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Paddleboarding on Bass Lake
25 Things To Do
in Yosemite's Southern Gateway
Itineraries 25 Things To Do While Enjoying the Great Outdoors
  1. Take a one-hour ride on "The Logger" or choose the family-sized Jenny railcars, as you travel by track through time in the Sierra Nevada at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. Order lunch and enjoy the open-air dining among the giant Sugar Pine trees. Back at the depot, visitors can enjoy a bookstore, gift shop, and the Thornberry Museum. Moonlight specials happen every Wednesday and Saturday evenings, all summer long.  
  2. Fresno Flats Historic Park: First, pick up lunch from Smokehouse 41 (trust us, order their 41 Baker - a loaded sweet potato) and enjoy the picnic setting.
  3. Bass Lake - rent a boat for a day on the lake with your family: Anchor out and swim, fish, and enjoy.  Pull your boat up to the dock and order a take-out from one of the lakeside restaurants.
  4. Sierra Vista Scenic Byway - Globe Rock: Grab a take-out picnic lunch from Deli Delicious in Oakhurst and set out along the byway, like a true explorer. President Theodore Roosevelt was photographed at this curious natural formation, you could be too!
  5. Madera Wine Trail: Enjoy a day of wine tasting starting in the farmlands, climbing the foothills into the Sierra. Discover an old-world grape-producing region in the heart of California, along the Madera Wine Trail.
  6. Look down at creation with Yosemite Adventure Company: Rambling on bumpy dirt roads, climbing precariously on four wheels up rocky inclines  - this is the ultimate mountain pastime. Reach Fresno Dome, Devils Peak, or Star Lakes then take a deep breath of fresh, crisp mountain air. You've made it to the top of the world!  Don't forget to grab some lunch from one of the local restaurants or grocery stores.
Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad has wild west charm and open-air adventures.

7. Sierra Vista Scenic Byway - Whisky Falls: Grab a take-out lunch on your way from The Pines Market & Deli in Bass Lake and set out to find a hidden wonder. 

8. Lewis Creek Trail: This easy to moderate trail can be tailored to the amount of time you have to spend hiking. Start from Cedar Valley Road, Lewis Creek turnout, or from Camp Sugar Pine. Choose your adventure.  

9. Coarsegold Historic Village - shop for unique gifts, antiques, and specialty clothing:  Don't miss delicious recipes for breakfast, brunch, and lunch at the Wild Fig Kitchen. Outdoor seating is available. Eat, stroll, shop, and learn about the history of the region.

10. Sierra Vista Scenic Byway - Nelder Grove of Giant Sequoia Trees:  After a day of exploring and hiking in the big trees, rest your wagon at the cowboy-chic, Cowboy Tavern at the Sierra Sky Ranch (open seasonally).  

11.  Find your inner cowboy at Yosemite Trails Horseback Adventures: Horseback riding is by its very nature a recreational activity that lends itself to plenty of social distance. Hit the trail and get along, little doggies. 

Waterfall, SIerra Nevada, Whisky Falls

Whisky Falls is easily accessed through Cascadel Woods and the Whisky Falls campground.

12. Escape to Redinger Lake for some kayaking or fishing:  Start your adventurous day with one of the region's best breakfast experiences and along with spectacular Bass Lake views at Ducey's at the Lake, then lake hop to nearby Redinger Lake outside of the historic town of North Fork. You will drive past the geographic center of California on your way. 

13. Mountain Biking:  In the southern Sierra, at Bass Lake and in other high country areas, mountain biking trails are world-renowned thanks to their varying levels of ability. Try a beginner tracks all around Bass Lake. Or take on expert-level challenges, like the 007 trail up Old Central Camp Road. Enjoy the climb up the two-mile paved road to the trailhead for the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Accessing the incredible 500 mature Giant Sequoias away from the usual summer rush.

14. Way of the Mono Trail - Bass Lake: A short hike up the one-mile loop, way of the Mono Trail affords a sweeping view of the perfect alpine gem that is Bass Lake. From here you are also within walking distance to the world-famous Forks Burger of The Forks Resort. In operation since 1927, the old school charm of this diner, market, and gift shop is what mountain memories are made from.    

15. Hiking, boating, fishing at Hensley Lake - Coarsegold/Raymond:  You'll quickly discover that the many lakes of Madera County a recreational dreamscape. Get on the water with your boat and spend a day fishing or wakeboarding. Explore the shoreline and enjoy the many picnic areas.   

16. Stay in a Vacation Home - with a pool, boat-dock, or mountain vista: Sierra Vacation Home Rentals, The Pine's Resort, and Yosemite's Scenic Wonders are just a few of the reputable property management companies in the area that are committed to ensuring a safe and stress-free experience for your family.  While at your rental try some late-night Bass Lake Movie Marathons. Check out, "Seven Flicks Filmed at Bass Lake", and enjoy the landscape from the comfort of home.

