Only 15 Days Left for the BEST Yosemite Experience!
Updated: May 27
After the Rim Fire devastated our local economy in 2013, I started making a habit of visiting areas recovering from a fire, floods or some other disaster. I started doing this to help other communities recover from the economic strain of depressed tourism, but I keep doing it because it’s just a better, more authentic experience. I have repeatedly found more affordable accommodations, diversity of activities, empty trails, and incredible hospitality. I don’t know if this has a name, perhaps recovery tourism, but I highly recommend visiting areas after they have recovered and once it’s safe.
Right now, the Groveland region outside of Yosemite National Park would be a great place to start. We have had a long brutal winter that destroyed most of the roads in and out of the region. On June 10th, 2023, Yosemite National Park plans to reopen Highway 120 for easy access to Yosemite Valley. Once the gates are lifted, the usual summer traffic will begin, and you will be just another tourist enjoying unfettered access to Yosemite’s natural wonders. OR you could visit in the next 15 days for a relaxing, affordable, and authentic Yosemite experience with access to Yosemite’s natural wonders!
Will you have to drive an additional 45 minutes to the Arch Rock Entrance To enter the park? Yes.
Is the drive through historic Coulterville and along the Merced River exceptionally beautiful? Yes.
Is it worth it for the sweet deals on lodging, experiences, food, and retail? ABSOLUTELY!
Here are my personal recommendations as someone who is mildly obsessed with sustainable tourism and customer experience!
Hopefully, you have booked a two night stay at Evergreen Lodge or Rush Creek Lodge. These two resorts have everything you need to make the most of your time in the Sierra, including a pool, spa, onsite activities, recreation, entertainment, full-service restaurants, and more!
Book a guided adventure to Wapama Falls in the Hetch Hetchy Region of Yosemite National Park on your first full day. This incredible hike is just a stone’s throw from your resort, and you will enjoy tales of Hetch Hetchy's storied past while walking through the glaciated valley to the 1200-foot Wapama Falls! We offer this Historic Wapama Falls Hike or you can check out Lasting Adventures or Evergreen Lodge Recreation. You might be a bit pooped from this adventure, so it is a great excuse to get in some pool time that evening or schedule a massage at the Rush Creek Spa!
You will still want to drive or hike within Hetchy! The Lookout Trail starting from the Ranger's gate is a fantastic climb for birds-eye views of the Hetch Hetchy Valley without any other hikers. Make sure you fit in the Lucky Buck Cafe for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner - Trust us on this one!
You'll check out of the resort early and head over to Miller's Off Road Adventures for $20.00 off a 1/2 day off-road Jeep tour through the foothills of the Sierra! This adventure is so much fun and the views are incredible! Now you'll head over to the historic Groveland Hotel or one of our stunning AirBnbs around downtown Groveland for two more nights.
That evening you can book one of our evening activities like the Sierra Sunset Bbq and Stargazing Adventure, Family Fun Fly Fishing Adventure or a Historic Walk and Gold Panning Demonstration, or head over to the Priest Station Cafe for sweeping vistas of the Sierra foothills during an incredible dinner!
Enjoy a hike to Carlon Falls along Evergreen Road and stop at Tangled Hearts Bakery for brunch before heading to your accommodations in Groveland or Coulterville. Make sure to stop in Groveland, CA for a great day exploring our historic downtown!
First, pick an end of town to park and get coffee - On one end you have Top of the Trail Tea and Coffee and on the other end you have Mountain Sage Coffee. Stop at great shops like Iron Door General Store, Serendipity Antiques and Gifts, Breezeway Gifts and MotherLode Made for unique finds and local hospitality.
There are also so many deals and discounts for visitors staying at local hotels and Airbnbs like 10% off house made ice cream, gifts and souvenirs at The Grove Mercantile and 10% off at Brightfire Boutique and Spa! You can also stop by our Yosemite Basecamp and try your hand at gold panning before enjoying 20% off Patagonia, Simms, Fishpond and more! Don't miss the specials at Trail Less Traveled Bike and Gear and Ranch Revived Decor, just to name a few!
This is your day to enjoy Yosemite Valley! Wake up early and hit up Miner's Mart, the largest gas station in Big Oak Flat, for THE BEST to-go lunch menu before the drive through the historic gold rush town of Coulterville! We recommend stopping at the Coulter Cafe and the Coulterville Museum to break up the drive!
Once in Yosemite National Park aim for Yosemite Valley and see the famed half Dome, El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite Falls and all the other ephemeral falls! This is a once in a lifetime event. That evening grab dinner at Around the Horn Brewing Company and ask for a free 5oz taster of any of their award winning, locally brewed beers! Pssst, have you ever tried a beer slushy!
Book a sightseeing flight over Yosemite Valley with Yosemite Flights and then enjoy 10% off a massage or treatment at Brightfire Spa and Wellness - you earned it! After you massage pop next door for a sandwich and other goodies at Kevin & Randi's Old Fashioned Meat Market. At some point in there you should try a round of golf or go horseback riding at Pine Mountain Lake.
We know, we’re sad to see you go, but now you have your favorite Yosemite gateway to return to over and over again! Before you leave, stop at the Iron Door Saloon for breakfast! I personally recommend the breakfast burrito!
Elisabeth Barton is the cofounder and CEO of Echo Adventure Cooperative and has literally been obsessed with Yosemite National Park and making it accessible to any and all visitors since 2010! In addition to guiding sightseeing, hiking, and backpacking trips, she has managed operations for three Yosemite area guiding agencies and has worked with the Groveland Area Business Alliance, Groveland Area Partnership, Groveland Chamber of Commerce, Yosemite Gateway Partnership and Visit Tuolumne County to promote responsible and sustainable tourism. Elisabeth holds BS in Environmental Sociology & Political Science from Oklahoma State University and is currently working on an MBA through the University of California, Davis.