YOSEMITE IS OPEN. Click here for more TRAVEL ALERTS and information.
Visitor Guide
Get Our Newsletter
Half Dome Reflection Fall on the Merced River with Sentinel Bridge
Half Dome Reflection in Fall
Blog 10 Exciting Experiences this Fall in Yosemite's Southern Gateway
Rhonda | 09/01/2023Arts & Entertainment, Biking, Family Friendly, Hiking, Local Agri-Tourism, Museums, History & Culture, Nature, Photography, Road Trip, Seasons, Shopping, Social Distancing, Train Riding, Wineries & Agri-Tourism |   

10 Exciting Experiences this Fall in Yosemite's Southern Gateway

Fall is a spectacular season in Yosemite and Madera County. Cooler temperatures, fall colors, and fewer people make for golden moments. Exploring Yosemite is not only about seeing the granite monoliths and giant trees. It's about decompressing at Bass Lake, getting to know the sierra foothill wine country, making memories with loved ones, and getting off the beaten path. These 10 experiences are just the beginning of a lifetime love affair with the region. Explore below for something to fall for...

Take a step back in time and make memories at the many attractions...

Nothing compares to the wind in your hair moments while riding in the open air-cars at Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. Trains depart daily until October 31. Take a ride on the Halloween Trick-or-Treating special event nights. Ride the historic, 84-ton locomotive they call, "the logger", it is the largest narrow gauge Shay engine ever built! Also make sure to spend some time with the kids panning for gold or visit the on-site Thornberry Museum to get a feel for the pioneer life.

And, the authentic lumberjack fun times don't stop there!

Located in the Yosemite gateway town of Oakhurst, Yosemite Axe Throwing hits the mark all year-round. With covered outdoor lanes and a welcoming, mountain vibe, this ax-throwing club is suitable for beginners as young as eight years old. The perfect excuse to wear your warm flannel shirts and yell, "Timber!" back to those mountains that were calling you. 


Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

Ride back in time on the historic steam train at Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

Escape to beautiful and colorful Bass Lake...

Bass Lake is an all-season escape. Thanks to its central location, visitors find it easy to get here fast and then take it slow. Fall in the Sierra Foothills brings perfect temperatures for exploration. Sunshine-filled days and crisp, starry nights were made for gathering with loved ones and warming up by the fireplace. Rent a patio boat, SUP, or kayak from Bass Lake Boat Rentals and Marina, then take to the lake for a day of floating, fishing, birding, and admiring the changing colors of the leaves.

Thanksgiving traditions go back generations at The Pines Resort. Check their event listings for modified happenings this joyous season.  

Take in the art scene...

For decades, Oakhurst has been heralded as an artists' community. It's been said that per capita, the Sierra foothills are home to the largest group of professional artists in the state. Creative thinkers are drawn to the region for its dramatic landscapes, colorful sunsets, isolation, and affordability. 

Sierra Art Trails is an annual event that started in 2003 that is an Open Studio Tour featuring over 100 artists.  In 2022 the tour will last 2 weekends starting Friday, September 30th and continuing Friday, Saturday and Sundays through October 9th.  Purchase a catalog for $20 and that is your ticket for two adults for the entire tour.

Take home artwork that will inspire the next adventure. With five distinct small spaces, Yosemite Gateway Art Center proudly showcases photography, sculpture and stunning masterpieces. 

  1. Gallery 5 exhibits provocative temporary exhibits like the Textures with Quilted works inspired by Nature. Between special exhibits, the gallery showcases works from private collections, including pieces by regional and world-renowned powerhouses like Jean Ray Laury, Stan Bitters, Rollin Pickford, and Jane Gyer.
  2. Stellar Gallery is host to the Sierra Art Trails Preview Exhibit thru October 9, 2022 along with its contemporary fine art photography with a focus on Yosemite National Park and the California Sierra Nevada region.
  3. Stavast Studio Gallery features peaceful and reflective oil paintings in a "magical realist" style from the artist, Stephen Stavast. 
  4. Williams Gallery West impresses patrons with an eclectic mix of fine art and folk art, including ceramics, glass, jewelry, painting, prints, Native American arts and more
  5. The Art Center Gallery displays works from members and partner organizations including the Yosemite Western Artists association. This multi-functional space also plays host to various live performances including music, spoken word, and lectures by local authors and historians. 

Yosemite's Southern Gateway is an artist's haven. Find out about ARTober in Oakhurst, the "ART the Bear" Carved bear treasure hunt, craft fairs, and so much more

Gallery Row Oakhurst

The Sorensen Sculpture was created by Fresno’s “Man of Steel” Chris Sorensen. It is proudly displayed at Yosemite Gateway Art Center in Oakhurst for the enjoyment of all.

Experience Yosemite Like Never Before with VR

Yosemite VR is the only permanent Positron Powered Virtual Reality theater in the United States that features “Experience Yosemite,” an amazing adventure that allows the viewer to experience Yosemite National park in a way never seen before.  Experience Yosemite is a 15-minute cinematic immersive journey through the wonders of Yosemite Valley. The film is narrated by Bryan Cranston that allows the viewer to fly through Yosemite National Park and witness its wonders in a way never before seen.

It is a must-see for anyone traveling to see Yosemite or who wants a more intimate and breathtaking additional experience of the beauty, majesty, and wonder that is Yosemite.

The technology uses state-of-the-art Positron Voyager chairs that feature sight, sound, scent, haptic feedback, and movement to give the viewer an experience they will never forget. 

