Yosemite updates; and, Chinese Camp and Groveland, CA, take you back into Gold Rush history!


Old Catholic Church in Chinese Camp is surrounded by graves and family plots dating to Gold Rush days in the early 1850s!

Old boarding house on Chinese Camp’s Main Street is slowly mouldering away!
Old Chinese Camp Hotel, right off Hwy. 120 on Main Street – stop and tour the three blocks of old town on your way to Yosemite!
Groveland’s old jail, dating to 1854, when the town was a lively Gold Rush stomping ground!
Historic downtown Groveland, Gateway to Yosemite; that’s the old Groveland Hotel, on far right in photo (great food).

A couple Yosemite National Park updates, from my Record newspaper article and blog posting of a week ago.


First, Tioga Road has now opened, the earliest opening in recent memory; testimony to thin snow fall this past winter.  Many of the campgrounds off the road have yet to open, and highway construction may mean traffic delays, but (barring a late spring storm), you can cross Tioga Pass.  And, the cables have been installed for climbers wanting to climb Half Dome!

And, if heading to Yosemite, or Hetch Hetchy, don’t miss two wonderful diversions along the way.  If you have traveled to Yosemite National Park from Stockton or Modesto on California Hwy. 120, you have rolled through Chinese Camp and Groveland!  One of the side benefits of such a trip is you pass through a couple of historic Gold Rush towns worth a stop. You don’t even have to leave Hwy. 120, just pull over and take a leisurely stroll through dramatic history.

Chinese Camp is a true Gold Rush ghost town, right on Highway 120. The town in the 1850s once numbered 5,000 Chinese miners, merchants and other folks looking to make their fortune in the Gold Rush.

Take the walk down the three block stretch of Main Street, with an old abandoned hotel, post office, merchant’s buildings, rooming house and homes slowly moldering away. Just up the hill on Main is the St. Francis Xavier Mission Church and Cemetery, established in 1854.  You will find family plots and pioneer tombstones dating to the 1860s.

In 1856, history tells us that four of the six Chinese protective associations staged the first tong war, at a location a few miles distant, near the intersection of Red Hills Road and road J-59.  The city boomed in the 1850s, but placer mining was tailing off by the 1860s.  Though the town remained robust until into the 1870s, it faded quickly into a footnote on Gold Rush history.  Several million in gold came out of this area, a huge fortune for those times!

Groveland is closer to Hetch Hetchy and Yosemite, also on Hwy. 120, a quaint Gold Rush town catering to tourists with the historic Groveland Hotel, a jail dating to 1854 and Groveland Pizza, on north edge of town, a fine family food stop.  The old Hotel also is a grand dining destination, and a slew of shops await inveterate travelers!

Hetch Hetchy and Camp Mather: Take the time to take the 20 mile detour to see Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and the mighty Hetch Hetchy Valley, sister to Yosemite.  On the way, you will roll through Camp Mather,  just nine miles from Hetch Hetchy, with a store, restaurant and variety of accommodations, from lodge to cabins, in a bucolic wooded setting. Try the restaurant/bar at Evergreen Lodge for the best Reuben and barbecued tri-tip sandwiches we have had in years!  Vast stands of scorched forest along Evergreen Road, both before and after Camp Mather, offer mute testimony to the ferocious Rim Fire of 1.5 years ago.

How to get there: From Stockton, Chinese Camp is  65 miles, 1.6 hours; Groveland is about 20 miles further on Hwy. 120. Take Highway 4 east to Copperopolis, turn right on O’Byrnes Ferry Road, take a left on highway 120/108 and follow Highway 120 to Chinese camp and Groveland.  To reach Hetch Hetchy, turn off Hwy. 120 at Evergreen Road (it’s about a 30 minute drive to reach O’Shaunessy Dam and the Reservoir.  Leave early, particularly if you want time to press onto Yosemite National Park!

What to take: Pack cold weather gear, binoculars, camera and snacks for the trip. Fishing rods and your CA fishing license!

For more information: Yosemite National Park, go to www.nps.gov/yose; call 209/372-0200 (then dial 3, then 5) or by mail: Public Information Office, PO Box 577, Yosemite, CA 95389 (the park does charge a day-use fee).

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Happy travels in the West!

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