Nestled within the captivating landscape of the Sierra Nevada foothills, Tuolumne County beckons with a rhythmic allure — its very name, “Tuolumne,” (pronounced to-all-o-me) echoing the invitation to “Follow Me.” Situated about two and a half hours east of San Francisco, it’s a beautiful area encompassing three regions: the iconic Yosemite, Gold Country and the High Sierra. It’s known as a destination for all seasons. From winter to summer, each season offers its own set of adventures, scenery and overall highlights, with each tied to the ebbs and flows of nature.
For those that haven’t explored this part of California before, Sonora was established in 1848 and is known as the “Queen of the Southern Mines.” Located in the heart of California’s gold country, the town is a regional getaway with a lot to offer. As a result, there’s a ton of history to discover and plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in this region’s natural beauty. A couple of my favorite places to explore include Railtown 1897 State Historic Park and the Columbia State Historic Park. For more on these spots, check out my last blog post)
Sonora is a great place to stay for a few nights on your way to Yosemite, which is only about an hour away, or other nearby scenic destinations like Stanislaus National Forest and Pinecrest Lake. It offers a charming main street (Washington Street) lined with restaurants, bars, boutique shops and historic points of interest. Moreover, there are plenty of places to hike nearby. Sonora effortlessly blends the quaint charm of a small town with the vibrant energy of a modern city.
Winter was the last time I visited the town of Sonora, during which it’s called “Christmas Town Sonora” thanks to the incredible job the town does of transforming itself into a festive, winter wonderland. From Christmas parades with the Clauses, Christmas Bazaars and decorated storefronts to Holly Jolly wagon rides and Christmas trees lighting up town square, Sonora is truly a sight to see during Christmas.
For my complete blog post on Christmas Town Sonora, click here.
However, my most recent and much hotter trip to Sonora took place this summer. While Sonora is a great place for families and couples who like to road trip and take advantage of what makes California special, it’s also surprisingly an awesome place for a relaxing solo trip. This time around I explored the wellness side of Sonora, experiencing a few firsts including my first facial and detoxing foot soak.
There’s lot to see and do in Sonora and the greater Tuolumne County and with that here’s my full three day itinerary.
Stay in Sonora, Ca
If you’re looking for a cool and modern hotel in the heart of Sonora, check in to Hotel Lumberjack. The vibes, ambiance and decor are inspired by lumberjack culture. Additionally, each accommodation features rustic wooden touches and cute hand-drawn illustrations. Also included are amenities like a mini fridge, coffee maker, and even a microwave. Hotel Lumberjack is the sister property of The Sonora Inn right next door giving guests access to not only complimentary breakfast, but also pool access, which is ideal for summer.
128 S. Green St. Sonora, Ca 95370
Relax in Sonora, Ca
Stix and Stones
I started my wellness getaway at the boutique spa Stix and Stones — the spa’s flagship store. Normally I don’t frequent spas or treat myself to any beauty treatments, so this was extra special for me. I experienced the Stix & Stones signature facial — my first facial ever! In addition to the whole experience being relaxing, I felt very pampered and well taken care of. Overall, the facial was a total treat from start to finish. My expert esthetician knew everything about skin care and guided me through the whole process.
The facial incorporated extractions, which though a little uncomfortable, helped unclog my pores and give my skin a fresh, clear feel. My pores really needed it! She also gave me a heavenly neck and shoulder massage that felt like a dream. The facial also incorporated anti-aging technology using microcurrent, LED lights, and high frequency techniques that I’ve only read about in beauty magazines, but clearly was in desperate need of!
The whole facial lasted about an hour and a half, and when I finally stepped out, I felt totally rejuvenated, and my skin was literally glowing. It’s incredible how a facial like this can make you feel so confident and refreshed. I 10 out of 10 recommend!
Stix and Stones
21 S Washington St, Sonora, CA 95370
Amala Detox & Tea Lounge
Once my face was taken care of, it was time to detox my body with an ionic foot soak at Amala Detox & Tea Lounge. This charming wellness shop offers guests a selection of wellness teas and tea infusions in a variety of flavors ranging from Glow with ginger, peppermint, licorice and more to fun flavors like Lemon Meringue with ingredients like green rooibos, rose and orange peel.
