Head to this historic Gold Country town for drinks at California’s oldest saloon and to explore the Sierra foothills
Things to do
Places to Eat & Drink
A gateway to Yosemite National Park, the historic Gold Rush town of Groveland has drawn seekers for more than 170 years. During the Gold Rush and later in the 19th century, miners came here to dig for treasure. Today’s visitors travel to this Tuolumne County community both to experience the past and for nearby outdoor adventures in the High Sierra.
Groveland’s best-known landmark is the Iron Door Saloon, which was built of solid granite in 1852 and became a saloon in 1896 after stints as both a store and a post office. The Iron Door is considered California’s oldest continuously operating saloon and gets its name from the imposing iron doors that were imported from England and traveled by ship around South America’s Cape Horn before arriving in the Sierra foothills. Come to the Iron Door for the historic atmosphere, not to mention char-grilled burgers, St. Louis–style pork ribs, and live weekend music.
Just steps away from the Iron Door, the Groveland Hotel is another local landmark with an eclectic history. Since opening as a trading post in 1849, the Monterey-style adobe construct evolved into a gambling house, saloon, and ranger station. These days the Groveland is a boutique hotel with modern amenities—including a Tesla charging station—and has rooms and suites that let you watch the goings-on in town from a wraparound balcony. For a deep dive into Groveland history, walk a few blocks to the Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum, which looks at the area’s natural and cultural history, with displays about the Gold Rush and the indigenous Me-Wuk people.
A unique way to start your Groveland day is at Mountain Sage Nursery, where you can savor house-made baked goods and organic coffees in a gorgeous garden setting. Check out the beautiful Sierra landscape photography of Robb Hirsch and join a morning yoga class or an art workshop. The seasonal (closed in winter) Tangled Hearts Bakery & Cafe is a popular breakfast spot known for its breakfast burritos, as well as irresistible maple cinnamon rolls and apple pies. The bakery is also a must for anyone craving biscuits and gravy. Or if you want to pack a picnic for your day of exploring, pick up an Italian sub and a tri-tip sandwich at Kevin and Randi’s Old-Fashioned Meat Market.
Things to do near Groveland
There are endless discoveries within easy reach of Groveland. Wine lovers should check out Yosemite Cellars for its small-production Grenache Rosé and Tannat made from grapes grown at the winery’s 3,000-foot-elevation estate vineyard. Fifteen miles east of town, take a dip at Rainbow Pool, a natural swimming hole fed by a small waterfall in the Stanislaus National Forest. Right by the national forest’s Groveland District Ranger Station, the Little Golden Forest Trail is a kid-friendly route that’s a perfect introduction to the local environment, thanks to a self-guiding tour brochure that explains foothill ecology.
About half an hour from Groveland, an easy 1.4-mile trail leads to Carlon Falls, a 30-foot waterfall on the South Fork of the Tuolumne River. And if you want to get out on the water, a number of rafting companies that offer both day and multi-day trips are based in Groveland, including All-Outdoors and Sierra Mac River Trips. And Groveland’s Echo Adventure Cooperative leads an assortment of guided outdoor adventures, from fly-fishing to snowshoeing.
Of course, Yosemite is just up Highway 120 from Groveland, with the park’s Hetch Hetchy entrance only 45 minutes away. On the way to the park, grab a bite at the Lucky Buck Café, a popular spot that boasts a robust vegetarian menu as well as burgers and fries.
In quiet towns west of Yosemite National Park, historic preservation mixes with modern appeal