San Francisco | October 17, 2017 9:00 am

Four-Hour Rule: Oakhurst

Five-star inn or "glamping caboose" — it's your call

Yosemite isn’t hurting for rarefied accomodations.

You’ve got your fancy stone-and-timber hotels. Your rustic cabins. Your upscale trailer parks.

Or you can park it in Oakhurst, the start of one of the best road trips in the state: historic Highway 49, which traces a path between the Sierras’ best Gold Rush sites. 

It’s just 15 minutes from the southern entrance of Yosemite, and we’ve got lodging options that include a decommissioned railway car.

This is California at its quirky best. 

The classic choice in Oakhurst is one of the best hotels in the Sierras, and its attendant foothills: the Chateau du Surneau. It’s as close as you’ll find to a castle in this part of the world, with an expansive state designed to provide moments of delight, whether you’re looking for a seat by the fireplace in the library or a picnic on the lawn. Or, for something entirely different, we recommend the “luxury caboose,” which will be your best chance to sleep in a vintage Santa Fe railway car, possibly ever. 

Definitely at Erna’s Elderberry House Restaurant — and don’t let the name fool you: Iconic food critic Craig Claiborne once called it “one of the most elegant and stylish restaurants in the nation.” See for yourself whether it holds up to the description, 30 years later, with the five-course tasting menu. 

Oakhurst is the southern terminus for Highway 49 (also known as “Mother Lode Highway 49”) — so head north to explore some of our state’s Gold Rush mining communities or the California State Mining and Mineral Museum. Or head south, 15 minutes, to Coarsegold, if you’re traveling with young people/frustrated start-up founders who’d be excited to pan for gold.

You’re around the corner from Yosemite — not the stuff you’ve already seen, but the southern Wawona entrance. Use this for a lower-key way to explore the park — perhaps the Chilnualna Falls trail (a moderately tough eight miles) or, for a more relaxing afternoon, the Pioneer Yosemite History Center, with horse-drawn carriages and more activities kids might actually enjoy.