9 Best Things to Do in Mariposa County, California

Located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Mariposa County is a popular destination in Central California, known for its natural beauty, historic sites, and outdoor activities. 

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The county’s biggest draw is the iconic Yosemite National Park, one of the most popular parks in the United States. The park’s 747,956 acres (3,029 square km) feature towering mountains, gushing waterfalls, and huge meadows. With plenty of hiking, rock climbing, and guided tour options, the park is a vast playground for outdoor lovers. 

Outside the park, there are plenty of activities to keep you entertained with hikes, wineries, olive oil tastings, historical attractions, and much more! 

Our visit to the region was short but sweet and allowed us to get a good taste of the best things to do in Mariposa County, California! Before we get into the specifics of our visit and share our recommended things to do in Mariposa, California, let’s cover a few basic questions. 

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Best Time to Visit Mariposa County

It may sound cliche, but there really is no best time to visit Mariposa County. As we found out from our visit and our lengthy chats with locals, each season in Yosemite Mariposa region offers something unique. 

We chose to visit Mariposa County in the Spring, in the month of April. While we really lucked out with the weather during our visit, we can attest that visiting in the Spring comes with its share of pros and cons. So let’s go over the specifics.

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Spring (March to May): Sunny days, cooler evenings, flowing waterfalls and blossoming wildflowers are the highlights of visiting the Mariposa Yosemite region in the Spring. This is perfect time of the year for hiking and outdoor activities, with temperatures ranging between 60-70°F (15-20°C) during the day.  As we discovered, the downside of visiting in the Spring is that some parts of the park do not open until later in the season. 

Summer (June to August): Summer is the peak tourist season in Mariposa County, especially in Yosemite National Park. The weather is warm and sunny, with temperatures ranging from the 70°F to 90°F (20-30°C), making it ideal for outdoor activities like rafting and rock climbing. All roads and activities in the park should be open and operating in full swing. The downside of summer months is large crowds, higher prices, and limited availability of tours and hotels. 

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Admiring the gushing Yosemite Falls

Fall (September to November): Fall is a great time to visit Mariposa County and Yosemite due to lower temperatures, fewer crowds, and beautiful fall foliage that acts as a backdrop to the area. Temperatures range between 60-70°F (15-20°C), and crowds subside significantly after kids go back to school. Hiking and other outdoor activities are very enjoyable in the fall. It’s a particularly popular time for photographers to visit the park. The only downside of Fall, is that by September, most waterfalls in the park dry up.

Winter (December–February): Mariposa County is the least crowded and cheapest in winter. While many sections of the park remain closed throughout the winter, other activities in Mariposa County remain open. 

How to Get To Mariposa County

Mariposa County is located in central California and is easily accessible by car, bus, or plane.  

By plane: The closest airports to Mariposa County are Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT) (90-minute drive away), and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) (4-hour away). From the airport, you can rent a car or transfer to a bus station to connect to the town of Mariposa. The nearby Mariposa Yosemite Airport is, at this time, only offering charter service. 

By bus: Greyhound offers transportation from all major cities to Merced, where Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) offers connections to the town of Mariposa and throughout Mariposa County. If you decide to fly into Fresno Yosemite International Airport, YARTS also offers connections from the airport.  

By car: California Route 49, which connects to CA-140, then to CA-99, is the thoroughfare that connects the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas. The town of Mariposa is located 270 km (168 miles) east of San Francisco and 466 km (290 miles) from Los Angeles.     

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Charging our rented Tesla at Yosemite National Park

Best Things to Do in Mariposa County

Mariposa County may be famous for being one of the gateways to Yosemite National Park, but the region has so much more to offer. 

As sustainable travelers, we wanted to focus our trip on spreading our love and our money throughout the region. We spent time outdoors, visited small businesses, connected with locals and explored the region beyond the main sights and attractions. 

Here is what we got up to during our stay and what we would recommend as some of the best things to do in Mariposa County, California!

1. Explore Downtown Mariposa

The historic town of Mariposa is often considered the heart and soul of the region. Despite being the largest in the county, the town of Mariposa is home to just 1800 permanent residents. In the summer, however, the town swells with visitors and serves as a hub for activities in the region. 

Things to do in Mariposa, California

Pop into Mariposa County Visitor Center

Before you do anything else in the region, stop by the Mariposa County Visitor Center to get the inside scoop on the latest and greatest in the area. The staff will be able to answer any of your questions about the region, the park and recommend activities for your visit. 

We loved their recommendations and know that we would have never discovered these local gems if it wasn’t for them!

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Historic town of Mariposa

Visit Historic Sites in the Town of Mariposa 

Spend some time taking in the historical town’s charming atmosphere and well-preserved structures. Some of the buildings in the town of Mariposa go back to the Golden Rush era. Here are some particularly interesting spots not to miss.

