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Groveland, Calif.: Short Stop

A timeless Sierra town offers winning eateries and a taste of the Gold Rush.

downtown Groveland, Calif., Iron Door Saloon, image
Photo caption
Downtown Groveland, Calif., shows its Gold Rush past in places such as the Iron Door Saloon.

Many travelers on their way to Yosemite National Park skip the Gold Rush town of Groveland, Calif., just 25 miles away on Highway 120. But those who do stop here can enjoy a quiet Sierra getaway and an ideal overnight rest. Groveland's historic inns and an Old West tavern make for a charming visit, and because the town is so close to Yosemite, you can beat the heavy summer traffic the next morning (a must if you're pushing for one of the coveted first-come, first-served campsites).

Head to the Iron Door Saloon—said to be among California's first watering holes—for happy hour or a meal. Swinging doors and black-and-white photos of the area's Gold Rush days give this 1850s tavern a pioneer feel; live blues, country, and rock music on the weekends make it Groveland's gathering place. The adjacent grill serves Cajun catfish, roasted garlic soup, and a Maui Waui burger (glazed with teriyaki sauce and garnished with pineapple and bacon).

Pick up a fishwich at nearby PJ's Cafe and Pizzeria or sandwich fixings at the Main Street Market, which is also the last full-service grocery store before Yosemite. Then head to Mary Laveroni Community Park, where the swing set and well-kept lawn promise a child-friendly picnic spot.

Quick Tip
You can replace a forgotten flashlight or camp stove at Mountain Sage, a combination gallery, nursery, and camping store, where you can also view photographs or listen to live bluegrass. 18653 Main St., (209) 962-4686.

If you want to do more than merely stretch your legs, a 15-minute drive east from Main Street puts you at the trailhead to Smith Peak, a 3.5-mile round-trip hike with views of Fresno and Merced. And when the temperature soars, ask for directions to Rainbow Pool on the south fork of the Tuolumne River, a swimming hole that locals love.

Groveland's Main Street also caters to overnight guests. Check out the Hotel Charlotte, a comfortable bed-and-breakfast that opened in 1921. Or for a special occasion, stay at the Groveland Hotel. The two-story inn has a garden patio and a wraparound veranda looking out on Main Street and the surrounding mountains. Its dining room features roasted rack of lamb and an extensive wine list of 461 labels.

Photography by Terri Metz/courtesy Tuolumne County

This article was first published in July 2004. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.