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Tuolumne River
Peter Essick/Getty Images

Tuolumne River

Tuolumne River
Escape from civilization

This wet-and-wild rafting adventure on the Tuolumne (too-all-uh-me) River gives you two or three blissful days of kiss-your-digital-life-goodbye freedom. You’re only four hours east of San Francisco, but this rugged land of deep gorges and forests is as wild as you can get in California. Once the shuttle bus drives you down the dirt road to the put-in site in the Stanislaus National Forest, you and your fellow rafters are pretty much outnumbered by birds, beasts, and big trout along an 18-mile stretch of Class IV rapids.

Known simply as “the T,” this designated Wild and Scenic section of river often gets the nod as having some of the best whitewater in California. Class IV rapids are the rule, not the exception. Clavey Falls, a series of three staircases, creates the biggest drama, but expect nonstop whoops and hollers on this exciting trip. May to early September, ARTA, Zephyr Whitewater Expeditions, and several other outfitters offer fully outfitted one-, two-, and three-day rafting adventures. For a worth-it splurge, join a “Wine on the River” or “Craft Beer Tasting” trip offered on select dates by O.A.R.S. After a full day of rafting, beach your rafts at a riverfront campsite and enjoy a gourmet dinner. Grownup beverages are paired by a brew master or wine expert who accompanies you on the trip. After dinner, watch bats swirl above the water as shadows deepen, then share river-rafting war stories with your new friends.

The Tuolumne’s put-in is off State Highway 120 midway between Groveland and Yosemite National Park. Water flows are dependent on releases from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, and only two trips are allowed to launch per day, so you won’t see many boats on this river. Graduates of “the T” might want to try a float on the Upper T, better known as Cherry Creek—an even more thrilling whitewater stretch.

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Thomas H. Story/ Sunset Publishing

Northern California

Discover the High Sierra

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1
November
Average (°C)
Sept - Nov
18°
High
-4°
Low
Dec - Feb
3°
High
-7°
Low
Mar - May
12°
High
-5°
Low
June - Aug
22°
High
5°
Low

Snow-covered peaks in winter, gushing waterfalls in spring, wildflower meadows and glistening lakes in summer, vibrant colours in fall—this is a land of dramatic and wild beauty. World-class mountain resorts circling turquoise-blue Lake Tahoe, and at Mammoth Lakes cater to all, with scenic ski trails in winter and trails and vistas in summer.

Yosemite Valley…is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and gold and wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.”  - photographer Ansel Adams

Yosemite National Park - a World Heritage Site, is found roughly 3½ hours east of San Francisco. Whether you hike a mountain, ski the steeps, or lounge in a hot tub beneath a canopy of stars, you’ll find your perfect getaway. 

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