Mariposa County Courthouse. Built in 1854, the Mariposa County Courthouse may look like just another government office, but this unassuming building is actually the oldest operating courthouse west of the Rocky Mountains in the U.S. 

The upper courtroom is open to visitors and features decor and furnishings from the 19th century. Inside, there are a number of historical artifacts and old maps showing county lines over the years. 

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Mariposa County Courthouse

Old Mariposa County Jail is another important piece of Mariposa history. The original jail was log-cut back in 1852, but burned down only a few years later. The Old Stone Jail that stands in its place today dates back to 1858. It’s surprisingly well-preserved. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to go inside the old jail, but history buffs will likely still appreciate a stop at this historic spot. 

Old Mariposa County Jail, Mariposa town
Old Mariposa County Jail

Visit a Mariposa Museum or two

We do not usually spend a lot of time in museums but recognize their cultural and historical value. Surprisingly, the small town of Mariposa is home to several historic museums. 

Mariposa Museum and History Center features exhibits ranging from Gold Rush to Miwok culture as well as activities including blacksmith shop tours and gold panning. 

Set up in 2019, by the Yosemite Climbing Association, the Yosemite Climbing Museum is the newest museum in town. It’s an interesting stop for rock climbers as it showcases the park’s climbing heritage and displays climbing artifacts, gear, images, and memorabilia. 

California State Mining & Mineral Museum highlights California’s mineral richness and Gold Rush. It has minerals, jewels, and more from the Sierra Nevada Foothills and its rich history. The museum houses Mariposa County’s biggest complete gold ore collection from the California Gold Rush. 

2. Go Shopping on Main Street 

If museums and historical sights are not your thing, don’t be discouraged. You can focus your time in historic downtown Mariposa on visiting shops and browsing for souvenirs and locally made artisan products. Much like the museums, the shops, cafes, and restaurants in the town of Mariposa are also located in historic buildings dating back to the California Gold Rush, so they, too are full of character and stories. 

Mariposa Marketplace was one of our favourites, with a huge selection of souvenirs, antiques, and locally made handicrafts. The shop has two floors full of goods from several different vendors, with plenty to browse. 

Shop line the Main St in Mariposa Town
Shop line the Main St in the town of Mariposa

3. Go Wine Tasting

Mariposa County is not well known for its wines, so we were surprised to learn about this growing wine region during our visit. We stumbled upon a few great spots in town where you can sample local wines right in the town of Mariposa. 

Located in historic downtown Mariposa, Casto Oaks Fine Wine and Art offers local wines produced at Casto Oaks Winery and showcases works from local artists. The wine growers run the tasting room and love to chat with visitors.

The Local Grape, located just across the street from Casto Oaks Fine Wine and Art, offers a variety of wines from the eight counties along the Sierra Foothills American Viticulture Area. Tasting flights of local red and white wines are on offer, and you can even pair your wine with some meals at the conjoining Little Shop of Ramen.

Located 15 minutes from downtown Mariposa, Butterfly Creek Winery is a family-owned and operated winery that has been nurturing their vineyards since the Gerken family arrived in Mariposa in 1972. The owners, Bob and Darlene, are full of stories and offer tours of the winery and an opportunity to taste some of their award-winning wines. 

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The Local Grape Wine Shop

4. Visit Sierra Cider

Located about 20 minutes from downtown Mariposa, Sierra Cider is an apple orchard and cidery focused on agritainment and sustainable farming. Owner-operators Dana and David, are quirky and fun. Despite being new to the industry, they have a real passion for the craft, managing nearly 800 apple trees of 19 different varieties and crafting great cider on-site. 

Tours and tastings are offered on the weekends and include a tour of the orchard followed by a cider tasting. We loved touring the orchard with David and his posse of goats, dogs, and a miniature pig, getting an inside scoop into the operation of the business and learning about the unique apple varieties on site. 

Sierra Cider turned out to be a great place to relax after visiting Yosemite National Park, with games, snacks, and a casual outdoor lounging area. Their tasting room is unlike anything you have seen before!

If you want an even more unique experience at Sierra Cider, consider spending a night in their Orchard Barn Loft, a private loft featuring a king bed, kitchen, and views of the orchard. 

Sierra Cider, Mariposa County
Sierra Cider, Mariposa County

5. Hike Hite Cove

Located 33 km (21 miles) east of the town of Mariposa, the Hite Cove trail follows the western banks of the South Fork of the Merced River and is particularly renowned for its spectacular wildflowers in the Spring. The trail begins near the historic town of El Portal and stretches for 9 miles round trip. 

What we loved the most about this trail is that it offered a “pick your own adventure” style hike. You can spend an entire afternoon on the trail or just a few hours, as we did. 

