Discover the charm and outdoor experiences of this Old West town
By Ariel Galos
Groveland is quickly becoming a destination hub for California outdoor enthusiasts. Situated on the south bank of the Tuolumne River and surrounded by Stanislaus National Forest, Groveland is home to beautiful foothill terrain on the doorstep of Yosemite.
Just 25 miles from Yosemite’s north entrance, Groveland is a convenient destination for visitors who are looking for an authentic wild and scenic California outdoor experience. Groveland offers access to whitewater rafting and kayaking, pristine granite climbs, secluded swimming holes, challenging and scenic road biking, hikes through conifer and pine forest, horseback rides, and, within the next few years, will be home to a regional mountain bike and multi-use trail system offering a full spectrum of riding and hiking experiences. With all of these assets, and the upcoming addition of new trails, Groveland is looking to become the hottest adventure destination in Northern California.
Nestled into the Western edge of the 208,000+ acre Groveland Ranger District of the Stanislaus National Forest which includes the Tuolumne River watershed and numerous other tributaries, lakes, and ridges with stunning views of the High Sierra, this town feels like a retreat in the foothills where outdoor adventure is a step away from the front door.
Groveland’s accessibility is one of the reasons for the town’s growing buzz among the outdoor recreation set. Just a little over two hours from the San Francisco Bay Area, Fresno, and Sacramento and situated along the most-used route into Yosemite, Groveland is the perfect weekend get-away for many population centers. If you travel from the west into Groveland via Highway 120, you will first pass through the town’s historic downtown. Many Gold Rush era buildings and establishments have been preserved including the original jailhouse, the Iron Door Saloon, the Groveland Hotel, and the Hotel Charlotte.
Just beyond Groveland’s downtown area lies Pine Mountain Lake Association which was founded in the 1960’s as a vacation community whose lots were carved out of a historic timber plantation. Today, Pine Mountain Lake holds the majority of Groveland’s population base with close to 4,000 homes, many of which are vacation properties.
At around 3,000 feet in elevation, Groveland’s climate easily allows for year-round recreation with over 300 days of sunshine per year and little annual snowfall. Topographically, the Groveland Ranger District offers ridges, valleys, and meadows with seasonal wildflowers, an abundance of wildlife, and gorgeous vistas of the peaks in Yosemite’s High Country.
Where to stay: If you stay in Groveland, you’ll have no shortage of choices when it comes to accommodation style. Camping is available just outside of town in the USFS managed campgrounds along Highway 120 and within the community of Pine Mountain Lake. If you prefer a home and kitchen, you can stay in any number of vacation rental homes in the community of Pine Mountain Lake or Groveland. The downtown area has two historic hotels – The Hotel Charlotte and the Groveland Hotel – and a hostel. If you enjoy bed and breakfast accommodations, you can stay at the Sugar Pine Lodge, the Yosemite Rose, Red Tail Ranch, the Blackberry Inn, or the All Seasons Bed & Breakfast.
Outside of town you can also consider staying at the Evergreen Lodge, a historic resort nestled in the woods near Yosemite Natioanl Park. Evergreen Lodge offers the perfect combination of recreation, relaxation and indulgence. Situated in the woods Evergreen Lodge has a saltwater pool, hot tub and pool bar. Evergreen Lodge offers guided trips and their Main Lodge provides excellent food in a variety of settings.
Where to eat: If meals on the town are your thing, there are several dining options in Groveland, each offering a unique experience. For killer Michoacan style Mexican food, eat at Cocina Michoacana. For an upscale bistro experience with wine pairings, locally sourced meats and produce, and rustic ambiance, eat at the Charlotte Bistro and Bar. For mouthwatering burgers and American food, a historic setting, and a stiff drink, eat at The Iron Door Saloon. For a fine-dining experience, try the Groveland Hotel. For a meal with a perfect sunset view over the Highway 120 grade, eat at Priest Station Cafe. For breakfast, head to Dori’s Tea Cottage or Tangeld Hearts Bakery. For a deli experience (and for ethically-sourced meats) go to Kevin and Randi’s Meat Market.
When you want a break from the outdoors, you can shop for antiques downtown, peruse the town’s two thrift stores, grab a bag of coffee from Firefall Roasting company, or enjoy an artisan coffee or tea while swinging on a hammock at the Mountain Sage Nursery and Cafe.
The summer months offer a variety of entertainment and activities. Enjoy bluegrass concerts on the Mountain Sage Nursery’s outdoor lawn amphitheater, participate in the annual Gears and Grooves Triathlon, shop at flea markets, try chili from local competitors at the 49’er Chili Festival, and bring the family to movies in Mary Laveroni Park.
SAMPLE 5-DAY ITINERARY: Whether camping or staying in a B&B, hotel, or vacation home,
discover Groveland in a myriad of ways
DAY 1: After breakfast, head up HIghway 120 to Rainbow Pools on the South Fork of the Tuolumne and jump off the 15-foot cliff into the large pool at its base. Hike upstream and have a picnic in the shade by the river.
Spend the afternoon cruising around downtown and shopping at Miss Kailey’s Consignment store, Serendipity Antiques, Firefall Coffee Roasting Company, the Iron Door Store, and the Helping Hands Furniture Barn and Thrift Store.
Head to dinner at the Charlotte Hotel and grab a table on the balcony overlooking downtown Groveland. Enjoy a Sierra Pack Mule and Wondernut Farms pulled pork tacos with a kale and kabocha squash salad.
DAY 2: Go whitewater rafting on the Tuolumne River with one of the three rafting outfits in town (ARTA, Sierra Mac, or All Outdoors). Before your trip, pick up breakfast at Tangled Hearts Bakery where you can enjoy freshly made pastries, breakfast burritos, quiche and more.
To refuel, stuff yourself with delicious Mexican food at Cocina Michocana.
DAY 3: Grab breakfast at Dori’s Tea Cottage.
Get on your road bike and ride the Cherry Road/Evergreen Road/Highway 120 loop. Stop at the mid-point for a snack at the Evergreen Lodge and enjoy stunning views of the Tuolumne River Canyon along the way.
If you aren’t biking, head over to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir (Yosemite fees apply) and hike to Wapama Falls. Have lunch at the Evergreen Lodge on your way back to Groveland.
If you’re staying in Pine Mountain Lake and have access to the private lake, bring food to BBQ at the Marina. If you’re staying in town, grab a burger and a beer at the Iron Door.
DAY 4: Enjoy a pastry and a coffee or tea latte at Mountain Sage Cafe and then go for a stroll in the Nursery. Swing on a hammock, watch the kids play in the treehouse, hula hoop on the outdoor stage, and relax in the tranquil garden setting.
Play an afternoon round of golf.
Prepare dinner at home or enjoy the scenery from the dining deck at Priest Station Cafe.
DAY 5: Go to the river! Drive down the raft access road (Lumsden) and play in the water at Merle’s Pool. Catch some fish and watch the rafters launch. Or, if you prefer some effort, hike down the Indian Creek Trail and enjoy the fishing and wading. Either way, bring yourself a sandwich from Kevin and Randi’s Old Fashion Meat Market.
In the evening, catch a movie in the park with the family or boogie to the music at the Mountain Sage and, while you’re there, enjoy a slice of gluten-free pizza from the pizza truck.