Zoe at Tuolumne South Fork. Photo by jenkinson2455 (CC)
Highway 140 through Mariposa County leads to Yosemite National Park, but there’s so much for you and Fido to see and do along the way that you might want to start your trip a day early.
Start in Mariposa, the historic county seat, with breakfast at Jantz Bakery or lunch at the delightful Deli Garden Café. For an afternoon diversion, visit Butterfly Creek Winery, which welcomes dogs in its tasting room and picnic area; or try some of the big reds for which the region is known at the dog-friendly Casto Fine Wine & Art tasting room downtown.
Mariposa boasts quite a few dog-friendly places to spend the night, among them the Best Western Yosemite Way Station, Mariposa Lodge, Miner’s Inn and Restful Nest. Vacation rentals are another option, and if you relish privacy, check out Indian Peak Ranch Mountain Top Hideaway, a luxury, two-bedroom home with swimming pool on 122 acres.
Continuing north toward Yosemite, Highway 140 follows the Merced River, a huge recreational magnet in these parts. One of the best ways to appreciate its wild and scenic beauty is with a hike on the Hite Cove portion of the 18-mile Merced River Trail. Wildflowers are abundant in season, with some coming into bloom as late as July.
Another good paws-to-the-path choice is the Briceburg Canyon Trail. This rails-to-trails pathway starts on the far side of a suspension bridge at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Visitors Center and runs for 4 miles on a hillside above the river along the former route of the Yosemite Valley Railroad.
In Midpines, the family-friendly Yosemite/Mariposa KOA makes a great base camp for do-it-yourselfers. It offers camping cabins as well as RV and tent sites, along with a swimming pool, clubhouse, playground, Merced River fishing access and other amenities on a 30-acre site.
El Portal, near Yosemite’s West (Arch Rock) 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.