No matter when you visit, the list of things to do in Yosemite is never ending. Yosemite National Park and its charming southern communities of Madera County, California, are home to breathtaking waterfalls, wildlife-filled meadows, world-class wineries, and local artisans. Whether you’re looking to hike through winding trails or relax by a beautiful lake, you’ll find it all right here. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started on your next adventure!
This story was created in partnership with the Visit Yosemite | Madera County.
Yosemite National Park
The local headliner, Yosemite National Park, is a great place to visit all year long. Madera County is the gateway community to the park’s southern entrance and makes a great basecamp for all of your Yosemite adventures. Unique lodging options are available in and nearby the park from campsites to cabins to luxurious lodges. Winter in Yosemite is an especially breathtaking experience and one of the best times of year for stargazing. Park visitors can also check out the Yosemite Museum to learn more about the natural and cultural history of the park. Historically-significant itself, the museum was the first structure built as a museum in the national park system.
Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad
Speaking of Yosemite National Park, be sure to explore the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad while you’re in the area. The best part about this train ride is that there are various experiences to choose from. Whether you opt for a standard one-hour Logger ride (perfect for the whole family) or the Yosemite Jazz Train (hello, date night!), the journey aboard historic steam locomotives offers a step back in time through Sierra National Forest. The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad even partnered with the Golden Chain Theatre to provide a dinner, show, and train ride experience! In fact, you can reserve a private trip for family and friends or a romantic excursion. Before or after your ride, pay a visit to the Thornberry Museum. This quaint little experience provides a look into life and times during the California Gold Rush.
Bass Lake is just a short drive from Yosemite National Park and Oakhurst, the largest gateway town to Yosemite National Park, so it’s easy to enjoy the outdoors year-round. Fishing, boating and biking are popular, but these activities are just the beginning of the outdoor adventures that await. Paddle boarding is popular in the summer and fall, but you can row a canoe nearly year-round. Wildlife watching is another spectacular year-round activity, and the area is abundant with deer, waterfowl, mountain lions, black bears, and even three pairs of resident Bass Lake bald eagles. There are many campgrounds and vacation rentals in the area if you want to stay overnight at Bass Lake.
Madera Wine Trail
If you’re looking for a fun way to engage all of your senses in the Yosemite area, specifically your tastebuds, then check out the area’s wine trails. Madera County, is home to some of the state’s oldest grapes, making the vintner history of the area rich and fascinating. Plus, the vineyards are situated in the heart of the gorgeous Yosemite Valley, so you can sip with a view. The Madera Wine Trail is an organization of the boutique wineries of Madera County that offers tastings and tours year-round. With this small winery region, you’ll often taste with the winemaker themselves, which makes the experience even more memorable.
Mariposa Grove & Historic Wawona
Just inside of Yosemite National Park’s southern entrance is Mariposa Grove, the largest grove of Giant Sequoia trees in Yosemite. Approximately 500 mature Giant Sequoias live in the groves, including several notable trees such as: Grizzly Giant, one of the world’s largest known living trees; California Tunnel Tree, cut in 1895 to allow horse-drawn stages to pass through; and Fallen Monarch. In winter, access to Mariposa Grove is closed to automobiles, but the Grove can still be reached by hikers, Nordic skiers, and snowshoers trekking the short two-mile road. In fact, exploring the snow-hushed Sequoia Groves is a winter wonderland experience like no other.
Located nearby Mariposa Grove is the historic town of Wawona and the Wawona Stables where from May through September you can go horseback riding through beautiful Yosemite countryside! Next door to the stables you’ll find the Yosemite History Center, with a collection of historic buildings where outdoor interpretive signs tell the stories of people who moved here from around the world and shaped the park’s development.