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Itineraries Fossils to Falls Road Trip

Fossils to Falls Road Trip

Enjoy the best of Madera County and Yosemite National Park

on the Fossils to Falls Trail, a four-day road trip!

Start your journey at the Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County, off Highway 99 in Chowchilla. This amazing exhibit features fossils from the Middle-Pleistocene (780,000 years ago). Columbian Mammoths, Saber-toothed Cats, Sloths, Dire Wolfs, Camels, and Horses are just a few of the 15,000 fossils found at this very spot. Kids can participate in a mock dig, too. 

Find the trading card for MR. MEAD at the Fossil Discovery Center. Mr. Mead is a Saber-toothed Cat and part of the Welcoming Committee for Madera County. Visitors who collect cards on the Fossils to Falls Road trip can enter to win the Yosemite Adventure Contest! It is exciting to discover fresh experiences in an ancient landscape. 

Afterward, drive to the Valley Pistachio Country Store to sample the freshest of local nuts and dried fruits. Continue on to visit wineries from the Madera Wine Trail then enjoy a locally sourced, farm-fresh dinner at The Vineyard Restaurant, also in Madera. Stay local, too, there are many comfortable hotels in Madera and Chowchilla.

Traveler Tip: Honey bees pollinate the fertile farms of Madera County. Pick up HONEY's trading card at wineries these participating wineries:

Birdstone Winery, Fäsi Estate Winery, Ficklin Vineyards, Idle Hour Winery and Kitchen, Papagni Wines, San Joaquin Winery, Toca Madera Winery, and Westbrook Wine Farm. Dive into the history and diversity of the Madera Viticulture area. 

Get an early start as you head up into the foothills of Madera County for another day of adventures. Visit the Coarsegold Museum to see what life was like in the 1800s in this thriving mining town and stagecoach route into Yosemite. Don’t miss the Coarsegold Historic Village for shopping and lunch. While you're there, try your hand at gold panning, too.

Head into Oakhurst the largest town in the foothills where you’ll find quaint bed and breakfast inns, hotels, and vacation rentals. Dine at South Gate Brewing Company after a day of exploring the area.

In the center of town meet SIERRA, from the Welcoming Committee. Sierra is a local black bear that loves to shop, play and explore all there is to see and do in Oakhurst, the largest gateway town outside Yosemite. Stop by the Visitor Center in Oakhurst to pick up your Sierra trading card for the Yosemite Adventure Contest. 

While you're there ask how to find the World Famous Talking Bear. Press the button and hear what he has to say. 

Meet a colorful addition to the Welcoming Committee, ART E. FOXThe Sierra Nevada red fox is one of the most endangered species in North America. Discover powerful works of art and learn about this incredible creature at the Yosemite Gateway Art Center, in Oakhurst.

Spend the day at the lake on beautiful Bass Lake! Rent a boat or water toy from one of the three marinas on the lake. There are several ways to spend a day at the lake. You can take a fishing tour, try to spot the resident Bald Eagles, enjoy a scrumptious meal at a restaurant, hike or bike the trails around the lake, then discover treasures at the shops at the Pines Village.

While at the lake, look out for BLAKE trading cards at the front desks of The Pines Resort and Conference Center, Miller's Landing Resort and Marina, and the Forks Resort and Marina. BLake is a Bass Lake bald eagle who likes fishing, watching tourists, and getting his photo taken. 

Next on the agenda, head to North Fork, the Exact Center of California. Pick up your RANGER card at The Sierra Mono Museum and Cultural Center. Here, you will learn from exhibits and artifacts that tell the stories of the Mono people, who have lived in the Sierra Nevada for thousands of years. The museum is one of only a handful of Indian-owned-and-operated museums in the state. They offer classes and workshops on traditional Mono arts and crafts.

While in North Fork, discover The Gnarly Carrot, a small organic grocery store that provides seasonal produce from the local Kern Family Farm. They also have a smoothie and juice bar that features fruits and produce straight from the farm. They have RANGER cards, too. So be sure to add this stop to your travel plans. 

Don't miss riding on a historic Steam Train at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad.  This four-mile excursion takes riders back in time to the logging and gold mining times in the Sierra National Forest.

