Fly into the Fresno-Yosemite International Airport and enjoy quick and easy access to a rental car before hitting the road toward Madera. Known as the Madera Wine Trail, Highway 41 includes stops at 13 different wineries giving travelers a sample of all that California wine country has to offer. Grab a bottle of wine and a cheese & cracker lunch in town and enjoy lunch at Veterans Park next to the Madera Courthouse Museum.
After lunch, head north and step back in time at the Fossil Discovery Center of Madera. It is the largest Pleistocene era fossil bed in the Western United States. See the fossilized remains of Columbian Mammoths, saber toothed cats, extinct species of antelope and giant sloths, or spend time excavating the remains of dire wolves and sabre-toothed cats in the mock dig area.
Head back to Madera and book a room at the Hampton Inn. Enjoy dinner at the family-owned Vineyard Restaurant known for an extensive wine list, farm-fresh ingredients and dinner specials including thick-cut pork chops and pan-seared salmon salad.
Fresno Flats Historic Village
Take advantage of the continental breakfast at the Hampton Inn and then continue along the Fossils to Falls Trail towards Yosemite and stop in the town of Coarsegold to explore the museum and historic village. Coarsegold is the southernmost part of the California Mother Lode and still hides some small flecks of gold today. During the summer, the Peddlers Market is a great place to discover antiques, collectables and treasures of all kinds.
Not for the faint of heart, the annual Tarantula Festival takes place in October celebrating the arachnids that inhabit the area. Games, races and costume contests make for a fun day for the whole family. The Sierra Art Trails Open Studio Tour is another great fall event allowing visitors to discover the region’s best artists working in a variety of mediums.
Continue past Coarsegold and stop for lunch at the South Gate Brewing Company in Oakhurst. Enjoy a grilled veggie sandwich, brick oven pizzas or a kale salad along with one of five beers on tap, brewed in-house in small batches.
Discover the rich history of the area through Oakhurst’s museums. Though much of California’s history in the area centers around the discovery of gold, the Fresno Flats Historical Park explores the lives of settlers who came to California to settle down as farmers and townsfolk.
For an elegant evening, book a room at Chateau du Sureau and enjoy a meal at Erna’s Elderberry House. Each room features handpicked décor to ensure a comfortable stay with classy ambiance. Four-course meals from Erna’s Elderberry House include soup and salad along with one of the many choice entrées on the featured menu. Meals may also be enjoyed à la carte. Did you enjoy your meal so much that you want to learn to make it yourself? Three-day cooking and wine-pairing classes are offered at the Elderberry House.
Courtesy Nancy Robbins
Wake up and relax over coffee in the intimate breakfast room at Chateau du Sureau before heading out for a day on Bass Lake. Just a short drive away, Bass Lake is a destination for boating, fishing and camping for the whole family. Bring your own boat or visit one of the three marinas on the lake for boat slips, boat rentals, water toys, and fishing gear. Rent a cabin at Miller’s Landing Resort and other locations around the lake including many vacation home rentals. The lake is home to trout, bass, bluegill, crappie and catfish as well as resident Bald Eagles that nest in the tall pines along the shoreline. Pull up to the Forks Resort and grab a famous Forks Burger for lunch. Cruise through the gift shop and look for any must-have souvenirs before heading back out on the water.
The largest year-round resort on the lake is The Pines Resort which features cozy two-story chalets and lakeside suites for a warm night’s sleep. Enjoy dinner at Ducey’s on the Lake, a quaint steakhouse serving fresh ingredients from California.
Zip-lining through the trees
Enjoy fresh pastries and coffee at the Pines Bakery before heading out of town. Take Highway 49 via Highway 41 to the small foothill town of Mariposa. Enjoy a few hours of shopping, visiting art galleries and unique shops along Main Street. Stop into the Mariposa Museum and History Center and immerse yourself in Gold Rush history. Grab lunch at the 1850 Restaurant and enjoy “twisted burgers” salads, sandwiches and signature “mountain food” options like quail and venison.
Venture out to Yosemite Ziplines and Adventure Map located about three miles from downtown and enjoy a two-hour adrenaline filled zip-lining excursion. Finish off the afternoon with wine tasting at Casto Oaks Fine Wine and Art or sample locally brewed ale from Prospectors Brewing Co.
As you wind down take in the relaxing ambiance of Savoury’s Restaurant and enjoy their diablo shrimp skewers with apricot sauce. End your day with a quiet slumber at the The Mariposa Lodge with its beautiful garden courtyard and comfortable beds.
Enjoy a hot and fresh-baked cranberry scone at the Sugar Pine Cafe before heading out for a day in Yosemite National Park. Join a guided tour to get the best photo opportunities. Choices range from specific photo tours to the Valley Floor tour or the Glacier Point tour. Each tour is tailored for different abilities, ranging from strenuous walking tours to bike tours to bus tours.
After a long day in Yosemite, stop for dinner at the River Restaurant and Lounge which serves classic American dinners all year. Located in the parking lot of the Yosemite View Lodge and conveniently next to your lodging for the night, the elegant Yosemite Blue Butterfly Inn Bed and Breakfast in El Portal.
Fuel the machine with a home-cooked breakfast on the deck of the Blue Butterfly Inn overlooking the rushing Merced River. Take highway 49 north (the 49er trail) and discover the gold rush ghost town of Coulterville. Get a fascinating glimpse of the gold rush at the Northern Mariposa County History Center. Walk along Main Street, visit the John Muir Geo Tourism center, and learn about the life of the legendary naturalist John Muir.
Belly up to the bar at the Magnolia Saloon for a delicious brew and lunch. The recently restored Hotel Jeffery is Coulterville’s iconic hotel towering at the corner of Main Street. Talk to the locals about ghost sightings and the many events this little town puts on to keep the gold rush alive!