Surrounded by steep mountains, lush meadows and breathtaking waterfalls, it was hard to believe that I was actually just outside of famous Yosemite National Park!
Instead, I was in Madera County, which sits at the southern entrance to Yosemite and has the appropriate title of “California’s Gateway to Yosemite.”
Water Sports and Fishing at Bass Lake
First on the agenda was a trip to Bass Lake. When I arrived, the rugged beauty surrounding the lake was far beyond my highest expectations. The sparkling emerald waters were still warm in September, and on this lovely morning with temperatures around 24 degrees Celsius, the lake was being enjoyed equally by water sports enthusiasts and families lazily enjoying the sun and scenery. People were swimming, watercraft were whizzing by, and fishermen were catching rainbow trout and largemouth bass. I was fortunate to be taken out on one of the rental boats, and we cruised around the entire lake. The backdrop was amazing, and as I spotted a bald eagle atop a tree, the perfect picture was created!
Enjoying a boat tour of Bass Lake
Hiking the Way of the Mono
Next was a delicious and filling lunch at one of the many locally owned restaurants, followed by a well-needed hike! There are myriad trails in Madera County, but I selected the one known as Way of the Mono. It was a fairly easy trail, but full of history about the Mono Indians that lived in the area hundreds of years ago. The best part of the hike for me was reaching the peak halfway through the trail. The vista from this point was simply incredible, and time needs to be spent just taking in the view.
An easy hike along the Way of the Mono Trail
California History at Fish Camp
My final stop for the day was Fish Camp. This quaint area has some wonderful bed-and-breakfasts, top-notch resorts, cabins and campsites. Fish Camp takes you back in time to the days of logging and gold panning. After a wander around the site, I boarded an original steam train and rode along the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. The hour-long ride was full of fun for adults and children alike; no one can resist the charm of the railroad! For a special treat, you can also take the Moonlight Special, a ride like the one I was on, but starting with a barbecue dinner and ending with a sing-along around the camp fire.
All in all, Madera County is a fantastic place to experience the beauty surrounding Yosemite Sierra and well worth a visit. I can’t wait to go back!
Steam train tour near Yosemite