Oakhurst, CA. – Entry in to Yosemite National Park will be waived the entire week of April 21 – 29 to mark National Parks week. Those free days make the perfect time to explore all the grandeur of Yosemite, and the Fossils to Falls Trail of the southern gateway region.
“The Fossils to Falls journey highlights the many attractions of Madera County, California’s Gateway to Yosemite and the park itself,” said Jarrod Lyman with the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau.
“It’s about putting the focus on the entire journey, not just the destination,” he said. “Many people will take the opportunity to go to Yosemite during this week but miss out on the other great attractions.”
Ending with the famous waterfalls and many other beautiful aspects of Yosemite, the journey starts in Chowchilla at the Fossil Discovery Center, a museum displaying the fossilized remains of mammoths, sabre-toothed cats, dire wolves and other prehistoric animals that once roamed the area. Each of the fossils was found right there at the museum site, the largest Pleistocene era fossil bed in the western part of the United States.
Other attractions include Home Grown Cellars in Madera, a working pomegranate farm with a myriad of pomegranate products. You can take a trolley-tour of the farm to see how they are grown, and how they are used to make juice, honey and other products, and tour the new Butterfly House that just opened April 19.
For vacationers traveling without kids, another stop is the Madera Wine Trail, 11 award-winning wineries with numerous varieties.
“Few people realize how prolific this area is in terms of wine production,” said Lyman. “Other, more well-known areas of California produce 60 percent of the state’s wine, but only grow 20 percent of the grapes. The grapes grown here make amazing wines, and the Madera Wine Trail proves this with new fans every day.”
Travelers can then continue towards Yosemite, making their way to North Fork, the exact center of California. In addition to standing “in the middle of it all,” North Fork is the jumping off point for the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway in warmer months, and home to one of the nation’s few tribally operated museums, The Sierra Mono Indian Museum.
Other museums along the Fossils to Falls journey are located in Coarsegold, another historic mountain town and Oakhurst, the last “big town” before Yosemite. Also in Oakhurst you’ll find several art galleries as the area is home to more artists per capita than anywhere else in the country.
Another popular stop is Bass Lake, a favorite vacation spot for guests that boasts a full service resort, fine dining as well as family style dining, shopping, vacation rentals, cabins and camping all moments from the water’s edge.
“Bass Lake is the perfect family vacation spot,” Lyman said. “Every outdoor activity you can imagine is found here. Boating, fishing, hiking, camping, wakeboarding, you name it, it’s here.”
Continue to head towards Yosemite and you’ll find the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, home to a pair of nearly century-old Shay locomotives. These trains were once used to haul lumber through the region but now ferry guests on a historic journey through the Sierra National Forest that showcases the area’s rich history. Guests can also visit a historic museum on site and pan for gold.
Next stop is Yosemite. But the Fossils to Falls journey also highlights more areas of the park than many people visit.
“So many people head right for the valley, they miss some other equally amazing spots in Yosemite. The park is the size of Rhode Island, it’s something that must be explored for a few days if not longer.”
When taking advantage of Yosemite’s free entry, go along the Fossils to Falls trail for a weeklong vacation that will recharge your batteries and give you memories for a lifetime.
For more information on these and the other stops on the Fossils to Falls journey, visit www.YosemiteThisYear.com and click on Yosemite Area Attractions. For special travel incentives good for the week and longer, click on “Special Deals.”