on their gorgeous outdoor patio.
Saturday we’d be destined for Yosemite adventure starting with a short driving tour of Yosemite Valley to help get the lay of the land before getting out of the car and doing some hiking – Yosemite is really best experienced on foot. I’d have to take everyone on a hike up the Mist Trail. That trail always feels like you’re hiking through some place out of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. It’s pretty epic. After that the last stop of the day would have to be up at Glacier Point to take in the stunning sunset over Half Dome in Yosemite Valley. Wrap that up with a hearty dinner at the June Bug Café in Midpines and you’ve had a pretty full day!
For Sunday, we’d head to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias for a hike through one of the most magnificent groves of ancient trees in the world. Standing at the base of a sequoia and looking up at one of the largest living things on the planet is a sight to behold. After that there would still be time for a quick dip in the Merced River in Yosemite Valley where the river is calm, cool and relaxing. You’d really have to make it a three day weekend to feel like you’ve got your fill of the area, so Monday we’d dedicate the day to seeing things outside of the park and take a hike through Hite Cove along the Merced River. The cherry on top to a great weekend? Skydiving over Yosemite with Yosemite Skydive.
What are some of your favorite restaurants, breweries, and wineries that are "must visit" for a guys weekend getaway here?
For me 1850 Restaurant and Brewing Company is a can’t miss. They’ve been cranking out new batches of beer on a steady basis for years now and they’re doing great work. My personal favorite brew is “war paint”, a red IPA.
The food there is tremendous as well. Some of the best burgers I’ve ever had come out of 1850. They’ve got steaks, pasta, barbeque and pub food on the menu as well. Try the Finney Fries! For a hearty meal in a really cool setting Charles Street Dinner House is another most try. Prime Rib, Lobster, Salmon and all in HUGE portions. It’s one to make sure to try. For breakfast, you’ve really got to hit up Sugar Pine Café. Where everything – and I mean everything – is incredible. It’s also the only place I’ve ever eaten where I’ve seen a New York Steak listed as side option. If you’re like me and are fueled on coffee then Pony Expresso where they roast all of their beans on site.
For wine, Butterfly Creek and Casto Oaks are great options. Casto Oaks has a tasting room in Mariposa while Butterfly Creek’s winery is just out of town a bit and in a gorgeous location. For a dining experience, Costa Livos La Cuchina is really cool. You start off with an olive oil tasting. The olives are grown and pressed here in Mariposa County and they’ve got dozens of different flavors. Then your favorite Olive Oil becomes the dressing for your dinner salad that’s served prior to a home cooked Italian meal. The owner make’s his mother’s own recipes in the kitchen for everyone to enjoy.
California and the Sierra Foothills are synonymous with gold and mining history. What are some ways that guys could re-live the "Golden Days" as it were?
Gold Rush history is everywhere you look here. Abandoned mines are hidden along the roadsides. Highway 140 travels through the Merced River Canyon which was a mining hot bed in its day.
There are three museums in Mariposa County that make it easy to learn and get first-hand experience with that history. In the town of Mariposa there’s the Mariposa Museum and History Center which was named by the Smithsonian as the best small museum west of the Rockies. It’s indoor/outdoor setup allows for an abundance of artifacts to be seen. Also in Mariposa is the California Mining and Mineral Museum which is actually a California State Park that details the importance of the gold rush to California’s history.
In the northern reaches of the county is Coulterville which was a mining boom town that still exists today. The whole town is designated as a historic site and it’s main street feels a bit like a wild west set, just with modern cars driving down it. There you can visit the Northern Mariposa County History Center which also has a wealth of gold rush artifacts that focus on the town of Coulterville’s contribution to the era.
What are some of the best times to visit Yosemite?
Each season in Yosemite is different and they’re all special. Winter is great because Yosemite is open and allows for snowplay like skiing and snowboarding at Badger Pass, Cross Country Skiing on Glacier Point Road and snowshoeing basically wherever there’s snowpack. In the spring wildflowers start to pop all through the region and the waterfalls that Yosemite are known for are at their peak flow. Fall brings changing colors to the Valley and more opportunities to spot wildlife as well as possibly the best time to see the Yosemite High Country along Tioga Pass just before we get that first snow.
A lot of guys have seen Free Solo by now and said NO WAY NO HOW! For the braver guys though, what are some safe ways to try it out and see if maybe rock climbing is something they might be into?
I’m one of those guys that would never dream of doing something so extreme! But the good news is that the Yosemite Mountaineering School can safely teach you how to climb no matter what your skill level is. If scaling El Capitan isn’t something you’re ready for, there are granite walls all through the valley that are much friendlier to beginners.
With anything, know your skill level and take it slow, Alex Honnold wasn’t ready to free solo El Cap on day one and you most certainly wont be either.
For more information about visiting here, make sure to check out the Yosemite Mariposa County website.