Most people come to Groveland, California to experience Yosemite National Park. During the summer months, Groveland is filled with people from all around the world exploring the majesty and wonder of Yosemite. However, there are countless things to do in and around Groveland during the off-season. The Red Tail Ranch is proud to describe itself as a Yosemite Bed & Breakfast, but we are also proud to call Groveland home. We recommend you come to Groveland during the off-season to experience Yosemite when the crowds are low (or at least lower) and see what our little corner of the Sierra Nevada has to offer. Located just 2 ½ hours from San Francisco, the Red Tail Ranch is the perfect rural escape for Bay Area residents looking for a relaxing weekend getaway. We are a small farm/bed & breakfast situated at the end of a private gravel road, offering our guests the warmth and hospitality of a homestay any time of the year. If you join us this winter, just make sure your car is prepared for some potential snow driving. Snow tires or chains are highly recommended.
Here are our top picks for what to do in Yosemite and Groveland during the off-season.
While Yosemite is the region’s premier attraction, Groveland offers many other excellent opportunities for travelers who want to explore the great outdoors. Visit the Stanislaus National Forest to see stunning volcanic and granite formations and explore ancient Redwood forests. If you would like to explore a hidden treasure of Yosemite, check out our personal favorite, the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. It boasts one of the longest hiking seasons in the park, so it is a great choice if you a visiting Yosemite in one of the off months. It is located in the park’s peaceful northwest corner at 3,900 feet, rewarding you with a vast wilderness of soaring peaks, hidden canyons, and remote crystalline lakes. If hiking isn’t your interest, walking across the O’Shaughnessy dam and viewing the reservoir is an experience in itself.
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Photo Credit: Clarisa Flores.
Gold Rush History
The Sierra Foothills is home to many historic gold rush towns. Visiting them is a fun way to step back in time and get a taste of California at the height of gold fever. Groveland is even home to the Iron Door Saloon, the oldest continuously operating saloon in California. Our favorite gold rush site is Columbia State Historic Park, once located in the heart of the California Motherlode. Columbia is a living gold rush down that boasts the largest single collection of existing gold rush-era structures in the state. Visit Columbia and you can pan for gold, ride a stagecoach, visit a working blacksmith shop, bowl in an antique bowling alley, dress up for your very own old-fashioned photo shoot, and take a guided tour to learn more about the town’s fascinating history. While at Columbia, we also recommend you sample some locally made Sarsaparilla and swing by the town’s authentic ice cream parlors, candy stores, and saloons. You can take a Ghost Tour or solve a mystery based on an actual crime that occurred in Columbia. In the fall and winter, the town will be hosting other fun events, like a Fiddle and Banjo Contest, Chili Cook-Off, Trick or Treat night, Candy Cane Making Workshop, and Equestrian Christmas Parade.
Columbia also hosts the annual Harvest Festival in October, now in its 33rd year. Vendors dress up in authentic 1850s garb to sell a variety of handmade goods, including pottery, jewelry, apparel, home decor, wood furniture, and more. You can watch spinning and weaving demonstrations or see lively performances by local musicians and dancers. There is also plenty for kids to enjoy, including free face painting and a petting zoo.
During the winter, Yosemite turns into a snow-covered wonderland and offers unbeatable opportunities for snowshoeing, ice skating, tubing, and downhill skiing. Click here for more information about passes, lessons, and activities in the Yosemite Ski and Snowboard area. But remember, if you come to Yosemite during the winter, be prepared for possible snow/ice driving.
Taste of Yosemite: During the month of January, the Majestic Yosemite Hotel hosts an annual food festival that brings in some of the most renowned chef’s from around the country. The chefs will serve up some of their trademark dishes and provide cooking demonstrations. You will also be treated to a fabulous five-course dinner prepared by a visiting chef.
The Bracebridge Dinner: Come participate in a beloved Yosemite tradition dating all the way back to 1927. This Christmas-time celebration turns the Majestic Hotel’s grand Dining Room into an Old-English era banquet hall brimming with Yuletide festivities. Over 100 cast members dress up as Kings, Queens, Squires, and Jesters to transport you back to an Arthurian dining experience, complete with a suckled pig. It is a great excuse to get dressed up, listen to old-time music and Christmas carols, and indulge in rich food and champagne. It is part banquet, part theatrical performance, part Christmas celebration.
Grand Grape Celebration: Are you a wine aficionado or simply someone who enjoys a good-tasting merlot? Either way, the Grand Grape Celebration will have something for you. Some of California’s most renowned vintners gather in Yosemite to share their most delicious wines. At this elegant event, you can talk with the vintners while enjoying four wine tasting sessions and an elegant four-course dinner with dishes perfectly paired to match the featured wines. With six sessions through November and December, it is the perfect addition to your winter travel itinerary.
Yosemite is wonderful any time of the year, so why not visit us in the off-season to experience a side many tourists don’t see? With its great events, historical sites, and outdoor adventures, we promise that you will find something to love in Groveland,
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