Before we dive into my experience, the concept of detoxification dates back to ancient Egyptian and Greek dynasties who believed that dangerous toxins needed to be purged to aid in overall health. Ionic detoxes have been around for decades and today are used to aid with blood circulation that can then carry the ions to the rest of the body.
With my iced tea in hand, I sat in a big comfy chair and laid back and relaxed while my soak began. The idea behind this is that pores on the feet are larger and using modern ion generating technology via the foot detox machine, your body can cleanse itself and excrete toxins. During the 30 minute soak, the array emits a light electrical pulse that neutralizes the tissue acid wastes in your body.
According to Amala, the energy synchronizes with the electromagnetic force that’s already stored in your body and utilized by each of the cells. The complex energy fields permeate and realign the body’s energy field while improving oxygen levels. In other words, the science behind the ion detox is based on chemical interactions, and you can see the results via color changes in the water after the detox is complete.
My detox included a really nice sugar scrub with rose petals and essential oils. Once the detoxification machine completed its process, what’s left is a tub of various colors and textures and you’re given a key to see what those indicate. My specialist did an amazing job of explaining exactly what was detoxified, most of the water was orange, brown, with some red flakes which indicated detoxification in my liver, cell debris, joints and blood stasis, bruised muscles and scar tissue.
In sum, this was a super interesting new experience that definitely needs to be tried to be understood.
Amala Detox & Tea Lounge
31 S Washington St, Sonora, CA 95370
In addition to my beauty and wellness treatments, I took a morning hatha yoga class at the Yoga Loft which was a wonderful way to start my day. Our yogi, Paul Hasegawa Overacker, led a beautiful class that began with pranayama (breathing) to focus, “zeroing in on stretching, flexibility and the single-minded calm of just being.”
The class certainly got more difficult, especially for someone who struggles with flexibility and meditation at times, but overall the class was intentional and energizing. Once I got into a flow, the class transitioned into asana sequences that were challenging, yet rewarding. In conclusion, this was definitely my sign to get back into yoga!
The Yoga Loft
72 S. Stewart St. Sonora, CA 95370
Nature + Hiking in Sonora, Ca
Dragoon Gulch Trail
Sonora has countless hiking areas, one of the easiest to access is the Dragoon Gulch Trail. Just a few minutes from main street is this network of trails. They offer visitors the chance to walk through Mother Lode’s tranquil, oak woodlands. With over three miles of easy-to-hike to moderate trails, it’s another great way to start the morning before it gets too hot.
My boyfriend and I started off at the N. Forest Road Parking lot and continued to walk up the paved road. You have to cross the parking lot and follow the street which eventually leads to the trail head. Once you start hiking, you’ll be able to choose which trail head you want to explore. They’re pretty short so you can easily hit all of them. Be sure to hike the Summit Trail which leads you to a beautiful view of the city and the surrounding mountain ranges.
A few things to note:
- Be careful of the poison ivy that lines much of the trail head.
- Bring a bag if you want to pick blackberries — they were everywhere!
The Dragoon Gulch Trail
680 Woods Creek Dr, Sonora, CA 95370
Located about 30 miles east of Sonora is Pinecrest Lake. This is a 300-acre lake in the Stanislaus National Forest that offers campsites, fishing, boating and hiking. And in the summer it also features a cool outdoor amphitheater. After a quick drive from Sonora, we arrived at the lake. I was blown away by how pretty it was!
It reminded me a lot of smaller, less crowded Lake Tahoe — which honestly wasn’t a bad thing. For those interested in hiking, check out the Pinecrest National Recreation Trail. This is a 4 mile hiking trail around the lake with paved pathways connecting points of interest. Afterwards, we decided to relax on a dock and swim to cool off and take in the scenery. Dotted with rainbow kayaks and lined with charming cabins, the sparkling blue lake is a stunner. And the backdrop? The lush, pine tree covered mountain mountains. It’s gorgeous!
Pro tip? On your way back to Sonora, stop by the quaint town of Twain Harte. Here you can get a banana split at Mountain Creamery Ice Cream. Beforehand or afterwards (if you’re more on the hungry side,) stop by The Rock of Twain Harte. They offer burgers, fish tacos, salads and more. Wash it down with a cold beer and then get your ice cream sundae.
Eat + Drink in Sonora, Ca
Sonora, Ca was founded by miners who journeyed from Mexico’s Sonora state. Afterwards it quickly became a melting pot for Gold Rush settlers hailing from around the world. As a result, this diverse heritage is evident in Sonora’s culinary landscape and a testament to its role as a crossroads of Alta California.
