Mariposa, California

downtown Mariposa, California, facing south on Highway 49

Location: 35 miles (56 km) southwest of Yosemite entrance; 43 miles (69 km) from Yosemite Valley; via Highway 140 (map)

Population 1,769; elevation 1,953 feet (595 meters)

Mariposa is a historic town in a pretty mountain location, with a short but charming gold-rush-era main district. It hosts a handful of midrange motels, a scattering of art galleries and antique shops, and California's oldest county courthouse in continuous use (it dates from 1854).

Pro:  It's a reasonable drive from Mariposa to Yosemite, especially in the winter, when Highway 140's lower elevation makes it the most chain-free route into the park. Mariposa itself is a pleasant little town with historical attractions of its own.

Con:  You don't expect to find traffic backed up behind stoplights 20 miles from the nearest city, but such is the case on Highway 140, the route from Mariposa into Yosemite, where a 2006 landslide prompted the building of one-lane bridges to detour traffic to the opposite side of the canyon and back again in the slide area. There may be waits of 5 or 10 minutes for the light, and traffic can take a while to get untracked on the other side, especially if there's a truck or two ahead of you. You do get to see the landslide, though, an undeniably impressive sight. Because of the sharp turns onto the detour bridges, vehicles over 45 feet (13 meters) long aren't allowed on this route, and it's solid entertainment watching someone in a rented RV attempt to negotiate these corners.

Shopping:  If you need basics, you'll find a nearly full-sized grocery store, the Pioneer Market, a block off the main street behind the rest area and the Mariposa Museum. There's a Rite Aid on Highway 49 at the north end of town, just past the 140/49 intersection.

If you're more of a recreational shopper, you should still be able to pass a few happy hours here: Mariposa has what must be one of the world's highest per-capita rates of art galleries and antique shops, and also hosts secondhand clothing stores, a gem shop, and - a sure indicator of civilization - a used-book store.

Coffee Emergencies:  There's a Peet's Coffee inside the Pioneer Market. If your timing is good, you might also find the Java Joe's coffee truck in the rest area.

ATM Machines:  Yosemite Bank has two branches with ATMs, one at the north end of town in the Miner's Inn center and one at the southern end in Pioneer Village. There are two more machines near the rest area, at Westamerica Bank and the Merco Credit Union. The Stage Stop Mini Mart & gas station, along Mariposa's main street, also has a machine. Finally, if you're a member of the Merced School Employees Federal Credit Union, you're in luck! You've got at ATM next to the Pioneer Market.

Medical Help:  There's an emergency room near the north end of town at the John C. Fremont Hospital.

YARTS Stop:  In front of the visitor center, which is at the north end of town at the junction of highways 49 and 140.

Tire Chains:  Available at Napa Auto Parts (purchase & rental), the Stage Stop Mini Mart (purchase & rental), Pioneer Texaco (purchase only), and Grizzly Gas (purchase only)

Stuff to do in Mariposa

The Mariposa Museum:  If you've got an hour or two to spare, check out this small gem tucked off Mariposa's main street next to the rest area. It's been acclaimed by the Smithsonian as the best museum of its size west of the Mississippi - the staff assure me of this, at any rate, and who am I to gainsay them? It certainly appears worthy. Highlights include lively, well-crafted displays on Mariposa's gold-rush history; frontier life, from schools to saloons; and the area's most notable pioneer, John C. Fremont. There's a working gold ore mill and a variety of other mining equipment on the grounds. The gift shop sells items ranging from books to tiny vials of gold dust. It's open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Adults are charged $3 for admission; kids get in free. For more information, visit the museum's website, which, in an inspired bit of meta-museuming, is itself an artifact from another century.

Walking Tours:  Mariposa is an eminently walkable town, and you can see just about the whole city in a couple hours. Most of the scenery is along Mariposa's historic main street; stop by the Mariposa County Visitors Bureau at the northern intersection of Highways 49 and 140 for a free walking-tour guide that includes the locations and provenances of Mariposa's historical buildings, some of which date to the 1850's. For a quieter outing, head a block downhill from the main street to the Mariposa Creek Parkway, a path that runs parallel to Highway 140 along Mariposa Creek. It's also worth walking a few blocks uphill to see the historic Mariposa County Courthouse, built in 1854 and dispensing justice ever since.

