Fossils to Falls: Visiting Yosemite, California

“Hi, do you have the ‘Sandy the Squirrel' card?” I asked, standing in the Yosemite National Park Visitor's Center. See, I was on a mission. Essentially a scavenger hunt leading through Yosemite National Park and beyond. By collecting two or more trading cards, I could win a serious vacation package to return to some of the most amazing country in the USA! What I didn't know was that this "highway" of sorts would bring me to some incredible places while visiting Yosemite.
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This article was created in partnership with the Southern Yosemite Visitor’s Bureau, California. All photos by Emily Sierra Photography.

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Some of the stops along the Fossils to Falls “Highway”

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

We hopped on the morning shuttle and headed up the winding road to crane our necks at some of the most massive living trees on the planet. One of the first sights in the grove is the “Fallen Monarch”. To me,  this giant downed tree resembled a large dinosaur that had fallen—there was just an archaic feeling about it. Moreover, each tree in the grove took on its own personality, illuminated by their name and shape. If I wasn’t seeking ‘Galen, the Great-Horned Owl’ card, I’m not sure I would have explored this natural wonder.

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Fossil Discovery Center

We peered around at over 15,000 fossils in the Fossil Discovery Center in Chowchilla. Life-size replicas and a variety of exhibits offered us a glimpse into the ecosystem that once ruled the area. We learned about flat-faced bears and dire wolves—species we didn’t know existed! Not only did we score our Fossils to Falls card here, but it was an easy stop on our way back to San Francisco for our flight home.

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Vineyards

Who would ever suspect that you’d be able to sample wines and collect a cartooned trading card? At Ficklin Vineyards, we did just that. We sampled award-winning port and learned the nuances that delineate port from wine. Almond and pistachio crops dominate the region, but grapes have grown there for a long time also. Madera County is now establishing itself with tasting rooms and a place to explore wine country. This is a convenient stop while visiting Yosemite National Park.

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Bass Lake

We paddled onto the lake at sunset and watched the water dance with colors from the sky. It was smooth and easy, and the water was a great temperature for swimming. With more time at Bass Lake, we’d definitely consider a motorized option for other lake fun and fishing! It’s really no wonder that this lake was named one of “The West’s Best Lakes” by Sunset Magazine.

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“I had no idea…!”

I don’t recall how many times I used this phrase. Chasing the ‘Fossils to Falls’ trail, I visited places I wasn’t previously acquainted with. We enjoyed uncrowded areas while visiting Yosemite National Park, and found unique experiences along the way. Collecting the playing cards was a fun pursuit for us, and I imagine that it would be a wonderful family road trip activity as well.

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For more road trip ideas in California’s High Sierra, check out our custom itinerary!

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