Places to go Outside the Places to go: Yosemite

Everyone knows Yosemite is the National Park Mecca of photo-ops. But what about when you’ve taken all the shots you can? What about when you’ve already taken a picture of half-dome during every season? We’ve got some ideas...

Here are six off the beaten path locations to make your Yosemite trip a little less Tripadvisor-y and a lot more memorable. There’s something for everyone from adventure enthusiasts to foodies.

1. Chinese Camp Old Town

church in chinese camp california

Photo By: @memorycatcher1982

This now ghost town used to be an old western gold mining town. It has the oldest church in the county, a functioning post office and a pagoda-inspired elementary school. Back during the mining boom of the 1850s Chinese Camp was home to over 5,000 Chinese miners. Now barely 100 people live there. Mike, the owner of the general store is apparently super friendly and willing to chat about the town with anyone who visits. It doesn’t take long to take it all in, but it’s quiet and full of history.

2. Rainbow Pool

Just off Highway 120, this natural swimming hole will make the perfect backdrop to your summer vacation memory montage. There’s a semi-steep but manageable hike to the water to get you working up a sweat. You can jump off rocks and slide down natural “water slides.” It should be noted that though there are picnic tables and restrooms that there are no trash cans so “pack-in, pack-out” is the mantra for this stop. Overall a great free spot to cool off during the summer.

rainbow pools waterfall with rainbow in california

Photo By: jessicawelshx

3. Coulter Cafe and Cakewalk heirloom baking co.

Coulter Cafe is a Family run and has been for over 25 years. It’s got phenomenal burgers and gluten-free buns for our gluten-free travelers. As an added bonus this place also has a gift shop/general store so you can stock up on all your little necessities before you get back on the road. But keep in mind, they’re only open for breakfast and lunch. If you’re looking for baked goods in addition to your burger, Cakewalk Heirloom Baking Co. is a great option real close. They have an assortment of gluten-free/diabetes friendly French-style baked goods. If you’re in the mood for local goat cheese, they make that too. Everything is farm-to-table local goodness.

coulter cafe wood building in california

Photo By: Dave’s Travel Corner

4. Epic Alpacas

Check out the largest alpacas herd in the country! You can buy, sell breed or just pet alpacas. If you aren’t in the market for one of these camel-adjacents, you can pick up a variety of alpaca wool products or just a stuffed animal. Either way, if you’re an animal lover or just on the hunt for some family fun, check this place out.  

brown and white fluffy alpaca

Photo By: @macros013

5. Oakhurst Grill

Do you NEED to see a 25-foot wooden replica of the statue of liberty? Maybe not, but if you’re also into comedy shows, burgers and live music this place is worth a stop. Apparently, they also have Thursday night yoga if you need to preemptively work off your dinner. If yoga doesn’t float your boat, they have a huge whiskey selection.

wood statue of liberty at oakhurst grill

Photo By: Miles Tucker Art

6. Coarsegold Historic Village

Check their super awesome, tastefully vintage website for one of their many weekend events. Stop by Zanders Coffee and Pastry Shop to feel like a true local. They’ve got shops with unusual items and antiques from vendors who really know their stuff. They even have an annual tarantula festival for those more adventurous than the average tourist.

girl looking at antique licence plates at outdoor street fair

Photo By: @sydnneyallison

Can’t get enough Yosemite? Get your own Yosemite National Park t-shirt, Keep Exploring style. We launched a collection of National Park Tees just in time for summer a few weeks back, so grab yours before the season is done.

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