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A pretty river walk in Mariposa

Mariposa California – Gateway to Yosemite

The pretty town of historic Mariposa California with a population of just 18,000 sits at the junction of Highways 49 and 140, not more than a 40 minute drive away from the west entrance of Yosemite National Park. You would need to add a few hours to the drive if you hit a big snow storm like I did.

Mariposa California is a former gold mining town – as you’ll quickly see with door handles made from gold pans and street names like Bullion. 

Updated March 2020. This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a purchase via one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

The main street in Mariposa California after a snowfall
The main street in Mariposa after a snowfall

Although Mariposa is well situated to visit both Mariposa Grove and the Yosemite Valley, it deserves some time itself. 

Businesses, galleries and restaurants line the main street and some have quite a history dating back as far as the mid 1800’s. This is a town that saw gold prospectors arrive by the thousands as part of the California Gold Rush.

What do you to in a town like Mariposa?

Walk the town for starters. After you’ve finished poking in the shops and galleries on the  main street (make sure you walk down as far as 5th Street) and after you’ve tried a local wine tasting at Ciera Wine Cellars, wander off on the path alongside the creek and explore the side streets.

Check out the Mariposa Gold Rush History Center and Museum and the California State Mining Museum. And don’t miss a stop at the Mariposa County Courthouse, California’s oldest seat of justice that is still in use.

A pretty river walk in Mariposa
A pretty river walk in Mariposa
A truck with a few stories to tell in Mariposa California
A truck with a few stories to tell
Beautiful old buildings in Mariposa California
Beautiful old buildings
Historic buildings in downtown Mariposa
Historic buildings in downtown Mariposa
There's a gold mining history in Mariposa
There’s a gold mining history in Mariposa California
"California State Mining & Mineral Museum"
Mariposa Gold Rush Museum
Gold pan re-purposed as a door handle
Gold pan re-purposed as a door handle
Mariposa County Court House - California's Oldest Seat of Justice & still in use
Mariposa County Court House – California’s Oldest Seat of Justice & still in use

Where to eat in Mariposa California

At some point you’ll likely be hungry. Numerous restaurants should solve that problem. Two I enjoyed were the Sugar Pine Cafe pictured below and the Gold Coin Bar and Tavern which boasted a collection of the owner’s guns on the walls.

Both places had a great ambiance and staff were extremely friendly but I have to give the Sugar Pine Cafe the edge on the food. Restaurant prices are very low in this town – making it a bargain to visit.

Diner style restaurant open all day with really good food
Diner style restaurant open all day with really good food

Where to stay in Mariposa

There are lots of places to stay from chain hotels to an assortment of B&B’s. There is the option too of taking a bus up and back into Yosemite for the day if you don’t feel like driving.

For a chain hotel with a predictable experience the Best Western Plus Yosemite Way Station should fit the bill.

For an exceptionally rated B&B check out Highland House Bed and Breakfast.

I did and can attest to the fact that they are big and comfortable. And if you don’t have chains and you get caught on a snow day they are a good choice.

On the way up to Yosemite National Park
On the way up to Yosemite National Park from Mariposa

Mariposa is definitely worth the visit and it’s certainly an affordable alternative versus a stay in Yosemite National Park.

Further reading on things to do in California

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

A visit to historic Mariposa, California, gateway to Yosemite National Park



Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 42 Comments

  1. Your first shot is a real winner for me. Coming from a hot climate, snow on pine trees in such a beautiful setting is so exotic. I wouldn’t like to be stuck in a snow storm though πŸ™

    1. @Jan I always feel that sense of envy when I am either freezing or sweltering and I see a photo that takes me to another place. It doesn’t actually snow much in Mariposa so I consider myself lucky to have got that shot.

  2. No I’ve never been, but it looks like a pretty town worth exploring – and what I wouldn’t give for some of that lovely snow when we are sweltering in temps of over 40!! Loved your pics πŸ™‚

  3. There’s something about a town pictured after a snowfall…it looks so pretty and inviting especially for those of us who never see snow! I love the colours of the old barn and the truck too. Thanks for the introduction to an interesting town.

  4. Mariposa is one of my favorite little towns in the foothills, I always love taking a break for a meal when I’m visiting Yosemite..thanks for a sweet tour!

  5. That first shot is a picture postcard, Leigh.
    Mariposa sounds very delightful from the restaurants and galleries lining main street to the diners, it isn’t difficult to imagine life back then. Charming.

  6. Odds are good that you couldn’t find a single snowflake in Mariposa right now. In what’s shaping up to be the driest winter in California, not much rain or snow has fallen thus far during our “wet season.”

  7. You’ve so captured the spirit of the southwestern and western U.S. . . .that small town, but welcoming feel. . .I love this post!

    1. @Michele Even if you take just a few hours to have a meal and wander the main street I think you will be very glad you stopped. Normally it sits below the snow line – one of the reasons residents like it so much.

  8. All these years we’ve been going to Yosemite and we’ve never stopped at Mariposa. I think we’re just too intent on hitting the park. After seeing this, I feel like I need to do a pit stop especially at Sugar Pine Cafe. what a quaint town and I love the those old buildings. Beautiful photos, Leigh.

    1. @Mary I think we all get into our routines and they are hard to break. We did the same thing on the way up to Whistler and never stopped at what eventually became our favourite coffee shop as it didn’t look like it would offer much. The same goes for Mariposa. A quick drive down the main street is not the same as a stroll looking for the details and talking to the local.s

  9. For such a tiny town, it has a long going for it. I’d certainly opt for the bus if there was any chance of snow. The picture of the old Dodge is my favorite!

    1. @Marisol I think I love the patina the old sights give off and as you say the rich colour. I’d like to spend time in more historic towns with my camera – or better yet some ghost towns.

  10. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve driven through there, Leigh! I absolutely love Small Town America and your pictures certainly captured it here! You should see it in the summer…OMG. Loved this post from a few hours away from me! Ya know…we should have connected up so you could have met Phoenix πŸ™‚

  11. Excellent post. Brought back fond memories of one of our staging locations into Yosemite National Park. Our experience was excellent as well. Really interesting town with a deep and well preserved history. Thanks for sharing.

    1. @Barry I’m sorry I didn’t have time to visit the local mining museum. The town was loaded with history and it was interesting to wander the back streets of its historical section.

  12. These are awesome photos. I would never had known where Mariposa is except that I remember it showing up as a destination when I was looking at budget airline flights a few months ago (I think flights from Hawaii?). It looks beautiful in that all American small town type of way πŸ™‚

  13. Hi.

    What is the date that you went?

    I am planing to visit there on December 24th and 25th. Maybe there is a snow at this time.

    Great pictures and I guess that the first is the best.

    1. @Everson I was there about December 7th. I think the folks in Mariposa were a little surprised at how much snow had fallen. Yosemite was an utter delight in the snow.

      1. Nice. So, it is just luck. LOL.
        Well, what about Mariposa Grove. Did you go there on winter?


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