Directly east of the San Francisco Bay area sits many rustic and beautiful Tuolumne County Communities. Home to Yosemite National Park and all the grandeur therein, Tuolumne County has even more to offer.
Highway 120 is the most direct route to Yosemite National Park. Along the way, about a hour outside the park rests the town of Groveland. Nestled in the Stanislaus National Forest at about 3,100 feet, Groveland has both tall trees of the forest and the ambiance of a former Gold Rush town.
Groveland’s year-round population is small, just over 600, allowing plenty of space between neighbors. With the completion of Pine Mountain Lake Resort in the 1960’s, the area boasts a home-away-from-home to many in the SF Bay area. Pine Mountain Lake is a Homeowners association built around the lake created by the Hetch-Hetchy dam. Golfing, horseback riding, boating, fishing, swimming and (of course) lounging on the beach or the porch of your own home are just a few of the many enjoyments of the area.
Traveling Highway 108 beyond the Yosemite turnoff and heading toward the foothills of the Sierra-Nevada between just over 1,000 to 2,200 feet elevation are the communities of Jamestown, Columbia and Sonora. Each town is steeped in California history and each provides a flavor of its own.
Jamestown is home of Historic Railtown State Park. A walk down Main Street will take one back in time with its original wooden buildings of 1900th century establishments and shops.
Lower in elevation, Jamestown is rolling hills, oak and birch trees and offers warm to hot summers and mild winters. Like most of the towns in the area, Jamestown offers various homesteads, from slightly suburban with sidewalks and front lawns, to country homes and ranches with acreage for spreading out or grazing livestock.
Columbia State Park is famous for being operated as a living museum with original gold rush era buildings, shops, restaurants and a stage couch all run by costumed docents. Also located in the park is the Fallon Theater which presents professional musicals by the Sonora Repertory Theater. In the town of Columbia, one will find a community college, an airport, and the Mother Lode’s only year-round farmer’s market (as this is a community very dedicated to gardens and ranching). Up the hill at 2190 feet the landscape starts to feel more mountainous inviting hiking, fishing, camping and even some gold panning along the area’s many creeks and streams. The combination is a package of history, conveniences and outdoor adventure.
Just a few minutes away, downtown Sonora is the county seat and the largest of the Tuolumne County Communities. Sonora is alive with unique boutiques & galleries, fabulous restaurants, and an ongoing calendar of fun community events. Outside downtown holds several parks & hiking trails, most notably Dragoon Gulch Trail with it’s beautiful views of the city and the surrounding mountain ranges.
Neighborhoods in Sonora are more diverse ranging from the quaint “close-to-everything” homes around downtown and surrounding single family homes and townhouses to the lakeside properties of Phoenix Lake as well as more expansive properties and estates of Apple Valley or Ridgewood. Something for everybody!
Continuing east along highway 108 finds the townships of Soulsbyville and Tuolumne City. With higher elevation comes a change in the landscape as oaks and birch trees are now joined by cedars and pines.
Soulsbyville is a small residential community featuring mostly single family homes on varying sized lots. The nature and quality of the landscaping in this town enhances the community providing a “down-home” appeal.
With wide, tree-lined streets, Tuolumne uniquely centers around recreation and open public space. It’s public square and War Memorial Building are hosts to many events throughout the year. In addition to the downtown area, nearby Westside park and trail are well visited and known for the occasional music events such as the annual Strawberry Music Festival. Tuolumne boasts many outdoor activities. But should one want a different “flavor” of life there is the beautiful Black Oak Casino & Resort with its 5 star Seven Sisters Restaurant, arcade and soon to be completed golf course. Many of the homes and ranches in Tuolumne enjoy large lots. With elevations between 2200 and 3200 feet, Tuolumne is country living with the backdrop of the forest.
Between 3600 and 4000 feet Twain Harte is the entrance to the pine, fir and spruce forest of the Sierra Nevada. Pleasantly noticeable are the fresh scents of these gorgeous coniferous evergreen giants.
Summers have warm days and mild nights making Twain Harte a nice escape from the heat of the Central Valley. In addition to the outdoor activities summer-time offers music in the park, golf (pee-wee and “real”) lakeside activities and art festivals. Winters are very cool with snow occurring several times, just close enough to enjoy the winter activities in the nearby communities of Long Barn, Strawberry, and Dodge Ridge.
Originally known primarily as a vacation spot, Twain Harte is one of the fastest growing areas in Tuolumne County. Residents are attracted to the beauty of the area, the four seasons, the mild weather, and the abundance of tall pines combined with an idyllic mountain lake. It is truly the “Sweetheart of the Mother Lode”.
Pinecrest Peak, a majestic granite mountain rimming the deep blue waters of Pinecrest Lake sits high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains at 5600 feet. The lake was formed by damming the south fork of the Tuolumne River, providing water for the once prominent logging communities of the area.
Similar to Twain Harte, Pinecrest is well known for it’s beauty and seemingly endless summer adventures such as, kayak & paddle boarding, grilling the trout you caught, or nightly movies in the outdoor amphitheater. Winter is quieter, but still popular with nearby skiing and snow parks. Pinecrest offers that “our home-in-the-mountains” to part-time as well as year-round residents.