Discover the top eight places to visit in Tuolumne County’s quaint towns from paddling around a mountain lake and visiting two amazing state parks to Gold Rush-era experiences.
1. Savor Sonora’s Flavors
Why go: Apples have grown at Cover’s Apple Ranch since 1929. Catering to families, the ranch has barnyard animals and a miniature train kids can ride.
Tip: Sip fresh-pressed cider and eat at the ranch’s deli where baked goods are hard to resist. Afterwards head to Inner Sanctum Cellars in Sonora for live music and wine tasting or catch a play at the Sierra Repertory Theatre.
2. Emigrant Wilderness
Why go: Hike in solitude at this 113,000-acre wilderness area bordered by Yosemite to the south. Filled with placid lakes and gorgeous scenery, you’ll feel like you have the Sierra all to yourself.
Tip: For a moderate trail, try the Crabtree Trail, an 8.7-mile out and back trail near Pinecrest that features a lake.
3. Columbia State Historic Park
Why go: See what life was like during the Gold Rush era when more than $1 billion was mined in the area between 1850-70s. Walk the streets to see a stagecoach loading passengers, browse the 1850s-era shops, dine at a restaurant, pan for gold or stay the night at one of two historic hotels.
Little-known fact: Scenes from the TV hit show Little House on the Prairie starring Michael Landon were filmed here during the show’s run 1974-83.
Why go: Rent a kayak, a pontoon boat, a cabin or stay at Pinecrest Lake Resort at this stunning lakeside area off Hwy. 108.
Tip: Watch a movie under the stars at the Pinecrest Theater on the lake that plays outdoor movies Memorial Day through Labor Day. It’s a gorgeous amphitheater made with reclaimed wood.
More info: www.visittuolumne.com/account/pinecrest-lake
Why go: Twenty-four miles from the Big Oak Flat Entrance, this historic town is fun to stroll. Listen to live music on the outdoor patio of the Groveland Hotel. It’s the largest town between the entrance and Sonora, Calif.
Tip: Stop by the Iron Door Saloon, the oldest continuously operating saloon in the state, which opened its doors in 1852.
More info: www.visittuolumne.com/groveland
Why go: This quaint town is a great place to stop for a meal or overnight, especially if you want to see Railtown 1897 State Historic Park where a number of Hollywood movies were filmed.
Tip: Afterwards, head to Bear Tent Brewing Co., browse shops like Tiny Birds Tiny Bees and Nest & Nook or head to Arthur Michaels Vineyard & Winery or Gianelli Vineyards’ tasting room five miles from downtown. Spend the night at the Jamestown Hotel, which is on Main Street. Recently remodeled with free Wi-Fi in every room, the hotel was built in 1919 and offers great customer service.
More info: www.visittuolumne.com/jamestown
7. Indigeny Reserve
Why go: Founded by Jay and Judy Watson who opened their doors to the public in 2012, the Watsons produce hard ciders, brandy and vodkas that you can sample in their sustainably built tasting room.
Tip: Bring a picnic to eat amid 160 acres of organic apple orchards and hiking trails.
8. Dodge Ridge Mountain Resort
This local ski area, formerly known as Dodge Ridge Ski Resort, is the closest one to the Bay area. You can avoid the traffic of Lake Tahoe as well as crowded lift lines when you ski or snowboard here. Opened in 1950, today there are 67 trails and 12 lifts. It’s located 30 miles east of Sonora, Calif., and near Pinecrest, Calif.
If you’re interested in snow tubing, head to Leland High Sierra Snowplay. It’s 39 miles east of Sonora, Calif., and sits at 6300 feet. You can take one of two tow lifts to the top of the hill before coasting down on your tube.
For More Information:
Stop by the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau, which operates two year-round and one seasonal visitor center. In Sonora, go to 542 W. Stockton St. (Hwy. 49). In Chinese Camp, go to 13785 Hwy. 49/120. In Groveland, visit 18687 Main St. (seasonal).