During our visit in April, we found the wildflowers to be the most vibrant along the first 3 km of the trail. Don’t worry if you miss the blooming season; regardless, this is a beautiful hike. The trail takes you through the canyon of the south fork of the Merced River, and down to the river about 2.5 km into the hike. 

It’s worth noting that there are no toilets or other amenities along the trail, although there are toilets at the trailhead. Be sure to bring plenty of water for your hike, as the trail is partially exposed and can get hot very quickly, particularly in the late spring and summer months.  

On the trail at Hite Cove
On the trail at Hite Cove
Along the trail at Hite Cove
Along the trail at Hite Cove

6. Hike Stockton Creek Preserve

Located minutes away from downtown Mariposa, Stockton Creek Preserve is another great spot for an easy hike in Yosemite Mariposa County. 

This unique conservation project is managed by the Sierra Foothill Conservancy and the Mariposa Public Utility District. The preserve surrounds the Stockton Creek Reservoir and offers a 5 km (3.5 mile) moderately difficult trail that takes you for a rolling hike through the Sierra Nevada foothills.  

We hiked this trail in the Spring and found it to be covered in wildflowers. It was quiet and peaceful, with practically no one in sight. The views from the upper section of the trail were particularly impressive. 

Two trailheads offer access to the preserve.  One is on the western side of town on Trabucco Street ( search for “Stockton Creek Reservoir Trailhead” in google maps to find this access point). The other trailhead is off Slaughterhouse Road, further east on Hwy 140. Take note that the access point off Old Hwy N street is now off-limits because the private property easement is under new ownership. 

Stockton Creek Preserve
Stockton Creek Preserve

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7. Go E-biking with Yosemite E-biking

One of the best ways to explore the Sierra Foothills is by bike, and luckily for all, there is now a provider in town offering biking tours to visitors to the region. If you want to have a bit of fun and explore the scenic back roads of Mariposa County, call Chris from Yosemite E-biking

Chris is a local and a lifetime biker who loves to show visitors around his backyard. He offers a number of half-day, full-day, or full adventure tour options, suitable for every experience level. Every trip followers the most scenic areas in Mariposa County. The tours are fun for all ages, and drinks, snacks, and safety equipment are all provided. 

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Ebiking with Yosemite Biking

8. Go Skydiving

Skydive Yosemite is the only Skydive Center offering a unique way to see Yosemite National Park and Yosemite Valley during your time in the region. While we didn’t get a chance to skydive ourselves, our friends Mike and Anne from Honeytrek did, and their story convinced us to add this exhilarating activity to this list.  

The founders, Paul and Julia, seem like the cutest couple and run a fully certified skydiving operation in the heart of the region. Their jumpmasters are all U.S.P.A. rated, and all aircraft and pilots are F.A.A. certified. The shop has skydiving options in Mariposa, Sierra, and over Yosemite Valley, offering stunning views of El Capitan, Half Dome and more. 

9. Visit Yosemite National Park

No visit to Mariposa County would be complete without spending a few days in the Yosemite Park itself. Here are a few suggestions on how to spend your time in the park, including our favourite activities and sights. 

Take a Valley Floor Tour

Led by park rangers and Yosemite Hospitality naturalists, this Guided Valley Tour through Yosemite Valley is a great way to learn about the park’s history, flora, and fauna. The tour lasts approximately 2 hours, and tickets are sold at the Yosemite Valley Lodge.  In the summer, the tour takes place in a cute tram and uses a heated bus in the winter. 

Go Hiking

Yosemite National Park offers over 1,000 km of hiking trails of varying difficulty and several different points of interest. There are paved or natural trails leading to falls, lakes, giant sequoias and lush meadows. Be sure to check NPS trail info ahead of time, as trail conditions inside the park can change on a dime. 

  • Mirror Lake: The hike to the famous Mirror Lake is one of the easiest hikes in Yosemite and follows a 3.2 km (2 mile) out-and-back trail. There is also an 8 km (5 mile) loop trail that begins at the end of the paved out-and-back trail. There is no parking at the Mirror Lake trailhead, but you can take the free East Valley shuttle to stop #17 t begin your hike. 
  • Upper Yosemite Falls to Columbia Rock: For spectacular views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and Sentinel Rock, follow the Upper Yosemite Trail to Columbia Rock lookout. The full Upper Yosemite Trail is rated as difficult, but if you are looking for an easier hike,  follow our advice and take this trail to Columbia Rock only. It’s about a 3.2 km (2 miles) round trip to the rock and another 1 km or so to the first glimpse of Upper Yosemite Falls. 
  • Lower Yosemite Falls: This paved, 1.6 km (1 mile) loop trail offers magnificent views of North America’s tallest waterfall. You’ll see both Lower and Upper Yosemite Falls from different vantage points, along with several exhibits focused on the natural and cultural history of the area. Parking is available at the Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Village parking areas, or you can catch a ride on the free Valleywide Visitor Shuttle to stop #6.

