What's great in wine, beer, fine dining,
places to stay, & places to visit
in California State

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 17:37

Fall is the New Summer

TASTE News Service, September 19, 2018 - Orange is the New Black, 30s are the new 20s and guess what? Fall is the new Summer.

Monday, 14 May 2018 20:36

Avoid the Crowds at Yosemite

TASTE News Service, May 15, 2018 - Savvy travelers with a little planning can do more, see more and save more when visiting Northern California's Gold Rush area and national park jewel, Yosemite, during the week.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018 16:48

State Historic Park Marks 168 Years

TASTE News Service March 20, 2018 - Gold was discovered in Columbia 168 years ago.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017 10:47

Yosemite's Closest Entrance Reopens

TASTE News Service, May 10, 2017 – This week, travelers can again access the valley in Yosemite National Park directly from Tuolumne County's entrance in Groveland, California via the newly repaired and reopened Highway 120.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 16:04

Ten Winter Options in Gold Country

TASTE News Service, January 19, 2017 - The forecast for this time of year is wet weather, and while California always needs it, it's not always a welcome sight for visitors who have planned a trip to the Gold Country area along Highway 49.

Stephen Willey with gold payment PicmonkeyStephen Willey, proprietor of the National Hotel in Jamestown, weighs gold dust in the saloon

TASTE News Service, June 9, 2016 – In a small town in Northern California, hotel guests have an opportunity to participate in a history-rich Mother Lode tradition that no place else can claim. They can pay for their stay in gold dust at the National Hotel in Jamestown.

Columbia Candy Kirtchen PicmonkeyIt's still hand-made at Columbia Candy KirtchenTASTE News Service, August 26, 2015 – Inside Columbia State Park in the heart of Northern California's Yosemite Gold Country business is conducted almost exactly the way it was in the gold rush era.

The Columbia Candy Kitchen has been the home of handmade confections in Columbia, California since the late 1800's, when a Danish confectioner settled in this gold rush town. A fellow miner, C. Rex Nelson, became the confectioner in the 1930's. After four generations, the Nelson family still produces the finest candies from original recipes, cooked in bright copper kettles, using original molds and cooled on marble tables that are more than 100 years old.

Candy canes are still made the old-fashioned way at Nelson's Candy Kitchen in Columbia. Visitors can watch through windows of the exhibition kitchen every Saturday and Sunday at noon and 1 p.m. from the end of November through the weekend before Christmas.

USA Today included Nelson's Columbia Candy Kitchen in their “top 10 sweet shops across America article”, calling the business “the type of place I go way out of my way to visit.”

Now there are three locations; the original kitchen in Columbia State Park, an additional location in Sonora, both in Tuolumne County, and another one in nearby Murphys, which is in neighboring Calaveras County. The flagship store produces 85% of all of their confections sold.

About the Area

Stage Coach in Coldumbia CA PicmonkeyThere's an occasional traffic jam in downtown ColumbiaTuolumne (rhymes with “follow me”) County, home to Yosemite Gold Country, located 133 miles east of San Francisco, is a pristine, scenic expanse reaching into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  

Gold was discovered in Tuolumne County in 1848, the same year as the find at Sutter's Mill in El Dorado County. These events helped to set off the gold rush of 1849.

The main highways leading to the picturesque drive from the San Francisco and East Bay Area are Highways 108 and 120 from the west and Highway 49 from the north. The State Highway 120 entrance to Yosemite National Park is considered the “front door” of the park for the San Francisco Greater Bay Area.

The Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park, and other surrounding areas provide natural vistas and settings for hiking, water skiing, horseback riding, rafting, camping, snowmobiling, boating, snow skiing, fishing and other outdoor activities. Seven restored historic hotels, four golf courses, numerous and varied dining establishments, historic saloons, five wineries and hard cider distillery, train rides, casino, seven museums, two state historic parks, five live theaters and many bed-and-breakfast inns are among the many other attributes that make the county a year round vacation destination.

Editor’s Note: If you’re thinking of visiting this part of the old west, consider first visiting Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. In the Gold Country section you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to Sierra Foothill Wineries and Craft Beer purveyors.

Kids pan for gold at Columbia State Park PicmonkeyKids pan for gold at Columbia State Park. Photo by Rich E. Mann

TASTE News Service June 8, 2015 - Winners of the 10Best Readers' Choice Awards for Best Kid-Friendly Destinations are in. Nominees in the contest, sponsored by USA Today and 10Best.com, were chosen by a panel of experts and voted on by the public. Yosemite National Park secured the No. 10 spot, the only national park on the list. Other picks were the theme park homes of Anaheim (No. 4), Orlando (No.6) and San Diego (No.7). Niagara Falls, New York took the No. 1 spot.

