A few years ago, I flew into California and drove straight to Yosemite National Park. No stops along the way. My only goal was to get to the Park and spend my entire California vacation there. While Yosemite is incredible, I found out recently that I really missed out on what the entire area had to offer! On my recent trip to Tuolumne County, I discovered three things that you should not miss when visiting Yosemite National Park.
Pinecrest Lake can evoke wonderful feelings from past visitors and can make even the most forgetful of us reminisce on the good times spent there. Pinecrest lake has a friendly, small-town vibe which is why it’s a family-favorite destination for summer getaways, reunions, and more. This is definitely a place that you’ll want to visit when exploring Yosemite National Park!
You’ll find Pinecrest Lake along Highway 108 in the Stanislaus National Forest. Pinecrest Lake is known for its beauty and offers plenty of activities to satisfy even the pickiest visitor. Here you can enjoy hiking, boating, fishing, swimming or simply relaxing on the sandy beach.
- Boating- Bring your own or rent one at the Pinecrest Lake Marina. It’s typically open from 6 AM to 8 PM during the summer and 8 AM to 6 PM during spring and fall. You can rent aluminum fishing boats with outboard motors along with paddle boats, single kayaks and double kayaks. If you do decide to boat, just know that there is a 20 MPH speed limit on the lake with restrictions agaisnt water skiing and jet skis. This helps maintains the peaceful atmospher of Pinecrest Lake!
- Hiking- Hikers will love visiting this beautiful lake, too! The Pinecrest Lake Loop Trail goes 3.9 miles around the entire lake. It’s rated as easy so most, if not all, skill levels will be able to enjoy this trail.
- Fishing- Fishers also love Pinecrest Lake as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife regularly stock it with rainbow trout. Pinecrest Lake offers an accessible fishing pier and boat launch. Just be aware that while fishing is permitted on the lake, it’s not allowed from the marina docks, boat lauanch area or in the desingated swimming area.
- Swimming/ Beach Area– Speaking of swimming, Pinecrest lake has a swimming only area that is enclosed and marked by white buoys so it’s hard to miss. This was our favorite area as the beach next to it is sandy and a perfect spot to lay out or have a picnic!
Gold Rush Towns
History buffs, families, and all those looking to be entertained will love visiting Gold Rush towns near Yosemite National Park! These historic towns include Jamestown, Sonora, and Columbia. If you’re looking to experience the Old West, then you’ve got to add these to your California itinerary!
Jamestown– Jamestown is located right next to the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park and is the first historic town you’ll run into if you’re coming from the west. It’s also the first town where gold was discovered in Tuolumne County! I recommend taking the time to walk around Main Street in Jamestown where you’ll find plenty of cute shops along with a Walk of Fame. You’ll also find a store that offers free gold panning, a fun activity for the kids to enjoy!
Sonora- Sonora is a popular basecamp for your Gold Rush adventure because it is central and offers many lodging options. Some of my highlights of Sonora include the St. James Church at the top of the hill, all of the cute shops ranging from clothing boutiques to candy stores, and the nearby Indigeny Reserve where you can sample seasonal cider.
Columbia- Columbia is definitely popular due to the State Historic Park located within the city! Here you “can stroll along wooden sidewalks, ride an authentic stagecoach, pan for riches of gold and chat with knowledgeable and friendly townspeople dressed in period attire.” – Visit Tuolumne County. Our favorite things that we saw were the blacksmith shop (that’s still working) and the old-fashioned bowling alley. This is the most well-preserved Gold Rush town in the entire state of California so you’ll definitely want to add this to your itinerary!
While you can camp inside Yosemite National Park, why not elevate your California vacation by booking a stay at one of these unique lodging options in Tuolumne County!
Bradford Place Inn & Gardens– Bradford Place is right in the heart of downtown Sonora which makes this an ideal place to stay if you’d like to walk to the nearby restaurants, bars, and shops. This bed and breakfast has five, unique rooms to choose from, each featuring a Victorian room style. We stayed in the Yosemite Suite and have nothing but great things to say about it. Our favorite part was having our homemade waffles with a blueberry and peach crisp for breakfast on our private patio the next morning!
Evergreen Lodge– The Everygreen Lodge has over twenty different cabins that were originally built as housing for the workers building O’Shaughnessy Dam. But in 2015, they were revamped into luxury accommodations reminiscent of a summer camp. The cabins are beautiful and the views are spectacular! What’s great about the Evergreen Lodge is that you’ll never get bored here. They offer so many activities like swimming, zip-lining, smores in the evening, hiking, biking and so much more. This is a great family-friendly destination that is very close to one of the entrances of Yosemite National Park.
The Lazy Z Resort– The Lazy Z Resort is only minutes away from downtown Twain Harte and offers a mountain retreat that is fun for the entire family! They offer several different cabins, some that are newly renovated. What I loved about this resort was the privacy and seclusion you felt by having your own cabin in the woods. In the morning we sat out on our private deck and watched the forest come alive! We saw plenty of deer, squirrels, and birds that kept us all entertained. It’ll be hard to leave the resort as they have an amazing pool and hot tub next to the clubhouse.
While I hope you have a great time inside Yosemite National Park, don’t miss out on visiting these amazing spots in Tuolumne County!
This blog post is sponsored by Visit Tuolumne County. All opinions remain our own.