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Where To Stay Near Yosemite

Filed in Planning Tips, Yosemite — March 27, 2024

Why Sonora is the best place to stay during your trip to Yosemite National Park

Looking for the best place to stay when you visit Yosemite? Sonora is seriously the most underrated location with proximity to Yosemite National Park. When you choose a place to stay for your Yosemite trip, first consider the type of options you want to have available to you while you’re visiting here. If you’re visiting this beautiful area of the Sierras then I highly recommend taking advantage of not just the views of Yosemite National Park, but also the surrounding area. Sonora is the greatest option for your Yosemite trip, let me explain why!

Since I’m a local to the Yosemite area, I’ve got the lowdown on something most visitors might not be aware of: what all the towns around here are really like, and there’s a reason why I chose live here!

There are only 4 major towns surrounding Yosemite: Oakhurst, Mariposa, Sonora, and Groveland. Of these 4 towns Sonora is the most diverse and has the most to offer visitors as far as dining, shopping, lodging, and outdoor activities, and places to see outside of just Yosemite. 

There are loads of things that Sonora has to offer folks who want to visit the Yosemite area

Sonora’s Gold Rush Heritage

Sonora has this cool vibe from the Gold Rush days that sets it apart from the rest. Sonora was established in 1848 and was one of the largest and most prosperous boomtowns along the Mother Lode due to its rich gold reserves. When you walk through its historic downtown area, you can totally feel the old days when it was a busy mining town. The old buildings give you a peek into what life must have been like during the Gold Rush.

Columbia State Historic Park

If you’re really into Gold Rush History then you’ve got to check out Columbia State Historic Park. This state park is like stepping back in time to the Gold Rush era with its preserved buildings and people dressed up like they’re from the 1800s. You can even still see the remnants huge boulders from all the hydraulic mining done here. Walk around on the wooden sidewalks, check out the cool old shops, eat some Candy at the Candy Kitchen, or my personal favorite: grab a spot of tea and a scone from Kate’s Teahouse, and soak up the vibes of this Gold Rush town. It’s a fun addition to your trip, giving you a hands-on experience that adds to the history vibe of Sonora. Side Note: It’s home to the absolute BEST pizza in town, so if you’re craving pizza while in Sonora, drive over to Columbia and check out the St. Charles Saloon; you’ll thank me later!!

The Best Place to Stay Near Yosemite: Sonora

For lodging in Sonora, you’ve got a loads of options. If you prefer a hotel then I’d go with one of the casinos, or check out the Hotel Lumberjack in downtown Sonora. 

I also wrote an article about my favorite AirBnB’s in the Yosemite area; you can check that out here. The first 2 AirBnB’s on that list are in the Sonora area, but feel free to do your own research on AirBnB and find something that suits your needs!

The Stunning Views of Highway 108 and Sonora Pass

Located off of Highway 108, Sonora serves as a gateway to Yosemite through Highway 120, but it boasts equally as stunning views off the Sonora Pass. As a local to this area for years, the Sonora Pass is truly a hidden gem. It gets much less traffic and visitors than Sonora, but is just as beautiful in my opinion. If you’re an avid outdoorsmen then I highly recommend visiting some of the following places during your time spent here in Gold Country and the Sierra Nevadas. Here are some of my favorite things to do here in Tuolumne County. 

Great Fishing Spots

For outdoor enthusiasts, Sonora and the surrounding area is a haven. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a first-timer, casting a line into one of our local fishing spots is a great way to get away from it all. Some of my favorite local fishing holes are: Pinecrest Lake (walk all the way to the inlet, or rent a boat), Beardsley Lake, or The Stanislaus River. The latter is my absolute favorite, and you’ll just have to explore it to see what I mean! Some places to fish on the river are Kennedy Meadows or Clarks Fork. 

