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Things to Do in Mariposa, California Before You Visit Yosemite

If you are looking for a convenient place to stay before you visit Yosemite National Park you’ll definitely want to check out Mariposa, California!

Mariposa is another California Gold Rush town conveniently located less than an hour from Yosemite National Park.

walkway to Yosemite Village

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If you’re visiting Yosemite National Park it’s nice to know about neighboring towns where you can eat and stay, especially if you are visiting the area around peak season in the summer.

mural in Mariposa CA

Where is Mariposa, California on the Map?

We visited Mariposa County after previously spending time in Tuolumne County during our Yosemite road trip adventure.

Highway 49 in California

We traveled to Mariposa from Columbia, California via Highway 49 which took approximately 90 minutes.

The scenic switchback drive through the mountains on Highway 49 is definitely a memorable one!

sign in Mariposa County Courthouse

What’s the Weather Like in Mariposa, California?

Mariposa, California’s average yearly temperature is a mild 57 degrees Fahrenheit.

We visited in early October when the temperatures were in the mid 70s’ and the weather was PERFECT! It did get a little chilly in the morning but it warmed up nicely during the day.

The area can get snow so make sure that you check the road conditions before you travel throughout the county during the winter.

Mariposa County Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center

Stop By the Mariposa County Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center

5158 CA-140, Mariposa, Calfornia 

I always recommend stopping by a city’s visitor center when you visit an area for the first time.

The staff are a great resource for things to do in the area, local events and restaurants to try.

They can also give you local insight for visiting Yosemite National Park too.

Yosemite Climbing Association Museum and Gallery

Visit the Yosemite Climbing Association Museum and Gallery

5180 Highway 140, Mariposa, California 95338

*Closed Mondays & Federally Observed Holidays

Yosemite Climbing Association Museum and Gallery
Image courtesy of Yosemite Climbing Association Museum and Gallery

You can gain an even greater appreciation for the skills and bravery of the Yosemite rock climbing community at the Yosemite Climbing Association Museum and Gallery.

Yosemite Climbing Association Museum and Gallery
Image courtesy of Yosemite Climbing Association Museum and Gallery

The museum showcases historical climbing artifacts, memorabilia, photography and publications as a way to help preserve climbing history.

Yosemite Climbing Association Museum and Gallery
Image courtesy of Yosemite Climbing Association Museum and Gallery

Visitors can see how the sport of climbing and the gear have evolved over time through various exhibits.

Yosemite Climbing Association Museum and Gallery
Image courtesy of Yosemite Climbing Association Museum and Gallery

The museum staff can provide guided tours based on availability. Private tours for groups need to be booked in advance.

Mariposa Museum and History Center

Learn About the Area at the Mariposa Museum and History Center

5119 Jessie St., Mariposa, Calfornia 95338

The Smithsonian Institute has deemed Mariposa Museum and History Center as the “The Best Little Museum of its Size West of the Mississippi.” 

exhibit at Mariposa Museum and History Center

This museum packs in a LOT of information with exhibits covering the California Gold Rush, Yosemite, Native American, Spanish Settlement and Mariposa County History.

Mariposa is one of the southernmost Gold Rush towns that was first settled in 1849.

Native American exhibit at Mariposa Museum and History Center

Our docent Chris really helped the history of the museum to come alive for us with his interesting stories that included the life of explorer John C Fremont who was also a politician with a previous military background.

exhibit at Mariposa Museum and History Center
Items from John C Fremont’s home

I found the exhibits contrasting the living conditions during the Gold Rush period to be really interesting.

exhibit at Mariposa Museum and History Center
Items in the home of a miner

For example, John Fremont’s furnishings in comparison to a miner’s one room cabin told the story of two very different life experiences and comforts without saying a word.

Miss Jennie's General Store artifacts at Mariposa Museum and History Center

The Gold Rush lasted in the area for about 7 years and then the area shifted to tourism economy selling to the miners.

exhibit at Mariposa Museum and History Center

Guided tours are available for small groups and families but you’ll need to contact the museum in advance.

climbing exhibit at Mariposa Museum and History Center

Admission to the museum is only $5 and children 12 and under are FREE!

outdoor exhibit at Mariposa Museum and History Center

Outside you can see their 5 Stamp Mill that’s one of the few stamp mills that’s still operational in California Gold Country.

A demonstration of the mill is frequently done for group tours.

