With the warm weather of the past couple of weeks hinting at spring, there is plenty of adventure not too far away.
Now is the perfect time to plan a weekend getaway or day trip to the ‘Gold Rush’ towns in Tuolumne County, home of Yosemite National Park.
Gold Country is less than three hours from big cities and the most direct route to Yosemite National Park, via Highway 49 and 120. 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, with some history of America’s space program offered as well. Guides use the latest tracking telescopes to tour guests around the night sky. The company also provides private tours and more information is available at http://www.yfaguides.com/stargazing-tours.html.
Negative ions from waterfalls are known to create positive feelings in people and Yosemite has the best. Consider a location away from the crowds called Rancheria Falls, a 13-mile hike revealing a series of cascades that zip through a narrow canyon for more than 1,000 feet of vertical drop before ending in the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. YosemiteHikes.com describes the series of falls similar to a long relationship, with not just one or two major breathtaking moments, but rather a series. Its low elevation makes visiting from February through May, when waterfalls are roaring, to be the best times, avoiding the popular summer tourist period. Information can be found at http://www.yosemitehikes.com/hetch-hetchy/rancheria-falls/rancheria-falls.html.
Tuolumne Meadows is home to more than two dozen ancient giant sequoia trees so old and tall, their canopies have their own ecosystem. They are located in Yosemite on the Tioga Road, and no cars are allowed. Find them at the end of a fresh air one-mile hike. Go to http://www.yosemitehikes.com/tioga-road/tuolumne-grove/trail-map.html to find out more.
Visitors leery of hikes and heights may fall back on the hospitality of Hotel Charlotte, located in the gateway community of Groveland, with historic one-of-a-kind rooms. Across the street, enjoy 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 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. Visitor centers in Chinese Camp and downtown Sonora 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. Visit www.yosemitegoldcountry.com, 542 Stockton St., Sonora or call: 800-446-1333 or 209-533-4420.
Gold was discovered in Tuolumne County in 1848, setting off the major gold rush of 1849. The main highways leading to the region 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. 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.