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How to have Three Vacations at One Destination in Tuolumne County

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When picking a destination with family and friends, it can be hard to choose where to go. One person wants to be one with nature. Someone else is a foodie. And a third loves history. What do you do in this situation? I have the perfect suggestion for you… Tuolumne County in Northern California.

Most people think California is all beaches and big cities, but there’s so much more to California for visitors to explore and enjoy. We had a chance to speak with Katie Kirkland, the Communications and Tourism Manager for the Tuolumne County Visitor’s Bureau, to find out what makes Tuolumne County such a popular destination.

Where is Tuolumne County?

Tuolumne County is in Northern California, less than 3 hours from the Bay Area, Sacramento, and Reno.

How do you get to Tuolumne County?

To get to Tuolumne County, you’ll drive 2 1/2 hours due east of San Francisco or 2 hours southeast of Sacramento. Both airports are excellent options to fly to California, enjoy those cities for a couple of days, then drive to Tuolumne County to experience all of the fun.

Your Yosemite Vacation Starts in Tuolumne County
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Driving from San Francisco provides an excellent opportunity to sample the wineries of Marin and Napa along the way. Driving from Sacramento offers the Gold Country route to stop at all of the cute gold country towns along Highway 49.

If you have the time, I’d suggest flying into one airport, then out of the other so you can explore both the wineries and the gold country towns.

How do you have three vacations at one destination?

There is so much to do in Tuolumne County, you can have multiple vacations in one destination. There are hiking and outdoor activities at Yosemite National Park and the High Sierras. You can explore the history of the California Gold Rush in little towns. And foodies will enjoy the abundance of “Mom’n’Pop” restaurants and Bed & Breakfast hotels throughout the county.

9 Can’t-Miss Activities in Tuolumne County

There’s so much to do in Tuolumne County, you may need to plan a second trip! From exploring national parks to panning for gold to riding historic trains, there is something for everyone in Tuolumne County.


Maps and directions
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Yosemite National Park

Over 50% of Yosemite National Park is located within the county. Yosemite National Park is world renown for hiking, rock climbing, and waterfalls. Highway 120 through Tuolumne County is the most direct route into the park from the Bay Area, Sacramento and all of Northern California.

Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias

The Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias is one of three groves to walk among these giant trees. Some can live more than 3000 years old! To see them for yourself, you’ll need to hike about 1.5 miles, but it will be well worth it.14

Stanislaus National Forest

In Stanislaus National Forest you can fish in over 800 miles of rivers and streams, stay in a campground, or hike into the backcountry. Hikers of all skill levels have hundreds of miles of trails to pick from that offer spectacular Sierra Nevada scenery.

Spelunk into caverns

Explore caverns beneath the surface along winding passageways. The California Cavern, a state historic landmark, is California’s first show cave. The Trail of Lights is an hour-long family walking tour, while the 2-hour Mammoth Cave Expedition & the 4-hour Middle Earth Expedition are for older kids and adults.

Mercer Caverns was discovered in 1885 and is one of the crown jewels of Gold Country. It is known for rare aragonite flos ferri. Be sure to sign up for the 45-minute guided tour.

Tuolumn Meadows and a branded cup
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Whitewater River Rafting on the Tuolumne River

World-famous whitewater rafting offers something for all skill levels on the Tuolumne and Stanislaus Rivers. The scenic Tuolumne was named the number one rafting river by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Gold Panning in Tuolumne County

In Tuolumne County, several mines are still open and allow visitors to pan for gold as the 49ers once did. Several gold panning adventure companies teach prospecting courses for adventurous miners who desire an authentic experience.

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park

Railtown trains have been featured in hundreds of movies and TV shows. This 26-acre historic experience offers seasonal steam train rides and special events, such as a Halloween Haunt and Polar Express.

Dodge Ridge Ski Resort

Dodge Ridge Ski Resort is the closest mountain to the Bay Area. And you won’t need to worry about the weather because Highway 108 is designed to stay open all year. Dodge Ridge offers 61 runs, 12 lifts, and 1600 vertical feet to satisfy all experience levels.

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

Hetch Hetchy offers backpacking, bird watching, fishing, and hiking. Wapama Fall is a spectacular site and is only 5 miles round trip. For a bigger challenge, the 16-mile round trip to Smith Peak offers 3,300 feet in elevation gain.

Best Things To Do on Your Yosemite Park Vacation Visit Tuolumne
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Mouth-Watering Meals & Drinks in Tuolumne County

Tuolumne County offers many farm-to-fork locations, including Standard Pour. Standard Pour occupies an old mill building. Katie adores their Brussel sprouts and the turkey Reuben sandwich, which is made with local, organic free-range turkey.The Service Station is another delicious option. Katie says that their tri-tip sandwich is to die for.California is known for having some of the best wineries in the world. Tuolumne County offers boutique wineries, where you’ll often find the owners and vintners pouring wines in their tasting rooms.In addition to wineries, Tuolumne County is home to an award-winning family-owned and operated hard cider distillery set amongst organic apple orchards.

Where to stay in Tuolumne County

Although there is one only chain hotel location, Tuolumne County has many excellent places to stay. Large hotels like the Rush Creek Lodge or the Black Oak Casino Resort are good choices. While local boutique hotels like the Groveland Hotel or Hotel Charlotte would love for you to book a reservation. Bed and breakfast options include Sierra Forest Glen Bed & Breakfast Inn and the McCaffrey House. And, of course, AirBnB is becoming a popular choice for tourists.

For more information about Tuolumne County and to plan your vacation, go to

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