Take a journey along this historic highway and sample just a few of the attractions on offer, including Yosemite National Park, unique Gold Rush towns, and many more beautiful places.
Trip Length: 4 days
Total Distance: 206mi/332km
MANTECA.With a tag line of “Hook, Wine and Sneakers” and the label “Family City” you know Manteca is a friendly and fun place to stop and rest as you plan your next leg of the Highway 120 Adventure. Trek to Bass Pro Shop for outdoor gear or to Big League Dreams for baseball and soccer events. Take time to tour the Historical Museum , try wines at DFV Vineyard , or check out more than 48 dining options from casual BBQ to elegant-modern California cuisine. Don’t forget a quick side trip for shopping at the outlet stores; all the big names are located here. Stay and rest at a high-end spa suite or one of Manteca’s best economy accommodations before heading off to your next stop.
ESCALON.(12mi/19km; 17min) Experience small town charm. Visit the Barn for fruit, produce, gifts and delicious pies. Then enjoy a family picnic at Escalon’s very own Main Street Park, home of a historic caboose. Walk across the street to small town shops and the Escalon Historical Museum .
OAKDALE.(9mi/14km; 14min) Stop by the famous Cheese Factory as you enter the “Cowboy Capital of the World.” Cross over the Stanislaus River towards the center of town, where you will find the Cowboy Museum and several historic buildings that are among the oldest in the area. Hopefully you will be on time for the Oakdale Chocolate Festival, Climbers Festival , or Salmon Festival.
CHINESE CAMP.(29mi/50km; 31min) Go fishing or rent jet skis in the northern arm of Lake Don Pedro near the community of Moccasin. Be sure to feed the fish at Moccasin Fish Hatchery .
GROVELAND.(16mi/ 26km; 24min) Stop for lunch at shaded picnic tables next to the historic 1895 Jailhouse. From May to October, the visitor center has a Yosemite National Park Ranger on site to sell park entry passes and offer detailed advice about visiting the park and taking advantage of all that Yosemite has to offer. Tee-up at a championship 18 hole golf course with driving range, and an equestrian riding center, which are part of the community of Pine Mountain Lake open to the public.
YOSEMITE.(24mi/ 39; 28min) HWY 120 enters Yosemite National Park at the Big Oak Flat entrance. Just before the entry gate to the park, you will see Evergreen Road going left from HWY 120; this road takes you to a lightly visited section of Yosemite National Park called Hetch Hetchy, which is a great side trip if you enjoy waterfalls, wildflowers and hiking with less crowds.
LEE VINING. (68mi/109km; 1hr 44min) Head to the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve at the south end of Mono Lake, where you can see the world famous tufa towers. Stop by the Ghost Town of Bodie which is maintained in a “state of arrested decay” by California State Parks and is considered the best, most well preserved historic ghost town in the USA. If you have time, take a lovely drive on the June Lake Loop (especially in autumn for the fall colors) and stop at South Tufa, where you can see Mono Lake’s tufa rock formations. Stop and smell Jeffrey Pine trees because the cracks in the bark of a Jeffrey Pine smell like butterscotch.
BENTON. (48mi/77mi; 56min) This historical town has a population of 13 ½ , according to historical marker sign as you enter the town. Soak in the hot springs, complete with lodging and campsites, at the Inn at Benton Hot Springs . This is the eastern terminus of HWY 120 and where Highway 6 runs north-south between Tonopah and on the way to and from Las Vegas.
Note: Tioga Pass thru Yosemite is a seasonal highway, check road status.