A Day in Mariposa, CA: Climbing, Glamping + Gold Rush Vibes on the Way to Yosemite
Autocamp Yosemite is reason enough to stay the night in Mariposa, California. (Courtesy of Autocamp)

A Day in Mariposa, CA: Climbing, Glamping + Gold Rush Vibes on the Way to Yosemite


Want in on a secret? Mariposa is experiencing a moment.

With a recently opened rock climbing museum, a hip new music venue serving craft cocktails, and gold-standard Airstream glamping, Mariposa is no longer a sleepy town to whiz past on your way to Yosemite.

A quintessential California Gold Rush town but with an edge, Mariposa is nestled in the oak-studded Sierra Foothills at about 2,000 feet elevation, a snow-free, three-hour drive from the Bay Area.

Autumn is the perfect time to visit after Yosemite’s summer crowds have left. The town is attracting younger residents who are committed to rejuvenating the historic main street while acknowledging the important role the town played in California Gold Rush history. Merchants such as Travis Medlock of the Local Grape(5021 CA-140) will pour you Sierra Foothills AVA barbera and zinfandel wines while enchanting you with the story behind the secret trap door in his wine bar in the Gold Coin, the oldest building in town.

The Gold Coin originally housed the office and personal safe of John C. Fremont. Fremont was an explorer and California’s first military governor in 1846. He purchased 44,000 acres from the Spanish and opened a mine after gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill. Legend has it that the trap door dropped into a tunnel that led directly to the nearby gold mine.

When you’re in the mood for a chill vibe, fall foliage, and community among friendly folks, spend a day exploring cute indie shops and sipping the local vintage in Mariposa.

Need a place to stay? Unleash your inner road warrior by sleeping in a vintage Airstream trailer at AutoCamp Yosemite(6323 CA-140) where glamping is taken to a whole new level. These trailers comfortably fit two adults and two small kids, and have a seating area and grill. And when you tire of the luxury linens, rain shower and Ursa Major toiletries, head to the pool or enjoy a craft beer at the on-site café.

Things to Do in Mariposa, CA

The Yosemite Climbing Museum.

(Courtesy of @becaawthewoodlandanimal)

Mariposa is rich with California history, boasting a Gold Rush history museum, a gem and mineral palace, and a new rock climbing museum. Visitors to the Yosemite Climbing Museum(5180 State Highway 140) will come away with a new appreciation for Yosemite as the birthplace of big wall climbing. The modern three-room gallery showcases various artifacts, gear and mementos, and a complete photographic history of climbing Yosemite’s renowned 3,000-foot granite walls. Photos of climbing royalty including Alex Honnold (his movie Free Solo won an Academy Award) and Lynn Hill, the first woman to free climb El Capitan, stand alongside the pioneers of earlier days. Yosemite’s big walls presented such a challenge to earlier climbers like Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia and 1% for the Planet, and Royal Robbins, that they had to manufacture their own pitons and climbing protection. Good thing Chouinard was a blacksmith!

The Smithsonian Institute called the Mariposa Museum and History Center(5119 Jessie St.) the “best little museum of its size west of the Mississippi.” Inside the museum are a one-room miner’s cabin and a railroad exhibit. The grounds outside the museum include a 5-stamp mill which is still operational, a Miwuk heritage center, and the Counts House containing original 19th century furnishings.

Where to Eat + Drink in Mariposa, CA

(Courtesy of The Alley)

If you can’t start the day without your oat milk pour-over and avocado toast, head to Tunnel View Coffee Co.(5009 5th St.). Glass-walled with bright, modern light fixtures, this is the place to gather in the morning. Plan your day while sitting at the high-bar community tables.

Slurp toasted rye noodles made in house at the Little Shop of Ramen(5021 CA-140), where owner Melissa Takahashi makes her broth from triple-stock soup. She uses farm-to-table mushrooms and eggs, and micro greens locally grown.

At day’s end, relax inside or out at the family- and dog-friendly Grove House(4993 5th St.). The industrial-chic place is where Yosemite’s international tourists meet locals who freely share details on the best hikes and swimming holes nearby. Grove House serves craft cocktails, beer on tap, and a rotating seasonal menu. Be sure to check their website for the calendar of live music and a songwriting retreat hosted each October.

After dinner, walk across the street to The Alley(5027 CA-140) for an impressive array of 16 beers on tap and a late-night snack of smoked salmon or artisan chorizo pizza.

Mariposa's Indie Shops + Galleries

The Gold Rush town of Mariposa, California.

(Courtesy of Yosemite.com)

You’ll be delighted to find high-quality and carefully curated home furnishings at Mae It Be Home(5026 CA-140). Proprietor Deanna Stickles has chosen hand-poured Roote candles, natural linens, and organic toiletries in a welcoming environment. She even has a mini-refrigerator stocked with seltzer water for thirsty customers.

Fremont House(5030 CA-140) carries a generous inventory of comfortably stylish walking shoes and hiking boots, in addition to a large selection of Pendleton blankets and clothing to ward off the crisp fall breezes.

Mariposa’s main street is loaded with galleries full of paintings and sculptures, many by local artists.Be sure to check out Susan’s silver jewelry at Lone Wolf(5029 CA-140). Susan is the youngest of 6 daughters. Her father started making jewelry as a cost-saving measure, and when he died, Susan inherited his tools and his flair for original design.

Near the town park at the south end of town is Chocolate Soup(5009 CA-140, Ste. 1), a unique gift shop highlighting locally made products and one-of-a-kind garden sculptures.

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