As much fun as San Francisco and Huntington Beach were, I love exploring new places, and so, this trip has a ‘part 2’ – Tuolumne County! The county in the Sierra Nevada region is one of the original counties in California, and it offers plenty to do.
Oh, and if you don’t have a car during your trip, don’t worry. You can totally survive without one!! Funny story… we booked this trip months ago and the plan was to rent a car from Avis so that we could drive the 3+ hours from San Francisco to Tuolumne County and Yosemite National Park. As we checked out of the hotel in San Francisco to head to Avis to pick up the car, it clicked that I did not bring my license. I don’t normally carry around my driver’s license because I never need to drive anywhere in NYC. My heart sank. My mind was frantically trying to find different options – maybe we can just drive without a license, maybe we can take a bus or train, or maybe someone in NYC can send us a copy of the license. We were desperate because we had 4 fun days planned and didn’t want to miss out! It turns out it’s illegal to drive without a license with you in the car – so don’t do it!! We ended up ordering a Uber, and surprisingly, it was pretty reasonable ($~180 USD)… especially given it’s a 3+ hour drive one way!
Once there, we were also worried about getting around, but it turns out there is a small network of local Uber drivers. We ended up getting the same driver most of the time.
There is also a bus called the Yarts, which takes you in and out of Yosemite National Park, among several other locations. And there is a free shuttle (Yosemite Valley Shuttle) in the park that takes you to the different hiking sites. It may take some research and planning, but public transportation is definitely not lacking in Tuolumne County and the surrounding areas.
Now that you know you will be able to get around, even without a license… here are our top recommendations for Tuolumne County:
Where to Stay
The Lazy Z Resort – The breathtaking mountain resort is the perfect place to stay. Whether you stay in a cabin or cottage, accommodations are super cozy. It’s not a fancy 5 star hotel but that’s not what it’s supposed to be – you are in the woods, it’s rustic; yet, it has all that you need to enjoy the great outdoors. Amenities include a clubhouse with fireplace and game room, and a stunning pool amidst the mountains and trees.
Glamping at Yosemite Pines RV Resort and Family Lodging – Although the Yosemite Pines RV Resort and Family Lodging offers a number of options including cabins and RV/tent sites, it’s their glamping options that standout, and not just because of the glamorous lifestyle, but due to the unique experience of being able to stay in their furnished wagons. The wagons accommodate four to six people and have a/c, heating, refrigerator, microwave, and more! How cool is it to stay in a Oregon Trail style wagon? Super Instagrammable too! Just note that the showers and toilets are located in a separate facility close to the wagon but still a trek if it’s cold or raining out.
Rush Creek Lodge – Another favourite place to stay, the Rush Creek Lodge provides a relaxed but more sophisticated and refined experience. We definitely did not expect to see such a luxurious resort in the middle of the forest. Rush Creek is beautiful and has an amazing spa and outdoor pool to match. Located only half mile away from the Hwy 20 West entrance of the Yosemite National Park, it is one of the closest hotels to the park entrance. All rooms, suites, and villas feature a deck overlooking the most perfect views. If you are looking for luxury at the end of a long day of hiking, this is the place for you!
Things To Do and Places To See
Columbia State Historic Park – This state park and National Historic Landmark District includes several buildings that were built during California Gold Rush. The town’s Gold Rush era business district also includes shops, restaurants and two hotels, allowing visitors a unique experience to imagine how life used to be in the 1850s. Columbia State Historic Park is super cute but be warned that it was swamping with a lot of kids! Nothing wrong with that, but if you are looking for something more quiet or relaxing, this is not for you.
Indigeny Reserve – This top tourist attraction is a 160 acre apple ranch on Summers Lane, and includes a tasting room, cidery, distillery, gift shop, picnic area, hiking trails and more. I love that co-founders Jay and Judy Watson purchased the orchards in 2005 to protect the property from development, especially since some of the apple trees there date back to the early 1900s. Now with 20,000 Granny Smiths (used in Indigeny’s crisp hard cider), 400 Red Rome and 7,000 Honeycrisps tress – they opened the Reserve to the public in 2012. Make sure you try all the different flavoured ciders!
Yosemite National Park – The breathtaking national park is an amazing place to go hiking. Some of the available hikes include Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Road, Hetch Hetchy, and Tuolumne Meadows. If you start the hike at Yosemite Valley, there are even a few shops and restaurants where you can pick up some snacks or last minute supplies for your hike. The park is well known for its waterfalls and giant sequoias, making it an amazing place to take amazing pictures. Keep in mind the start of most of the hiking trails are about an hour from the park’s gate, so make sure you plan your day accordingly (especially if you don’t have a car!)
Also, the founders of Mountain IQ have put together an incredible guide with the best hikes in Yosemite National Park – including the Half Dome Trail, Four Mile Trail, and more. Their guide gives you all the info you’ll need to plan your hike, including distance, level of difficulty, and best times to go. Click here to check out their guide.
Black Oak Casino – Offering an array of fun options for their guests, the Black Oak Casino can keep you busy for days! Not only does it offer gambling and shows, but also fine dining at the Seven Sisters restaurant, which serves Californian cuisine, local and regional wines.
And if you are looking for a quick break from the outdoors… and gambling, stop by the small town of Sonora and enjoy the super cute cafes. This is a great spot for some shopping!