Yosemite National Park's gateway communities, such as Yosemite Gold Country are also kid-friendly. Miles of mountain bike trails, swimming and fishing spots appeal to kids, as well as the kid in everyone. Historic gold rush era towns like Jamestown and hands-on parks like 1897 Railtown, with real steam locomotive train rides, and Columbia Historic State Park and its stage coach rides encourage real hands-on experiences. The Sonora Fire Department Museum and Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum are also options that are likely to hold children’s interest.   In 1848 gold was discovered along the American River at Coloma. Later that same year gold was also found in Tuolumne County and soon all of this Sierra Foothill region was the scene of the gold rush of 1849. A favorite activity, even in these modern times, is to try your luck at panning. Three gold panning locations and mines keeps history alive in the area; Hidden Treasure Gold Mine Tours & Matelot Gulch Mine Supply Store in Columbia, Gold Prospecting Adventures in Jamestown, and 49er Mining Supplies in Columbia.

YARTS, the public transportation system for Yosemite National Park is also kid-friendly, offering free rides for children under 12 who are traveling with their parents.

About Yosemite Gold Country/Tuolumne County:

Tuolumne (rhymes with “follow me”) County, located 133 miles east of San Francisco, is a pristine, scenic expanse reaching into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The main highways leading to the picturesque drive from the San Francisco and East Bay Area are Highways 108 and 120 from the west and Highway 49 from the north. The State Highway 120 entrance to Yosemite National Park is considered the “front door” of the park for the San Francisco Greater Bay Area. The Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park, and other surrounding areas provide natural vistas and settings for hiking, water skiing, horseback riding, rafting, camping, snowmobiling, boating, snow skiing, fishing and other outdoor activities. Seven restored historic hotels, four golf courses, numerous and varied dining establishments, historic saloons, five wineries and hard cider distillery, train rides, casino, seven museums, two state historic parks, five live theaters and many bed-and-breakfast inns are among the many other attributes that make the county a year-round vacation destination. More info can be had at www.YosemiteGoldCountry.com.

Editor’s note: Links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options in and around Yosemite Park can be found in Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014 10:23

Five Natural Wonders of Tuolumne County

Yosemite Falls from Glacier Point PiicmonkeyYosemite Falls from Glacier Point. Photo: DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc.

TASTE News Service 26 Aug 2014 - Tuolumne County is two and a half hours east of San Francisco and is home to the the northern half of Yosemite National Park.  In addition to Yosemite, Tuolumne County is home to Gold Rush towns, two state parks, eclectic shopping, wine tasting, fun dining, four-season recreation, a variety of excellent lodging opportunities and some incredible scenery including many unique geologic formations.

The County's Historical Society's Landmark Committee set out to identify the seven wonders of the area. What they ended up with was 21 wonders – 10 natural and 11 man-made. Five of these natural wonders include:

Yosemite National Park is considered one of the most beautiful locations in the world.   John Muir called it one of nature's most majestic cathedrals and devoted his life to protecting it.  This year Yosemite celebrates the 150th Anniversary of the signing of the Yosemite Grant Act by Abraham Lincoln.  This Act placed federal protection around this special place so that it would be an inspiration for generations.  Yosemite remains one of the most inspiration places on earth with iconic features like Half Dome, El Capitan, Tuolumne Meadows and Yosemite Falls.  Lesser known but just as spectacular locations within the park include The Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias and Hetch Hetchy Valley.

Donnell Vista is located in Tuolumne County High Country just off of Highway 108.  The short walk to the scenic overlook is well worth the stop.  Visitors will see sweeping views of the Dardanelles, Donnell Lake and Niagara Creek Falls. Basalt formations which are part of the Carson Iceberg Wilderness can also be seen at this vantage point.  These formations are made up of volcanic remains of the lava flows that started at the top of Sonora Pass and flowed down the river canyon prior to the start of the Ice Age.