Leaf-peep fall colors in Yosemite National Park...

This season embraces visitors with sunny days, cooler evening temperatures, changing leaves, incredible hiking, biking, photography and climbing excursions. Fall in Yosemite is like being wrapped up in your favorite cozy sweater with a mug of hot apple cider. It's all the feels, plus vibrant fall colors that are hard to find in California's evergreen forests. 

Find the best places to view the golden hues of the Big Leaf Maple trees, Dogwood trees and Black Oak trees that fill Yosemite's peaceful river valley with beautiful hues. The season is filled with romance. Fall in love with nature and the wide-open spaces that call to you.    Click on the Fall Video below for inspiration!

Wine Tasting along the Madera Wine Trail...

In the heart of central California, the Madera American Viticulture Area impresses with various grape varieties to please many palates. Fall in this region means one thing: harvest. Along the Madera Wine Trail, the wineries and vineyards come alive with activity, color, press, and bottling.

Wine tasting is available at ten local wineries: Papagni Wines, Ficklin Vineyards, Westbrook Wine Farm, Quady Winery, San Joaquin Winery, Toca Madera Winery, Idle Hour Winery and Kitchen, Dorval Estate Winery, Birdstone Winery, and CRŪ Winery. Come for the wine, and return year after year for the hospitality and the laidback vibe of wine country in central California and the Sierra foothills.

- Seven -

Enjoy access to Yosemite's high country through much of the fall...

Highway 120 through Yosemite National Park is known as Tioga Road and provides access to Yosemite's beautiful high country destinations such as Olmsted Point, Tenaya Lake, Tuolumne Meadows, and Dana Meadows.  It also provides the most direct access to the eastside of the Sierra with Lee Vining and Mono Lake just a short distance outside of the park's eastern gate. Known for jaw-dropping views and an abundance of autumnal color a trip to Yosemite's "eastside" should be at the top of every travel bucket list. The changing leaves of the quaking aspen trees boast explosive yellows, oranges and golds. It's a wonderland for those with an interest in photography. 

Tioga Pass sits at 9,945 feet above sea level. It is one of the highest mountain roads in California. When snow arrives the road closes for the season, typically this happens between late October to mid-November. View historical season closing dates. 


Sunset on Half Dome viewed from Olmsted Point

Half Dome has many faces and views from different vantage points in Yosemite. Each wonderfully unique including this one of the backside as seen from Olmstead Point.

Two-wheeled explorers' wheelie love Hensley Lake's many trails... 

Located in the lower elevation of the Sierra foothills Hensley Lake is a mountain bikers dream. The Lakeshore features well-marked trails, rolling hills and miles of track to delight beginners and challenge experts. The best feature of this little known lake is the quiet shoreline and ample space to get outside enjoy the fresh air.

The experts at Pedal Forward Bikes + Adventures in Oakhurst can gear you up, inspect and repair your bike, plus their personalized concierge service can help plan routes and adventures.  

Mountain biking at Hensley Lake

With pastoral landscapes, calm water, and migrating birds, Hensley Lake is an outdoor recreation paradise.

Shop, dine, and remember the heroes at the Coarsegold Historic Village...

Every weekend the shops at the Coarsegold Historic Village charm locals and travelers with open-air walking paths, an independent coffee shop, and small boutiques like the Hilltop Home & Garden

Stop for breakfast or lunch at the Wild Fig Kitchen and enjoy the freshest, simple, whole-food classic dishes Grilled Ham & Gruyere sandwiches, and innovative takes on brunch staples like Southern Fried Chicken and Waffles. 

With outdoor eating and outdoor shopping, you'll discover that this journey into the great outdoors was a brilliant idea.

Coarsegold Historic Village is the perfect place to stop and stretch your legs. With a spacious lawn and large shady trees, it is also the proud home of a Veterans Memorial recently installed to honor those who have served and sacrificed in the United States Military. A fitting reminder of reverence in November for Veterans Day.  

Coarsegold Historic Village shops

Antiques, collectibles, clothing, gifts, coffee, great eats and more can all be found at the Coarsegold Historic Village on Highway 41

Cozy mountain hideaways and fireside beverages with the ones you love...

Madera County is a cornucopia of wine, spirits, craft beer and delicious locally grown produce and products. Eating local and drinking local is a way of life in this part of the state. Find the perfect place to call your "home away from home."

Whether visiting with your family, your dogs, or that special someone, snuggle up with your travel partner and savor the golden moments that you'll treasure forever. Find your perfect getaway.

Duceys on the Lake dining on Bass Lake

Dinner with a view of Bass Lake at the always classic, Ducey's at the Lake from The Pines Resort

Book Your Stay


Like what you see? Save any of these pins (or possibly all of them) to your travel planning board(s) to give you an easy way to find your way back here!  Also check out our other blog posts as well as itineraries for more ideas and pins!

Our annual Visit Yosemite | Madera County Visitors Guide can answer all your questions about visiting California's Gateway to Yosemite. From the park itself to the museums, wineries, art galleries and more throughout Madera County, our guide can help you plan the perfect vacation. Please note that we mail to the USA only, but anyone can download the guide.
Visit Yosemite - Madera County
Oakhurst Visitor Center, 40343 Highway 41, Oakhurst, CA 93644
(559) 683-4636
Email us!

7 days a week: 8:30 am to 4:30 pm

Developed by Drozian Webworks | ©2024 Southern Yosemite Visitors Bureau. All Rights Reserved.