Kayaking at Reddinger Lake

Kayaking at Reddinger Lake with friends is the height of a naturally amazing adventure. 

17.  Coarsegold Historical Society and Museum:  Picture a time when the Southern Yosemite Highway, also known as Highway 41, was a freight-wagon road, with teams of horses bringing cargo to the wilds of the 19-century Sierra Nevada mountains. The packed adobe building located at the museum complex originally served as a weigh station. The carefully restored exhibits from the period bring history to life. Although the museum is adjacent to the modern-day state highway to Yosemite, it feels a world away from the present.  

18.  Ahwahnee Hills Regional Park - walking trails:  Ahwahnee, California gets its name from the Ahwahneechee people who inhabited Yosemite Valley. The town has open meadows, large oak trees, and plentiful wildlife. Enjoy a 400-acre nature park with well-kept trails and creek-side walks. Don't miss the nearby Wassama Round House, Historical Park. It is no surprise that this traditional gathering place for people dates back thousands of years. Nowadays, visitors can enjoy delicious food and ice-cold beer from the Hitching Post. As its name suggests, you may see horses outside with their riders inside the saloon. 

19.  Biledo Meadow hike and picnic area on the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway:  The intrepid explorers Judi and Steve from Visit Yosemite | Madera County explored this area in the popular series, "Judi's Jaunts: History and Botany Collide in Riotous Splendor at Biledo Meadow". Getting back into nature at the base of Mt. Raymond is spectacular.  

20.  Fishing in Madera County: There are fishing holes throughout the region that highlight the abundance of the San Joaquin River Gorge. Hook Brook Trout, Rainbow Trout, and Brown Trout in the creeks and waterway as you make your way to the angling mecca that is Mammoth Pool Reservoir. On your way, don't forget to stop at the Mile High Vista. This overlook is at an elevation of 5,300 ft and looks over the Mammoth Pool Reservoir. The view is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, no wonder they call this place "hidden Yosemite". 

(Note - the area and facilities surrounding Mammoth Pool were directly impacted by the 2020 Creek Fire. For the most up-to-date status, please contact the Bass Lake Ranger District office at (559) 877-2218.)

The attention to detail at the Coarsegold Museum ensures the legacy of the past will live on for a future generation of visitors.  

21.  Fresno Dome - Rock Climbing, Hiking, Picnics:  If you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle and are looking for the ultimate, off-the-beaten-path experience. You've arrived. Looking for an expert guide, or vehicle to get you there, Yosemite Adventure Company has your back. This massive granite monolith was inspirational to John  Muir and the thousands of explorers that follow in his footsteps. Witnessing the view from the top is incredible, however, technical climbing routes are available too. Ask Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides how to gear up for this epic adventure. 

22.  Lazy days at Falls Beach Picnic Area - Bass Lake:  Bass Lake, aka "the second happiest place on Earth" (Miller's Landing Resort's motto) is the ultimate relaxation destination. The Falls Beach day-use area has the key to summer vacation. First stop, Miller's Landing Resort and Marina for Starbucks coffee and supplies. Find your perfect water float, ice, drinks, and picnic supplies, or keep it easy - and order some taste bud tingling takeout. Head back to the north side of the lake, and find your perfect moment. Big smiles, happy, floating, and watching the young people enjoy the natural water slide of Willow Creek as it meets the lake.    

23.  Eastman Lake - Fishing, Swimming, Picnics:  Eastman Lake is the second largest of the nine lakes in Madera County. The drive through the historic town and rolling hills of Raymond, California is worth the trip alone. However, when you arrive to the huge expanse of open space that is Eastman Lake Reservoir you'll be glad you came. With well-maintained picnic areas, playgrounds and cool water. You'll quickly fall in love with this hidden gem.   

24.  Biking through the Sierra - motorcycles, e-bikes, and mountain bikes:  What better way to get some fresh air than to lose the car and find some wind in your hair moments. Then explore miles of winding roads, wildflowers and watering holes throughout the region. The route from O'Neals to North Fork to Bass Lake to Raymond on a motorcycle is idyllic. Hit the trails on mountain bikes and e-bikes and access a little know grove of Giant Sequoia Trees at Nelder Grove. The Sierra National Forest is your social distance playground.  

25.  Waterfall Chasing:  Whoever advised against chasing waterfalls clearly had never explored Madera County. With places like Red Rock Falls, Corileu Falls, Whisky Falls, The Falls Beach at Bass Lake, Angel Falls, and Devils Slide, a world of wondrous waterfalls is waiting to welcome you. 

Sunset view from Fresno Dome. John Muir called the Sierra Nevada Mountains the, "Range of Light" and it is easy to see why from this vantage point.


Like what you see? Save this pin to your travel planning board to give you an easy way to find your way back here!  Also check out our other itineraries as well as blog posts 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
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