Mariposa County Courthouse

See the Oldest Seat of Justice Still in Use at Mariposa County Courthouse

5088 Bullion Street, Mariposa, California

The Mariposa County Courthouse is the oldest courthouse in continuous use west of the Rockies dating back to 1854.

It’s also the oldest superior courthouse west of the Mississippi.

Mariposa County Courthouse

When you enter the building make sure that you walk down the hallway of the first floor.

map of California in 1850 at Mariposa County Courthouse

There is a progression of maps of California that shows how the boundary lines have changed over the years that’s really fascinating.

Mariposa County Courthouse

Court proceedings weren’t in session during the time of our visit which made it possible for us to check out the courtroom located on the second floor.

It was pretty simple with rows of benches and chairs with a few modern touches.

 downtown Mariposa

Explore Downtown Mariposa, California

You’ll find lots of shopping and restaurants in downtown Mariposa. The stores range from souvenirs, antiques, home decor and boutique apparel.

You can see the full list of shops in downtown Mariposa here.

historic marker in downtown Mariposa

Many of the buildings downtown also have historical plaques sharing more about the building’s history.

For example, Mariposa Marketplace is located inside the Historic John Trabucco Building that opened in 1896.

Castillo’s Restaurant in Mariposa CA

Enjoy Dinner at Castillo’s Restaurant

4995 5th Street, Mariposa, California

Castillo’s Restaurant is a great option for authentic Mexican food.

You’ll find plenty of classics on the menu including enchiladas, burritos and tamales. 

Camarones a la diablo entree at Castillo’s Restaurant in Mariposa CA

I tried the Camarones a la diablo made with shrimp sautéed in spicy butter sauce, garlic and hot peppers. This is a great dish if you like a meal with some HEAT.

entree at Castillo’s Restaurant in Mariposa CA

My husband enjoyed the enchilada combination platter. The portion sizes are generous and the chips and salsa are tasty too.

The Grove House Mariposa CA

After Dinner Drinks at The Grove House

4993 5th St, Mariposa, Calfornia

The Grove House has a great ambiance with plenty of seating both inside and out. You can find live music several nights a week at the rustic craft beer and wine bar.

In addition to craft beer and wine you’ll find sours, kombucha, hard seltzers, craft cocktails and non- alcoholic options to choose from.

The Grove House Mariposa CA

The Grove House has a rotating farm-to-table menu if you want to grab a bite to eat during your visit.

margarita at The Grove House Mariposa CA

We opted to enjoy our margaritas outside because the weather was really nice and the atmosphere was laid back.

The Grove House is family friendly if you’re traveling with an assortment of ages too.

Mariposa Lodge in Mariposa CA

Overnight Stay at Mariposa Lodge

5052 Highway 140, Mariposa, California 95338

We stayed one night at the Mariposa Lodge in Mariposa.

The location was very convenient located within walking distance of restaurants and shops in downtown Mariposa.

We knew that we wanted to get up super early the following day for our visit to Yosemite National Park.

room at Mariposa Lodge

Our room had two queen sized beds, a mini fridge, coffee maker and a microwave.

Book One of the Hotels in Mariposa, California

You can compare prices on hotels in Mariposa, California using the map to help book your stay.

El Capitan Yosemite National Park

Explore Yosemite National Park (Approximately One Hour Drive From Mariposa)

We got up early and left Mariposa before sunrise because we wanted to experience watching the sunrise in the National Park.

Yosemite National Park

Take the Valley Floor Tour

The Valley Floor Tour is a great way to see an overview of the Yosemite National Park if you are short on time.

The two hour tour is narrated by a park ranger and departs from Yosemite Valley Lodge.

You’re supposed to arrive 15 minutes before your departure time at the latest because it leaves promptly on time.

Valley Floor Tour Yosemite National Park

I would recommend getting there even earlier than that because the seats fill up quickly and you ride shoulder to shoulder with the person next to you.

hiking trail at Mariposa Grove of the Sequoias

Add an Extra Day to See Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

I think that it’s WAY too hard to try to explore the highlights of Yosemite National Park and Mariposa Grove of the Giant Sequoias (on the opposite end of the national park) in one day.

Depending on what time of year you visit, daylight is also a factor.

We really enjoyed having dedicated time to spend at each section of the National Park over 2 days.

The giant sequoia trees are truly a marvel to see up close.

Add Mariposa, California to Your List

I’m so glad that we got to spend time in another California Gold Rush Town during our road trip. Each town has it’s own unique charm and history.

Thanks again to Yosemite Mariposa County for hosting my visit.

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