Mariposa: Small town boasts historic trails,
educational activities, outdoor fun
By Kathy Chin Leong
En route to Yosemite, we have always zipped through a quaint town that looked very inviting, but we never had an opportunity to stop and explore its many merits. However, on this one particular weekend in October, my husband Frank and I were able to stop and enjoy this historic town of simple pleasures.
Located approximately 3 hours away from the Bay Area, Mariposa sits right on the doorstep of Yosemite National Park. It’s all part of Mariposa County, which is comprised of 931,200 acres of both publicly owned and privately own land. If you have a three-day weekend at your disposal, we recommend taking the time to come to Mariposa first to discover its charming outdoor venues, shopping, and dining, and then hit the high trail to Yosemite National Park.
Coming before the snow falls or after? I suggest you take advantage of the hiking and biking trails. The Hite Cove Wildflower Trail is said to be one of state’s most lovely walks that features an abandoned gold mine at its tail. The Merced River bike trail is a popular dirt trail perfect for a day of serious mountain biking. This easy trail is great for families and offers picturesque views of the river.
If you are in the mood for driving through the county, a stop by Butterfly Creek Winery is a great place to break and bring a picnic lunch. The picnic grounds at Butterfly Creek are green and lush, and the wine isn’t bad either. Specializing in Merlot, Zinfandel, Chardonnary and Cabernet Sauvignon, the winery is open for tours Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by appointment. A small white chapel is its signature landmark on the property.
Outside the main section of town, the California State Mining and Mineral Museum is a fabulous find for rock and mineral buffs. It houses over 13,000 minerals, rocks, and gems, and feature a mining cave to show visitors what it was like to work in a mine in years past. Inside the museum on display is a large gold frigot, the largest chunk of gold in the state worth over a million dollars.
Next year, a new mineral museum will be erected which will be much larger and expansive. This is a great place for gem and rock collectors. With a nicely stocked gift shop at the entrance, it’s a good stop for kids who are wowed by colors and crystals. There is a modest entrance fee. Consider spending about 45-minutes to one hour or more here with your kids. It all depends on how crazy they are about gems and minerals.
If you are in town, you can also enjoy the small, but educational Mariposa Museum and History Center on Jessie Street. This place shows authentic artifacts and photos of people of the town and life in Mariposa during the Gold Rush and the late nineteenth century.
Mariposa boasts of the oldest Superior Courthouse west of the Mississippi Rivier still being used today to try cases. Built in 1854, the white-as-snow courthouse with a high clock tower and 267 lb. bell that bongs every quarter hour, is open for tours on weekends in May through September.
History buffs can also stop by the Mariposa Visitors Center to obtain a map of the town which details an historic walking tour people can use to mark their own memories.
For a small town, you’ll find big eats in Mariposa. For starters, the River Rock Inn Deli Garden Café is a great place for fresh cheeses, meats, and sandwiches. With sandwiches from $5.95 to $6.25, the fare includes creative menu items such as the Grove, a sandwich made of lemon herb chicken and provolone and artichoke hearts. Then there’s the Mediterrannean sandwich, which oozes with turkey, fontina cheese, fig balsamic dressed on 5-seed nut bread.
Owner Vickie Lorenzi Larsen is focused on comfort and has put in a huge backyard patio for spring/summer barbeques. She also maintains a seven-room inn. Each room is unique in character and features a well stocked refrigerator with snacks and beverages.
Families with active kids will love Happy Burger , a family restaurant with an outdoor eating area with plenty of climb-on toys and stationary rides to keep children busy while Mom and Dad eat their own food. This casual place serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, offering everything from Mexican dishes to a variety of burgers and desserts. Prices range from $1.99 to $10. Take note of the album covers that adorn the ceiling and jukebox that really works.
When we came, we enjoyed the Savoury’s Restaurant , a semi-formal establishment with white tablecloths and a charming outdoor patio in the back laced by white Christmas lights for evening meals. Entrees are reasonable for items such as the flat iron steak for $17 and glazed pork chop for $16. Food is top notch with a lovely gourmet presentation to match. Stay for dessert. It’s worth it- trust me!
There isn’t much shopping for kids to be had here in downtown Mariposa. However, among the local stores along the main street which is Hwy 140, are a chain of antique stores, second-hand shops, clothing boutiques for outdoor apparel and casual wear, and a few home decor shops with very reasonable prices compared to Napa, Carmel,or Silicon Valley. Send dad with the kids to the local coffee bar while you shop.
In a nutshell, Mariposa is a slow town in the heart of the Mother Lode country. What you see is what you get- simplicity, friendliness, good food, and lots of history.
* Mariposa Storytelling Festival . March 10-12. This is listed by USA Today as one of the top storytelling festivals in the country.
* Annual Mariposa County Indian Council Pow-Wow . May 6-7. Native American performances by local Miwuk dancers. Arts and crafts vendors, food, entertainment.
* Annual Buckin’ Bash . June 3. Located at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds, this exciting day features bull riding, calf riding, and, yes, stick pony riding.
NOTEWORTHY WEB SITES:
* www.riverrockinn.com – for details on the deli and River Rock Inn.
* www.parks.ca.gov - for information on the California State Mining and Mineral Museum.
* www.homeofyosemite.com - loads of info on accommodations, attractions and events in Mariposa County
* www.yosemitewine.com – details on Butterfly Creek Winery and hours of operation.
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