Consequently, Sonora has some incredibly authentic Mexican food! We had a couple favorites which included El Jardin and El Arroyo.
Enjoy a couple of margaritas on El Jardin’s patio and order the guacamole and bottomless chips to get you going. The specialties we ordered included the carnitas grilled with their special carnitas sauce and the giant chimichanga burrito. The restaurant also features an award winning chicken mole poblano, served in a rich dark sauce with hints of peanut butter and chocolate.
76 N. Washington St. Sonora, CA 95370
El Arroyo offers nice patio seating right by the Lumberjack Hotel. It’s located alongside a creek and underneath tealights giving it a romantic date night vibe. That said we got there too late, and ordered take out, but that didn’t matter. The al pastor was some of the best I’ve ever had — with the tortillas, rice and beans I was stuffed, but so satisfied. Moreover, the flavor was phenomenal and the quality of meat was good too. We also ordered the chicken enchiladas and the tacos especiales which were fantastic as well.
126 S Washington St, Sonora, CA 95370
Another favorite of ours is Emberz, ideal for a casual dinner or quick bite. This restaurant specializes in wood fired food and features a great selection of pizzas. Specifically, I was obsessed with the roasted garlic chicken pizza. However, they offer an extensive menu with everything from burgers and sandwiches to salads and a variety of entrees like the saltimbocca or bacon wrapped scallops. If you do go for a burger, get the fondue burger. This is topped with hot raclette cheese poured over the burger.
177 S Washington St Sonora, Ca 95370
When it comes to breakfast and coffee, Revive Coffee was our go to for iced coffee and pastries to start our mornings.
81 S Washington St, Sonora, CA 95370
When you’re ready to unwind, I recommend heading to The Armory’s lush and spacious beer garden. Bonus? It also offers misters for those scorching days. Furthermore, the beer garden is two levels and offers plush seating on the patio level.
In addition to a variety of beers and ciders at the beer garden, The Armory also is home to the swanky Bourbon Barrel which offers specialty cocktails, old fashions, martinis, bourbon flights and more. Moreover, if you’re hungry, you’re in luck. The food menu offers fun foods like house made chips and queso and a giant Bavarian pretzel, but also salads and fresh bowls, burgers, tacos and more.
208 S Green St, Sonora, CA 95370
Shopping + Points of Interest in Sonora, Ca
One of the best things to do in Sonora is explore and shop on Washington Street. For example, it offers an eclectic mix of stores from clothing boutiques to art and antique shops to sporting goods outposts. The facades of nearly each store reflect the architecture of 150 years. Therefore, if you walk you’re likely to find a historical marker or unique mural. Be sure to stop by the historic Sugg House on 37 Theall and The Red Church on 42 Snell St.
Another popular spot is The Thirsty Prospector to explore their underground tunnels. They are located at 131 S Washington Street. Below is more about this unique store (for the full post, click here):
The Thirsty Prospector is the second oldest building in Sonora, circa 1850. This unique place was once many things, including a mercantile, oyster bar and bank. Today, The Thirsty Prospector is a family-friendly and family-owned pub, book and antique shop. Once you walk into the building, check out the mahogany bar serving beer on tap and ice cream by the scoop (don’t leave without getting some ice cream.). Additionally, downstairs you’ll find a basement filled with countless books and cozy reading nooks.
Lastly, be on the look out for the old tunnels that run under Washington Street in which miners used to sneak gold into the bank. Indeed, the old tunnels are quite unique and worth checking out.
The Thirsty Prospector
131 South Washington Street, Sonora, Ca 95370
Depart San Francisco
Arrive in Sonora
Check-in to Lumberjack Hotel
Grab lunch a El Jardin
Explore and shop on Washington Street
Foot detox at Amala Detox & Tea Lounge
Dinner and drinks at Emberz
Breakfast at Revive Coffee
Morning hike Dragoon Gulch Trail
Facial at Stix & Stones
Grab lunch a El Arroyo
Drive to Pinecrest Lake
Beers and dinner at The Armory
Breakfast at Sonora Inn
Yoga class at The Yoga Loft
Check out from Hotel Lumberjack
Drive back to San Francisco
Pin this for the next time you’re looking for a Northern California getaway!