Yosemite? Yes. Crowds? Not here. Experience Uncrowded Adventures on Highway 120, the Gateway to Yosemite
Zip Lining, Star and Planet Tours, Waterfalls and Hikes Highlight Activities in California’s High Sierra Gold Country in Less than Three Hours from San Francisco
SONORA, CALIF – While most people head for Yosemite’s Valley Floor to see the iconic granite backdrops, waterfalls and giant sequoia trees, there are several alternative options to discover parts of Yosemite in Tuolumne County (pronounced “Too-All-O-Me”) that are less crowded and just as awe-inspiring to visitors.
Yosemite Gold Country is less than three hours from big cities and the most direct route to Yosemite National Park from the San Francisco Bay Area, via Highway 49 and 120.
Want to focus on sightseeing and avoid driving entirely? Book a motor coach tour from Tuolumne County or take a Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) bus, and leave the driving and parking to the pros.
More than 4 million people will visit Yosemite National Park this year, but 95% of them will experience less than two square miles, and most people will never leave the pavement. Savor this incomparable landscape off the beaten path at these less well-known places in the park:
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir
Created by the 130-meter O’Shaughnessy Dam at the Tuolumne River, the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is a pristine body of water flanked by steep, granite rock faces. Walk the length of the dam to marvel at this impressive structure, then hit the trails to Wapama Falls or Rancheria Falls. Interesting fact: The reservoir provides much of the drinking water supply for the San Francisco Bay area, said to be among the cleanest in the U.S. Water released from Hetch Hetchy provides for a thrilling 29-kilometer rafting adventure on the Tuolumne River, downstream from the park.
Yosemite? Yes. Crowds? Not here.
A moderate, 21-kilometer roundtrip hike takes visitors from the O’Shaughnessy Dam, around the northern rim of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir to Rancheria Falls. A series of waterfalls drops more than 300 meters into the rippling reservoir below. A spring hike will reward visitors with roaring falls, blooming wildflowers and stunning views of snow-covered mountain peaks in the distance.
Wapama Falls is an awesome day hike with a big pay-off. From the trailhead at the O’Shaughnessy Dam, it’s an 8-kilometer round-trip hike to the 425-meter falls. In spring, the winter snowmelt makes for a thrilling experience. Visitors will be “misted” (or even soaked, depending on water levels) with crisp mountain water walking across the Falls Creek Bridge. Later in the season, when the water flow is lighter, hikers wander underneath the bridge to explore natural pools carved in the granite by the waterfalls. http://www.yosemitehikes.com/hetch-hetchy/rancheria-falls/rancheria-falls.htm
The Tuolumne River winds gently through this large subalpine meadow, surrounded by stately pines, craggy mountain peaks and impressive rock domes. During the warm months, a shuttle travels along Tioga Road for easy access to the meadow, and camping is available. People of all fitness levels will enjoy excellent hikes here.
Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias
The two dozen giant sequoias in this grove are so old and tall that their canopies create their own ecosystems. Due to the closure of Mariposa Grove for renovation, this is currently one of two open groves where you can see these majestic trees. Find them at the end of a lovely, fresh air one-mile hike. Visitors can’t resist having their photo taken standing inside the tunnel through the trunk of an old sequoia. http://www.yosemitehikes.com/tioga-road/tuolumne-grove/trail-map.htm
Vintage hospitality is found at Hotel Charlotte, located in the gateway community of Groveland, with historic one-of-a-kind rooms, beautifully restored and presented. www.hotelcharlotte.com. Onsite is their new and notable restaurant, Fork & Love, under the direction of chef-owner Aaron Haas, who believes that next to salt, the most important ingredient in any recipe is love. Across the street, experience the award-winning wine list at the Cellar Door at Groveland Hotel, where the food is paired with your selection from more than 600 labels from all over the world as well as local wines. The award-winning hotel has guest rooms and suites. www.groveland.com/dining
Once a stage coach stop in the late 1800s, Big Creek Meadow Guest Ranch in Groveland accommodates 10 people and is perfect for large families or groups of friends. http://yosemitegoldcountry.com/lodging/big-creek-meadow-guest-ranch/
The Yosemite area’s first new resort developed in 25 years, Rush Creek Lodge, puts visitors just one-half mile from the entrance to the park on Highway 120. No lodging is closer at any park entrance. The 143-guest room and villa lodge sits on 20 wooded acres, each room provides a High Sierra sunset view, and the resort offers a superb recreation concierge program for ways to explore the area and the pampering extras onsite. www.rushcreeklodge.com
At the All Seasons Groveland Inn, visitors have the choice of a room complete with a balcony and telescope in the aptly named Eagles Tower. Late afternoon wine and cheese gently shifts the day’s exploring into night options. http://www.allseasonsgrovelandinn.com/
Here, the sky is void of city light “bleed” and holds a million stars to wish upon. Yosemite Family Adventures offers a Starry Night Tour to experience the night sky around Yosemite and get personal with the craters of the moon, Orion Nebula, rings around Saturn and Milky Way. Guides use the latest tracking telescopes to tour guests around the night sky. http://www.yfaguides.com/stargazing-tours.html
Planning a Visit
The Yosemite Gold Country website can help plan a getaway any time of year. The website offers an e-visitors guide to download, or choose old school paper for mail delivery. http://yosemitegoldcountry.com Visitor centers in Chinese Camp, downtown Sonora and in Groveland can make same day lodging reservations and provide expert advice on local events such as live theatre, fairs and festivals, what’s new on the drinking and dining scene, and recommended spots throughout the county. www.yosemitegoldcountry.com, 542 Stockton Street, Sonora, CA, 209-533-4420.
Tuolumne County is less than three hours from international airports in San Francisco and Oakland and the most direct route to Yosemite from the San Francisco Bay Area. From Sacramento, the area is 90 minutes south. Private charter services create stress-free touring around the county, and the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) provides round-trip transportation into the park.
About Tuolumne County
Tuolumne (rhymes with “follow me”) County, located 133 miles/200 km east of San Francisco, is a pristine, scenic expanse reaching into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The main highways leading to the picturesque drive from the San Francisco and East Bay Area are Highways 108 and 120 from the west and Highway 49 from the north. The State Highway 120 entrance to Yosemite National Park is considered the “front door” of the park for the San Francisco Greater Bay Area. The Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park, and other surrounding areas provide natural vistas and settings for hiking, water skiing, horseback riding, rafting, camping, snowmobiling, boating, snow skiing, fishing and other outdoor activities. Seven restored historic hotels, four golf courses, numerous and varied dining establishments, historic saloons, five wineries and hard cider distillery, train rides, casino, seven museums, two state historic parks, five live theaters, and many bed-and-breakfast inns are among the many other attributes that make the county a year- round vacation destination. www.YosemiteGoldCountry.com
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Contact: Susan Wilson, Publicist, firstname.lastname@example.org, 480-824-3015
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