Trail of the Gargoyles provides visitors with a look at evidence of glaciations, with erratic boulders of granite rock that glaciers left perched on top of younger volcanic rocks.  There are two trails – the North Rim Trail and the South Rim Trail.  Both are 1 ½ miles long.  Easy to get to, the Trail of the Gargoyles is located off Herring Creek Road, nine miles east of Strawberry (above Sonora) on Highway 108.Ken Brunges Caretaker of the Bennett Juniper PicmonkeyKen Brunges Caretaker of the Bennett Juniper. Photo: Lisa Mayo

Columns of the Giants are a rare example of columnar hexagonal basalt rock finely polished by previous glacial ages.  Basalt, a hard, black volcanic rock with less than 52 percent silica, is the most common rock type in the Earth's crust.  The low silica content allows for flow over long distances.  Crystals can form because the lava cools slowly after erupting out of a volcano, sometimes taking months or years to cool all the way through.  The Columns of the Giants are located next to Pigeon Flat Campground, 24 miles east of Pinecrest on Highway 108.

The Bennett Juniper is an 86-foot high unrivaled specimen of a Western Juniper, America's largest.  Located near Eagle Meadows, it is estimated to be between 3,000 and 6,000 years old.  At last measurement it had a circumference of 480 inches and had a 58-foot crown spread.  On windswept meadows in the Stanislaus National Forest at 8,500 feet, the gnarled and knotted tree has withstood centuries of drought, hard winters and lightning strikes.   Visitors to the Bennett Juniper often meet up with Ken Brunges, who since 1988 has been the caretaker of the Bennett Juniper and surrounding acreage.  To get there:  There is no official signage.  Head up Highway 108, about one hour east of Sonora halfway between Strawberry and Dardanelle Resort.  Take Forest Road 5NO1 most of the way; the road is informally know as Eagle Meadow Road, although it goes far beyond Eagle Meadow.  A 4-wheel drive vehicle is recommended and a full tank of gas.  Take water and a camera and note that there are no public facilities.

Editor's Note: If you're thinking of visiting Tuolumne or any of the counties in the Yosemite area, check out the High Sierra listings at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining opportunities, as well as links to craft beer purveyors and wineries that aren't too far away.

High Noon poster

TASTE News Service July 16, 2014 - It's Lights, Camera, Action for Yosemite Gold Country/Tuolumne County, California. Over half of Yosemite National Park is located in Tuolumne County, which is located two and a half hours east of San Francisco and two hours south of Sacramento. In addition to Yosemite, Tuolumne County is home to Gold Rush towns, two state parks, eclectic shopping, wine tasting, fun dining, four-season recreation, scenic vistas and a variety of excellent lodging opportunities. All these amenities have helped shape Tuolumne County's rich film history and make it a great destination for current film projects.

Tuolumne County is a magnet for film enthusiasts. Over 300 feature films, television show and commercials have been made here. As early as 1919, filmmakers recognized the area as a valuable and convenient source of locations rich in diverse natural features and vintage architectural styles. They discovered that almost any type of scenery in the United States and beyond could be duplicated in Tuolumne County.

Movies and TV shows filmed here include: High Noon (Grace Kelly and Gary Cooper), Little House on the Prairie, Bonanza and Highway to Heaven (Michael Landon), The Red Pony (Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara), The Great Race (Jack Lemmon), Big Valley (Barbara Stanwyck), Lassie (June Lockhart), Rawhide and Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood) and Back to the Future III (Michael J. Fox).

Railtown 1897 PicmonkeyRailtown 1897, "The Movie Railroad" Photo by Kevin ZimmermanOne of the most popular filming locations, especially for westerns, is Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, which is also known as “The Movie Railroad.” The State Park is home to one of the most photographed locomotives in the world, Sierra #3. Perhaps the most famous scene was pushing a DeLorean time machine down the tracks in Back to the Future III. Visitors to the park can view movie memorabilia and photos and see Sierra #3 up close and personal.

Another very popular location for filming is Columbia State Historic Park. Add a little dirt to the streets of this authentic gold rush town and it is suddenly transformed back to the 1800's. Meticulously preserved buildings have led Columbia to doubling as many cities of the 1800s era including New York and Chicago. In the television series, Little House on the Prairie, the town became Sleepy Eye, Minnesota and in the classic western, High Noon, it was known as Hadleyville. The Wilson-McConneell House in Columbia is where Marshall Will Kane (Gary Cooper) tries to recruit Sam Fuller (Henry Morgan, aka Colonel Sherman Potter in M*A*S*H*).

There are additional filming locations throughout the County and the Tuolumne County Film Map helps visitors to find those locations and take a step with the stars. The Movie Map is available at both Visitor Center locations: Sonora and Chinese Camp.

Tuolumne County also boasts two film festivals: The ITSA Film Festival which takes place in November and is one of the hottest short film festivals in central California. Festival goers can attend panels and workshops, watch films and meet industry professionals in historic downtown Sonora venues. Film Fest Twain Harte takes place over Labor Day Weekend and focuses on western-inspired productions.

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