Mariposa Hotels & Lodging

Comfort Inn

4994 Bullion St. · (209) 966-4344 · Map · Street View · Reviews · Website · $90 - $350*

59 guest rooms; outdoor pool and hot tub; free wireless Internet; free continental breakfast; pets allowed (extra fee)

Indian Peak Ranch

3276 Indian Peak Road · (209) 966-5259 · Map · Website · $285

Secluded two-bedroom hilltop guest cabin with near 360-degree views; pool and hot tub, full kitchen; 122-acre property; rates from $285/night (see rates page); additional $100 - $140 cleaning fee

Mariposa Hotel Inn

5029 Highway 140 · (888) 244-9905 · Map · Street View · Reviews · Website · $140 - $180

6 guest rooms; historic building dating from 1877; rates from $140 - $180 during peak season (see rooms/rates page); free breakfast; in-room coffee & tea; AARP discounts

Mariposa Lodge / America's Best Value Inn

5052 Highway 140 · (800) 966-8819 · Map · Street View · Reviews · Website · $110 - $150*

45 guest rooms; outdoor pool and spa; HBO; wireless Internet; some pets allowed (extra fee); summer rates $110 - $150*

Miner's Inn

5181 Highway 49 North · (888) 646-2244 · Map · Street View · Reviews · Website · $140 - $210*

78 guest rooms; cable TV with HBO; outdoor pool and spa; suites with kitchenettes, hot tubs, and/or fireplaces available; summer rates $140 - $210*

Mother Lode Lodge

5051 Highway 140 · (800) 398-9770 · Map · Street View · Reviews · Website · $50 - $250

14 guest rooms; outdoor pool; rates from $90 - $250 during peak season (see rates page); refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker in all rooms; free internet access available in front office; cable TV with HBO

Yosemite Inn

5180 Jones St. · (866) 470-7130 · Map · Street View · Reviews · Website · $60 - $200

26 guest rooms; free wireless Internet; outdoor pool and spa; free breakfast; children 6 and under stay free; all rooms non-smoking; peak season rates $110 - $200, offseason rates $60 - $120 (see rates page)

Yosemite Way Station Best Western

4999 Highway 140 · (888) 742-4371 · Map · Street View · Reviews · Website · $110 - $200*

78 guest rooms; free continental breakfast; cable TV and HBO; outdoor pool and spa; summer rates $110 - $200*

Additional Mariposa Lodging

Fifth Street Inn

4994 5th Street  ·  (209) 966-6048  ·  Street View  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  $90 - $325*

7 guest rooms, all with private baths, max occupancy 2 - 6; summer rates $90 - $325*

Highland House Inn Bed & Breakfast

3125 Wild Dove Lane  ·  (209) 966-3737  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  $130 - $165

3 guest rooms, all with private baths; $130 - $165 (see rates page)

The Inn at Mariposa Bed & Breakfast

4472 Ben Hur Road  ·  (877) 588-2659  ·  (209) 966-4472  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  $160

Bed & breakfast with single guest room, private bath; wireless Internet; $160

Inn the Country Bed & Breakfast

3853 Highway 49  ·  (209) 966-5581  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  $80 - $95

Bed & breakfast with three guest rooms, two with queen beds, one with 2 twin beds; one with private bath, two with shared bath; no pets; $80 - $95

Little Valley Inn Bed & Breakfast

3483 Brooks Road  ·  (800) 889-5444  ·  (209) 742-6204  ·  Street View  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  $135 - $195

6 guest rooms, all with private baths and refrigerators; max occupancy 2 - 5; free wireless Internet; no pets, no smoking indoors; $135 - $195 (see rates page)

Mariposa Farmhouse Bed & Breakfast

7333 Highway 49  ·  (209) 377-8021  ·  Street View  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  $105

1894 house restored as two-guest-room bed & breakfast in 2013; both rooms have private baths; free wireless Internet; $105 for double occupancy

Meadow Creek Ranch Bed & Breakfast

2669 Triangle Road  ·  (800) 853-2037  ·  (209) 966-3843  ·  Street View  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  $115 - $170*

2 guest rooms with private baths, sleeping up to 3, on 7-acre property; wireless Internet available in main building and in one of the guest rooms; $115 - $170*

Monarch Inn

5059 Highway 140  ·  (209) 966-4288  ·  Street View  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  $65 - $130*

King and double-queen rooms; free wireless Internet; outdoor pool; complimentary breakfast; pets allowed in some rooms

One Light Bed & Breakfast

3526 Highway 49  ·  (209) 742-4597  ·  Street View  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  $130 - $170

Bed & breakfast with two guest rooms, both with private baths and private entrances; one room with king bed plus twin bed, one with queen bed; two-night minimum stay; pool, wireless Internet; no pets; $130 - $170

