Today I want to share my California itinerary for Yosemite and Mammoth with you. These two destinations are great places to travel if you love nature and the outdoors. With stunning scenery, miles of hiking trails, beautiful mountain lakes, and eerie ghost towns, they’re worth a visit. I’ve partnered with Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau and Mammoth Lakes Tourism to go on a road trip from Yosemite to Mammoth, and today I want to share about it in this advertising feature.
Yosemite and Mammoth
I pick up a rental car at San Francisco International Airport and hit the road. It’s a 3-hour drive to Mariposa, the first stop on my itinerary.
When I arrive in Mariposa, I’m whisked back in time. This gold rush town near Yosemite National Park has nearly 200 years of history (and that’s a lot for California).
From the oldest operating courthouse west of the Rocky Mountains to the 19th-century Old Stone Jailhouse and the historic shopfronts, there’s a lot to take in.
I spend a couple hours walking around town to see the highlights. I stop at St Joseph’s Catholic Church to admire its 1860s Carpenter Gothic architecture before checking out the gold mining exhibits outside the Mariposa Museum & History Center.
I also pop into the shops on the main street in Mariposa. They’re full of everything from antiques to olive oil and locally-roasted coffee beans. They’re housed in some of the most historic buildings in town, too.
There’s even a famous hidden bar here called the Hideout Saloon. It’s a popular place with locals and visitors, and there’s often live music going on.
When I’m done exploring, I check into my room at the Mariposa Lodge. The hotel is in a great location in the heart of town, and it has everything from a swimming pool to little garden gazebos. My room is enormous, too.
After getting settled in, I walk over to Happy Burger to have dinner with my host from the Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau.
The restaurant is famous for having the largest menu in the Sierra. It’s also known for its quirky decor, vintage records, and classic diner atmosphere.
I tuck into a gigantic plate of nachos as my host tells me about the next day’s itinerary for my Yosemite and Mammoth road trip.
The next morning I meet him again at the Pony Expresso Coffee House, a fun little place with house-roasted coffee and quick breakfast options.
From there we head up to Yosemite National Park. The 45-minute drive is stunning, with beautiful scenery along the Merced River.
On the way I learn that entry to the park is now by reservation only from 6am to 4pm, and visitors need to pre-book before they travel.
When we arrive at the Arch Rock Entrance to the park, we show our reservation, pay the entry fee, and drive into Yosemite Valley.
We spend the day hitting the highlights. We start at the 19th-century Yosemite Valley Chapel, a pretty wooden number with beautiful views of Yosemite Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in the United States.
From the church we drive over to Curry Village and hike up the Mist Trail to Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall. It’s one of the best hikes in Yosemite, and it offers stunning views of the waterfalls on the way up.
After admiring the views from the top of Nevada Fall, we hike down the John Muir Trail, a lesser-trodden path with beautiful scenery through the trees.
When we finish the hike, we walk back to Curry Village to have pizza on the outdoor terrace. The food is delicious, and it feels good to eat it in the great outdoors.
After lunch we drive over to The Ahwahnee, Yosemite National Park’s most famous hotel.
Designed to highlight its natural surroundings, including Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and Glacier Point, this landmark property is known for its heritage interiors and stunning Arts and Crafts Movement architecture.
From the The Ahwahnee we head into Yosemite Village. We pass the Ansel Adams Gallery and explore the Indian Village of the Ahwahnee. It features reconstructed buildings and exhibits on the original human inhabitants of the area.
Leaving Yosemite Village, we make quick photo stops at El Capitan Meadow and Valley View before driving out to Yosemite View Lodge, my accommodation for the night.
Located just outside the Arch Rock Entrance, it’s the closest resort to the national park.
Yosemite View Lodge is right on the Merced River, and my waterfront room has a deck with beautiful views of the water. The property has walking paths for getting into nature, and a range of restaurants for dining.
I have dinner at the River Restaurant, where the food goes down a treat after a big day of exploring Yosemite.
Yosemite National Park
The next morning I leave Yosemite View Lodge after breakfast and drive back into Yosemite National Park.
This time I’m heading up to the Tioga Road, which many visitors miss. It’s worth venturing this way, though, as the views are stunning, the hiking trails plentiful, and the crowds few.
I make stops at Olmsted Point, Tenaya Lake, and other places to take in the views of Half Dome, Clouds Rest mountain, and other famous sites. It’s a stunning drive, it takes me all the way past Tuolumne Meadows and out the Tioga Entrance to the park.
Once outside, I’m on my way from Yosemite to Mammoth Lakes. Mammoth is famous for winter skiing and summer hiking, and it’s a great place to get outdoors. Tioga Pass is closed in winter, so it feels special to be driving this route while it’s open.
I stop for lunch at the Whoa Nellie Deli, a famous restaurant by a gas station near the corner of Tioga Road and Highway 395. It’s known for its fish tacos, and I tuck into a heaping plate as I take in the goods in the gift shop around me.
After lunch I continue my drive south to Mammoth Lakes. I’m surprised by how close it is to the national park, and how easy it is to do Yosemite and Mammoth in one trip.