Hiking Trails to Explore

Sonora isn’t just cool for its history; it’s also a great place to start exploring different hiking trails. Whether you’re up for an easy stroll or a more challenging hike, the trails around Sonora let you check out all kinds of scenery.

Here are a few of my fav places to hike: 

If you’re staying in downtown Sonora and want to stretch your legs after breakfast, check out the Dragoon Gulch Trail. 

If you’re wanting to find spring wildflowers in March-May, then hike Red Hills Recreation area.

For panoramic views check out Table Mountain trail in Jamestown.

If you want a moderate hike around a lake then take the 3.5 mile Pinecrest Lake loop trail, or if you’re up for a more of a challenge check out Cleo’s Baths above Pinecrest.

Or if you’re more of the avid hiker type, plan a backpacking trip in the gorgeous backcountry of the Emigrant Wilderness.

Pinecrest Lake

Take a quick drive up the 108 from Sonora, and you’ll hit Pinecrest Lake – a super pretty spot with loads of water activities. If you’re into boating, you’ll love chilling on the lake, surrounded by tall trees. Whether you’re into kayaking, paddleboarding, or just a laid-back boat ride, Pinecrest Lake is the perfect place to kick back and soak up nature’s vibes; and escape the summer heat!

Shop and Savor in Sonora

After you’ve had a day of outdoor fun, why not check out downtown Sonora for some shopping and dining. There are loads of cool shops, from boutiques to antiques, and tasty places to eat! Take it easy in the evening by taking a walk along the streets, trying out local foods, and finding cool stuff in the little stores all around town.

My Favorite Restaurant Recommendations:

Emberz Woodfired Foodz

Hands down my number one fav restaurant in town! Try their Baked Emberz appetizer if you love cheese, the Saltimbocca if you love a rich and flavorful chicken dish, their Roasted Chop Steak Salad is delicious, or if your man is really wanting to go hard, have him order the 22 oz Tomahawk Steak! If you want to try something unique then I highly recommend the Fallen Apple pizza, it’s amazing! Wash it all down with a Smoked Manhattan or my personal favorite: the Huckleberry Lemonade!

Stalk their druel-worthy dishes on the ‘Gram:

The Armory Sonora

If beer and bourbon are more your style, then check out this awesome beer garden along with its smaller bourbon based cocktail bar, the Bourbon Barrel. This is the most unique ambiance in town, and boasts great outdoor split-level seating with misters to cool you off during those hot summer months. Try one of their 24 beers on tap, or go grab a cocktail from the Barrel. They have great burgers and tapas, and are seriously such a blast! During the warmer months they host live music on Thursdays, they have Taco Tuesdays, and they do Cornhole tournaments on Tuesdays and Sundays!

To stay up on their events, check them out on Instagram:

If you want a good breakfast then I recommend Mandy’s in Columbia or the Sportsman up the 108 in Twain Harte.

And if you’re looking for a great cafe for an espresso or latte then definitely check out Revive Coffee. 

For more food stuff check out the Visit Tuolumne Restaurants Page

or the My Motherlode Dining Guide. 

Shops to Check Out

If you need a cute outfit:

Addictions Boutique or Raven Grace Co.

If you’re looking for antiques:

Antiques Etcetera, Pine Tree Peddlers

For a unique experience and old timey feel:

Check out Legends Books, it’s got antiques and old books and awesome underground area that used to be an old gold mine shaft!

For the Outdoorsy Stuff:

Sonora Fly Co.

Sierra Nevada Adventure Co.

Sierra Outdoor Outfitter

And the last gun shop in California where you get get a beer while you browse for bullets and guns: The Sportsman

Summing it All Up

Sonora is like the hidden gem near Yosemite that doesn’t get enough credit. It’s got a bit of everything – cool history, awesome nature, and all the modern stuff you need. If you pick Sonora as your home base, you’re not just diving into Gold Rush stories; you’re also opening the door to all the amazing stuff waiting for you in Yosemite National Park. It’s a win-win!

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