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5 Best Road Trips

California Gold Country Road Trip to Yosemite

Follow the golden road to and from Yosemite on this 453-mile adventure.

From rafting adventures to historic towns, this amazing California Gold Rush road trip to Yosemite starts in Sacramento. Explore cowboy culture, see giant buddhas and get up close to a giant gold nugget.

Ride the Sacramento River Fox Train before heading to Stockton where outdoor activities await. From there, head to the charming historic towns of Angels Camp and Murphys and the stunning Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Then, travel to historic towns like Sonora and Jamestown where you can experience a lively theater scene, two state parks and downtowns filled with great boutiques and coffee shops.

Near Sonora, you’ll find Columbia State Historic Park where 1850s-era shops, hotels and restaurants harken back to the Gold Rush era.

Then head through Yosemite’s Big Oak Flat Entrance where granite domes, sparkling waterfalls and incredible hikes await. Learn about what to do
in the park, plus discover three incredible stops along Tioga Road on the itinerary below.

After visiting the park, continue on to towns like Coulterville and Mariposa where artisan shops line historic downtowns and fun restaurants, a variety of hotels and exciting activities will be found.

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Route

  1. Start: Farm to Fork in Sacramento
  2. Culture Stop in Stockton
  3. Giant Gold Nugget and Sequoia Trees in Calaveras County
  4. OARS Wet and Wild Adventures
  5. Ride the Rails at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park
  6. Columbia State Historic Park
  7. Yosemite National Park
  8. Gold Rush Towns of Mariposa, Midpines and Coulterville
  9. End: Sacramento

Map

Start: Farm to Fork in Sacramento

Sacramento Bridge Dinner
Sacramento Bridge DinnerVisit Sacramento

Eat and drink your way through this northern California city that boasts more than 10 Michelin awards. Then explore lavishly restored luxury train cars and have dinner on a restored riverboat before embarking on your road trip.

Culture Stop in Stockton

Giant Buddha in Stockton's Cambodian Buddhist Temple
A family walks among a giant statues at Stockton’s Cambodian Buddhist TempleVisit Stockton

California sunshine, amazing food and diverse cultures make Stockton, Calif. a great destination for the whole family. Explore an amusement park, nature center, marina, art stash and giant jewel-encrusted statues.

Giant Gold Nugget and Sequoia Trees in Calaveras County

Gold nugget at Ironstone Heritage Museum
Gold nugget at Ironstone Heritage Museum (Photo: by Ben Davidson courtesy of Calaveras Visitors Bureau)

Two hours from Yosemite, you’ll find a sprinkling of charming historic towns, an astonishing grove of giant sequoias and the uncrowded California of which you’ve dreamed. Here are five reasons why you should stop in this gorgeous corner of California including a giant 44-lb nugget of gold.

OARS Wet and Wild Adventures

Rafting with OARS on the Merced River near Yosemite National Park
Rafting with OARS on the Merced River near Yosemite National Park (Photo: by Rapid Shooter courtesy of OARS)

Go on a 1-day rafting trip on the Merced River, or experience a 1- to 3-day rafting adventure on the Tuolumne River near the west edge of Yosemite National Park.

Ride the Rails at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park

Railtown Baldwin No. 28 Steam Engine Train
Railtown Baldwin No. 28 Steam Engine TrainPhoto by Linda Hogue courtesy Railtown 1897 State Historic Park

Climb aboard famous movie-star steam locomotives for a fascinating scenic tour and take a guided tour of the historic shops and roundhouse.

Columbia State Historic Park

Stagecoach at Columbia State Historic Park in Tuolumne County
Stagecoach at Columbia State Historic Park in Tuolumne County (: Photo by Menka Belgal courtesy of Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau)

Experience the Wild West as it was during the Gold Rush era, drink Sarsaparilla and take a stagecoach ride in this historic town that’s designated as a state park.

Yosemite National Park

Sunset at Olmsted Point in Yosemite
Sunset at Olmsted Point in YosemiteStephen Goldschmidt

Enter the park at the Highway 120 Entrance.

Pick Your Perfect Yosemite Activities – Climb, Raft, Bike, Ski, Hike
The ultimate guide to activities inside Yosemite National Park. Which ones have you tried?

5 Famous Viewpoints Close to the Road in Yosemite
Visitors to the park won’t want to miss any of these following heart-stopping vistas, all easily accessible from paved roads throughout the park.

Best 2-Day Eco-Friendly Yosemite Vacation Itinerary
Experience the best of Yosemite while traveling sustainably by eating locally grown food, staying at eco-friendly lodges and hiking on gorgeous trails.

Kena Peay cooks up buffalo chicken crunch wraps in Yosemite National Park.
Kena Peay cooks up buffalo chicken crunch wraps in Yosemite National Park. (Photo: Grant Ordelheide)

Trailside Chef Kena Peay
Kena Peay shows us that cooking in the outdoors can be easy and wonderfully gourmet.

Tour Yosemite Like a Local with Gypsy Guide
On your Yosemite adventure, listen to an entertaining guide in your car.

The Giving Trees
Don’t leave Yosemite without visiting the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.

The Living History of Yosemite’s Buffalo Soldiers
Yosemite ranger Shelton Johnson brings to life the stories of the Black soldiers who served as the park’s first rangers.

Exit the park out the South Entrance.

Gold Rush Towns of Mariposa, Midpines and Coulterville

Costalivos Mountain Gold Olive Oil sampling in Mariposa
Go olive oil sampling in Mariposa (Photo: Courtesy Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau)

Find the largest alpaca farm in the state, stay in a classic Airstream trailer, take a scenic flight over the park plus ten more things to do in this charming historic county.

End: Sacramento