RICKY is the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad's resident bandit, raccoon. Ride the antique steam train around the mountain and pick up your Ricky trading card.

On your last day, visit Yosemite National Park to marvel at its wondrous sights. 

The first stop at the South Gate Entrance of the park is the largest grove of Giant Sequoia Trees in Yosemite, Mariposa Grove. These beautiful trees are some of the largest on the planet. Learn about this outdoor cathedral and the importance of preserving the health of the grove for future generations. 

GALEN is the great horned owl that is the protector of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. After exploring the giants, snap a picture, then pick up GALEN's trading card at the Mariposa Grove Welcome Center.

Next, explore Glacier Point (open seasonally) get a bird’s-eye view of Yosemite Valley and many of the astounding waterfalls. 

In Yosemite Valley, take in iconic scenes of well-known landmarks such as Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, the Three Brothers, and Cloud’s Rest. You might even be lucky enough to see climbers ascending the 3000' tall face of El Capitan. There’s so much to see in Yosemite Valley, a lifetime of adventure is possible. 

SANDY the squirrel hangs out at Tunnel View and all around Yosemite Valley, gathering nuts and chatting. You can pick up your Sandy trading card at a couple of locations. In Yosemite at the Ansel Adams Gallery in the Yosemite Village and now you can also stop in at Tenaya at Yosemite in Fish Camp before or after your visit to the park.

For current information regarding access to Yosemite, events, and outdoor programs, be sure to review Yosemite National Park Service official website.  

The only thing left to do is book more time in the region. Dream about your trip and hear more about the Fossils to Falls Road Trip in this fun video! 

Meet The Welcoming Committee!


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

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Ever wondered what it would be like to come face to face with a Columbian Mammoth? The Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County wants to show you! Find fascinating facts about the ancient animals and people who have lived in this region. Displays include a 16-ft sloth, dire wolves, and so much more. 

Make reservations for your small group, don't forget to ask about the mock dig for kids. 

There's a lot to discover outside of Yosemite National Park!


Madera County is the center of the state and the heart of California's agriculture region. Explore the Madera Wine Trail, the Yosemite Sierra Wine Road, or a historic port winery at Ficklin Vineyards, to find HONEY the honey bee card from the Yosemite | Madera Welcoming Committee. 

Click to download or print your map

Travel Tip: If visiting the region on the first weekend of November, don't miss the Pomegranate Fruit and Nut Festival at the Madera Fairgrounds.


Pick up your SIERRA trading card in the Oakhurst Visitors Center. While you're there, pick up a few more necessities, like restaurant recommendations, maps, and information on events and happenings in the region. 

Take the short walk to check out the "World Famous Talking Bear", and the short drive to Fresno Flats Historic Village and Park, a living ghost town and museum that is the perfect place for a picnic. 

There are many shops and souvenir locations where you can find the perfect gift or memento from your trip. Gas, groceries, and great times are in full supply in Yosemite's largest gateway town, Oakhurst.  


Bass Lake is a dream destination. Located nearby to the center of California, this five-mile-long lake is hidden in the Sierra Nevada, but not too far from home. 

Find BLake the bald eagle trading card for the Yosemite Adventure Contest by asking for them at The Pines Resort on Bass Lake's north shore. Miller's Landing Resort and The Forks Resort are also favorite hangout spots for BLake during the warm weather months of April - October.

Rent kayaks, paddleboards, fishing boats, party barges, ski boats, and inflatables at the marinas. Keep an eye on the events calendar, there's a lot to do at beautiful Bass Lake. 


Ride the narrow gauge rails of the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, delight with the wind in your hair, the smell of the forest, and the thrill of a train whistle blowing through the air. 

Look for Ricky trading cards at the gift shop to learn more about this resident bandit raccoon. Make time to explore the Thornberry Museum, Toy Depot, and try your hand at gold panning, too. 

The antique Shay locomotives of the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad are some of the oldest and the largest in the world. 

Travel tip: Ask about picnic lunches available to eat at the station, or packed to go, and Moonlight Special dinners with live entertainment. 

All aboard! 


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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