Once in town, I check into my room at The Village Lodge at Mammoth. The lodge is beautiful, and it’s located right in the heart of everything. My room has a full kitchenette and living area, and a balcony overlooking restaurants, shops, and cafes.
Mammoth Lakes Tour
The next morning I head out early on a tour with MAWS Transportation, a company that offers tours and shuttle services to and from Mammoth Lakes along the Eastern Sierra corridor.
Our first stop is Mono Lake. Formed over 1 million years ago, this inland sea is one of the oldest lakes in North America (how’s that for history?).
Mono Lake is also known for its bird population, stunning scenery, alkaline water, and abundance of natural limestone formations known as tufas.
We take a walk along the water’s edge, admiring the beauty of the lake before hopping back in the shuttle for the drive through Lee Vining to Bodie.
Bodie is a famous ghost town in California, and it’s still remarkably intact. I came here on my last trip to the area, and seeing it was one of my favorite things to do in Mammoth.
Bodie was a 19th-century gold-mining town. Home to almost 10,000 people in the early 1880s, it was abandoned in the early 20th century and became a State Historic Park in 1962.
We spend an hour walking around Bodie to take in the sights. From historic buildings full of departing residents’ belongings to a graveyard, mill, and museum, there’s a lot to see here.
I can’t stop photographing the abandoned houses, shops, schools, and mining equipment. It’s fascinating.
June Lake Loop
Back in the car, we drive from Bodie to Lee Vining and stop for lunch at Whoa Nellie Deli. From there we head over to the June Lake Loop, a drive that leads past June Lake, Gull Lake, Silver Lake, and Grant Lake.
These places are popular for fishing, boating, swimming, and other waterfront activities in the summer. It’s fun to take in their shores and see the mountain scenery around them.
On the way back to The Village Lodge at Mammoth, we make a quick stop at Minaret Vista. We’re here to take in the panoramic views of the Minarets, jagged mountains that make up part of the Ritter Range.
Dinner in Mammoth
In the evening I have dinner with my host from Mammoth Lakes Tourism at Shelter Distilling. This distillery-and-restaurant in the village has contemporary design and a hip atmosphere.
We enjoy drinks and dinner in the indoor-outdoor space, and it’s a great way to end the day.
The next morning I leave The Village Lodge at Mammoth and meet my host for a big day of hiking and exploring.
We start with a shuttle ride from the Mammoth Mountain Main Lodge to Rainbow Falls, a 101-foot (31-meter) waterfall that’s part of Devils Postpile National Monument.
The shuttle drops us off at the trailhead, and from there we hike past the basalt columns that form the Devils Postpile before arriving at the falls. It’s a great hike, and a fun way to see Mammoth’s natural beauty on foot.
Lunch in Mammoth
At the end of the hike, we pick up the shuttle and ride it back to the Mammoth Mountain Main Lodge.
It’s a stone’s throw to our lunch spot, The Yodler. This alpine-style restaurant has a huge outdoor terrace where we enjoy a hearty mountain lunch with views of the ski resort.
Gondola Ride to Mammoth Mountain
Speaking of which, our next activity is to ride the gondola up to the top of Mammoth Mountain. The Panorama Gondola offers sweeping views of the Sierra as it whisks us up 11,053 feet (3,369 meters) to the peak.
Once at the summit, we walk around and take in views of the mountains and lakes around us. I skied in Mammoth on my last visit, and it’s amazing to see how different everything looks without snow.
There are mountain bikers all around us, and I stand in awe as I watch them heading down the steep trails.
Bike Ride in the Mammoth Lakes Basin
They’re not the only ones biking, either. Back at the lodge, we hop in the car and drive over to Main Street to rent e-bikes for a ride around the Mammoth Lakes Basin.
This area is rife with hiking trails, pine forests, mountains, wildflowers, cycle paths, and (as the name implies) lakes.
Our bikes power us up the hills and around countless shorelines. We start at Twin Lakes and make our way to Lake Mary, Lake George, and others.
The mountain scenery is beautiful, and I can’t believe how quick and easy it is to get around on the bike paths here.
Dinner at The Brasserie in Mammoth
Back in Mammoth Lakes, we head to dinner at The Brasserie. This restaurant is unconventionally located above a bowling alley, but as soon as we head upstairs we’re a million miles from strikes and spares.
We dine on the terrace overlooking the surrounding mountains. It’s the perfect atmosphere for enjoying everything from the restaurant’s signature elk medallions to fresh seafood.
The meal is a winner, and it’s a great parting gift before my drive back to the California coast.
Yosemite and Mammoth
The next morning I wake up early to check out of The Village Lodge at Mammoth and head off to San Francisco.
I’m treated to a spectacular pink sunrise over Mono Lake as I drive back to Yosemite and out to the Pacific Ocean. I break up the 5.5-hour drive with a couple short hikes in Yosemite National Park, including one to the Tuolumne Grove of giant sequoia trees.
It’s a great way to prolong my trip and delay its end. I’ve had such a good time getting to know my home state better, and I can’t wait to return someday and explore these areas more. I hope my Yosemite and Mammoth itinerary inspires you to do the same.
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