Open the windows and let your pup take in the smells as you drive Highway 140 from Merced to Yosemite’s El Portal/Arch Rock entrance. This route offers plenty of dog-friendly fun along its windy way, passing through the towns of Mariposa, Midpines and El Portal. If you are coming south on Highway 49, be sure to check out Coulterville, a monument to another time. We recommend staying in one of these historic towns before heading into the park.
Once you pack up and head for the park, start with breakfast at Jantz Café & Bakery in Mariposa, the county seat. If you arrive in the afternoon, pick up some picnic fare and lay out a spread on a table at Butterfly Creek Winery, which welcomes dogs in its tasting room as well as its picnic area. The Casto Oaks Fine Wine & Art tasting room downtown also welcomes four-legged visitors.
In Midpines, the family-friendly Yosemite/Mariposa KOA makes a great base camp for do-it-yourselfers. It offers Kamping Kabins as well as RV and tent sites, along with a swimming pool, clubhouse, playground, fishing access and other amenities on a 30-acre site.
The Merced River is a recreational magnet in this part of Mariposa County, and the Hite Cove portion of the 18-mile Merced River Trail eight miles west of El Portal is perfectly positioned for a leg-stretching break. In wildflower season, which stretches into July at altitude, you’ll get a good show along the Briceburg Canyon Rail Trail, which starts on the far side of a suspension bridge at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) visitors center and runs four miles above the river along the former route of the Yosemite Valley Railroad.
El Portal, near Yosemite’s west entrance, is a bustling gateway town where many DogTrekkers choose to stay while visiting the park. A solid and moderately priced choice is Yosemite View Lodge, with rooms overlooking the rushing Merced River. Of course, you may get “The Bug”—Yosemite Bug, that is. This rustic mountain resort is perhaps the most diverse property in the area, offering lodging in new cabins, older cabins with shared bath, tent cabins and even hostel-style dorm rooms. Dogs are welcome in all but the dorm rooms, and attitudes toward canines are extremely relaxed.
Photo Credit: @rubyinthebay