1. Cover’s Apple Ranch
Why go: Apples have grown here 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.
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 paddle boats, cabins or stay at a 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. The wood in the gorgeous amphitheater is reclaimed wood from the 2013 Rim Fire that burned portions of Yosemite and the surrounding area.
More info: www.visittuolumne.com/account/pinecrest
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: 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 the tasting room.
Tip: Bring a picnic to eat amid 160 acres of organic apple orchards and hiking trails.
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).