Poppy Hill Bed & Breakfast

5218 Crystal Aire Drive  ·  (800) 587-6779  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  $150 - $160

4 guest rooms, all with queen beds and private baths; all rooms non-smoking; $150 - $160 (see rates page)

Rancho Bernardo Bed & Breakfast (Catheys Valley)

2617 Old Highway  ·  (877) 930-1669  ·  (209) 966-4511  ·  Street View  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  $145 - $175

Bed & breakfast on 40-acre property with two guest rooms; free wireless Internet; $145 - $175 for double occupancy

Restful Nest Bed & Breakfast

4274 Buckeye Creek Road  ·  (800) 664-7127  ·  (209) 742-7127  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  $125 - $150

2 guest rooms and a guest house, all with private baths; pool, spa, picnic area, and fishing pond; $125 - $150 (see rates page)

River Rock Inn & Deli Garden Cafe

4993 7th Street  ·  (209) 966-5793  ·  Street View  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  $55 - $160*

6 guest rooms, all with queen beds and private baths; $55 - $160*

Yosemite Bed & Breakfast

4501 Bridgeport Drive  ·  (888) 528-9950  ·  (209) 742-4018  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  $140 - $290

2 guest rooms, both with private baths; 2-bedroom cottage with full kitchen, sleeping 4 (additional charge for breakfast for cottage guests); wireless Internet in all guest rooms; $140 - $290 (see rooms rates page and cottage rates page)

Yosemite Nights Bed & Breakfast

4327 Buckeye Creek Road  ·  (209) 966-3580  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  $135

Bed & breakfast with 4 guest rooms, all with private bathrooms, refrigerator, free wireless Internet; $135/night

Yosemite Plaisance Bed & Breakfast

4953 Trabucco Street  ·  (209) 742-5205  ·  Street View  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  $150 - $200

Bed & breakfast with single guest room; king & queen beds, private patio, wireless Internet; dogs allowed with advance notice ($10/night + $150 deposit); $150/night for double occupancy

Mariposa Vacation Home Rentals

Does' Cottage

(209) 379-2625  ·  Street View  ·  Website  ·  4 guests max  ·  $125 - $175

2 bedrooms, 1 bath; no pets, no smoking; 3 night minimum stay; $125 for double occupancy

Knarly Oaks Midpines Manor

(855) 562-7596  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  16 guests max  ·  $175 - $250

3 bedrooms, 3 baths, 2,600 square feet, 2.5-acre property; full kitchen, spa, laundry, Internet; $150 cleaning fee, $400 deposit (see rates page)

Knarly Oaks Pool House

(855) 562-7596  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  6 guests max  ·  $175 - $250

2 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1,500 square feet, 5-acre property; full kitchen, outdoor pool & spa, laundry, Internet; $125 cleaning fee, $400 deposit (see rates page)

Knarly Oaks River House

(855) 562-7596  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  14 guests max  ·  $175 - $250

3 bedrooms, 3 baths, 2,300 square feet, 1.7-acre property; full kitchen, outdoor spa, laundry, Internet; dogs allowed for additional fee; $150 cleaning fee, $400 deposit; high season rates $250 - $275 for 6 guests, $10 - $25 (depending on age and season) for each additional guest (see rates page)

Sierrascape House (Sierrascape Vacation Rentals)

(209) 966-4945  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  6 guests max  ·  $215 - $285

3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, 1,200 square feet; full kitchen; outdoor spa; wireless Internet; washer & dryer; $215 - $285 (see rates page); additional cleaning fees of $75 - $145; additional $20 per extra guest for parties larger than four

Vineyard View Vacation Home (Sierrascape Vacation Rentals)

(209) 966-4945  ·  Website  ·  7 guests max  ·  $215 - $285

2 bedrooms, 2 baths, 8-acre property; full kitchen; outdoor spa; wireless Internet; washer & dryer; $215 - $285 (see rates page); additional cleaning fees of $75 - $145

VRBO.com

Website  ·  $90 - $650

70+ private homes rented directly by owners

* Asterisked hotels don't list rates on their websites, so rate ranges were obtained by haranguing hotel employees or checking a variety of dates in their reservation systems. Since they generally don't bother to inform yosemitehikes.com when they change their rates and calling them or checking their reservation sites every day would be intolerably boring, there's a chance that they've changed, so you'd need to check with the hotel to make sure that these rates are still accurate. Also, listed rates generally do not include taxes.