Head to Northern California’s Yosemite Gold Country for Free Admission to Yosemite National Park in 2015; Park’s Highway 120 Entrance near Groveland offers Easy Access and Quick Views
Yosemite National Park in Northern California’s Gold Country will waive the entrance fee on April 18 and 19, during the National Park Opening Weekend. The park will be a major travel destination focus in 2015 as it celebrates its 125th anniversary. This year is a great time to visit, especially during the Park’s entrance-free days on special dates this month and in August, September and November.
Yosemite National Park’s favorite visitor vistas, Valley floor and waterfalls, lodging and campsites are perennially popular, but there is a way to experience all that the Park has to offer in a different light, when opting for a less-traveled park entrance and the hospitality of lodging and services available in a gateway community such as Groveland, near the State Highway 120 entrance of Yosemite.
The small town is 24 miles from the Big Flat Oak entrance to Yosemite via Highway 120/Highway 49, and has been a charming base camp for gold rush visitors for more than 150 years.
The stately Groveland Hotel, originally built in 1849 gives guests a step back in time. The hotel has 22 rooms, dining room for breakfast and dinner, and offers live entertainment monthly with musicians, theatre and magic shows. Rooms include a full breakfast. Reservations are available at www.Groveland.com.
Other lodging options in town include the Hotel Charlotte, built in 1921 with 13 rooms and 6 vacation rentals (and a discount for same day reservations)www.hotelcharlotte.com and the All Seasons Groveland Inn, an 1890’s Victorian home restored in 1999 as a bed and breakfast Inn with five rooms. Additional accommodations from the Inn include a home and condominium downtown Groveland, and a guest house on a 165-acre working ranch,www.allseasonsgrovelandinn.com.
Groveland is also alive with evening entertainment, restaurants and what has been claimed the oldest drinking establishment in California. Camping is available at Yosemite Lakes RV Resort, Yosemite Pines RV Resort and Family Lodging and in the Stanislaus National Forest. Camping provisions are available at Yosemite Adventure Supplies in Groveland.
Even closer to the 120 entrance to Yosemite National Park is Evergreen Lodge, a newly expanded, historic lodge nestled in the woodlands bordering the park with 90 cabins on 20 acres, and a variety of family outdoor fun activities. In 2016 a sister property with 143 rooms, Rush Creek Lodge, will open just one mile from the park entrance. It is the first new hotel development in the Yosemite area in 25 years. Reservations for Evergreen Lodge and information on Rush Creek Lodge are at www.evergreenlodge.com and www.rushcreeklodge.com.
Using Highway 120’s entrance means visitors will drink in their first scenic eyeful of Yosemite National Park just minutes past the park gates at Half Dome View where Half Dome, El Capitan and the scenic Merced River are visible. From there, it is approximately 15 minutes to the Valley Floor. Tours are available from a variety of operators including YExplore, Lasting Adventures and Yosemite Family Adventures.
Entrance wait times are generally shorter at this entrance, and the park’s weekend free entrance includes “in and out” access. General entrance fees to Yosemite National Park are $30 per vehicle. A Yosemite Pass for $60 provides unlimited access for 12 months. (Military personnel are able to receive a Yosemite Pass for no charge.)
The Yosemite Gold Country/Tuolumne County Visitors Center at Chinese Camp on Highway 49/120 provides information on lodging and campsite availability with on-site reservation assistance, maps, park tour options, historic gold rush sites, souvenirs and activities, and an overview on exploring the rest of the Gold Country. For more information, visit www.YosemiteGoldCountry.com.
Other entrance fee-free days for Yosemite in 2015 are August 25 – the 99th birthday of the National Park Service, September 26 – National Public Lands Day and November 11 – Veteran’s Day.