READ NEXT: 5 Easy Hikes in Yosemite

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On the trail at Mirror Lake

Take a Scenic Drive

If you’re short on time, or would like to start with an overview of the scenic points in the park, a self-guided drive through the park is a must. Be aware that many of the scenic drives inside the park are typically closed until mid-summer (they certainly were during our visit). 

But once the snow melts, you’ll have lots of options. Tioga Road is, perhaps, the most famous for its scenery. This 62 km (46 mile) road starts in Crane Flat and stretches across the park to Tioga Pass. 

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Catching sunset on a scenic drive in Yosemite

Where to Eat in Mariposa County

The region of Mariposa County offers something to satisfy every craving. Whether you’re seeking a casual meal, a fine dining experience, or a taste of authentic local cuisine, Mariposa offers a good selection of quaint cafes and family-owned restaurants to vibrant breweries and wine bars. These were our favourites!

1850 Restaurant and Brewery

The 1850 Restaurant and Brewery is THE spot for microbrews and elevated pub fare in the town of Mariposa. With seven flagship beers and a long list of rotating seasonal brews made with local, seasonal ingredients, you’ll definitely find a few beers you’ll love. Pair their tasting flight with signature “mountain food” options like trout and venison. 

Our meal at 1850 Restaurant
Our meal at 1850 Restaurant

Little Shop of Ramen

Little Shop of Ramen was one of our favourite lunch spots in historic downtown Mariposa. The ramen noodles here are made by hand, using the owner’s grandma’s recipe. There are gluten-free and vegan options on the menu, although we particularly loved their Shoyu Ramen.

High Country Health Foods and Cafe

Another great lunch spot located in the historic downtown area is High Country Health Foods and Cafe, a shop and restaurant offering a wide variety of organic and local produce and supplements. Open for breakfast and lunch, the cafe serves fresh sandwiches, soups, and made-to-order juices and smoothies. It’s one of the best spots in the town of Mariposa for vegetarian and vegan fare.

June Bug Cafe

June Bug Cafe, located in Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort, is another local favourite featuring sustainably sourced options from local farms and a rotating menu inspired by the owners’ international travels. Expect a cozy atmosphere, low-key vibe and great homemade food. 

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Cozy vibes at the June Bug cafe
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At the June Bug Cafe

Ahwahnee Hotel

There are several food options available inside Yosemite National Park, but the Ahwahnee Hotel was our favourite! The hotel offers a more upscale dining experience in the park with a formal dining room and a more casual Ahwahnee Bar, with indoor or outdoor seating and elevated pub fare.  

You do not have to be a guest at the hotel to eat there, so we recommend heading there at the end of the day, grabbing a few dishes from the bar and enjoying them at sunset overlooking the park. 

Where to Stay in Mariposa County

There are plenty of great accommodation options in Yosemite Mariposa County. We suggest splitting up your stay in the region between 2-3 different hotels/resorts to check out different parts of the county and spread your tourism dollars across a variety of businesses. 

During our visit, we spent 2 nights at the explorer cabins at Tenaya at Yosemite and another 2 nights sleeping in an Airstream at AutoCamp Yosemite. 

Tenaya at Yosemite

Conveniently located 3 km from Yosemite National Park, Tenaya at Yosemite is an all-season resort that offers rooms, suites, and private cottages or cabins. Focused on conservation and sustainability practices, Tenaya at Yosemite has lots of great facilities, including onsite pools, a spa, and 3 restaurants in the resort that emphasize locally sourced ingredients. Tenaya offers guided nature walks, and operates Yosemite 360 Tours, a park tour service with several tours and hiking options on offer.

Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite
Tenaya at Yosemite

AutoCamp Yosemite

Located between the town of Mariposa and Yosemite National Park, Autocamp Yosemite offers accommodations in fully equipped Airstream trailers. The onsite restaurant focuses on organic and sustainable ingredients, offering vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options.  

A general store in the resort offers snacks, charcuterie essentials, and local wine and beer.  AutoCamp offers free yoga classes, bike rentals, and nature therapy experiences and arranges guided tours of Yosemite. 

We really loved our stay at AutoCamp and would describe it as a campground for millennials. There are lots of places to socialize, enjoy the great outdoors, or savour a pint of craft beer or a freshly brewed cappuccino. The Airstream setup offers a perfect glamping alternative to traditional hotels or rustic campgrounds. 

Autocamp Yosemite
Autocamp Yosemite


Disclaimer: We visited Mariposa County as guests of Yosemite Mariposa County, but, as always, all opinions expressed in this article are our own. 

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