Reviews & Press
Throughout its history, the Evergreen Lodge has been a well-kept secret among our loyal guests. With the completion of our expansions in 2004 and 2009, word started to spread about the Evergreen. Despite the extra attention, the lodge remains an unspoiled hideaway. Here are some highlights of what’s been written about the Evergreen in recent years.
With 88 cabins scattered across 20 secluded acres, Evergreen Lodge is a short drive from Yosemite’s west entrance….
For the classic Yosemite experience at any time of the year, this affordable and refreshingly crowd-free resort has it all…
…Near the entrance to Hetch Hetchy, this classic 90-year-old resort lets roughing-it guests cheat with comfy, prefurnished tents and deluxe mountain cabins…
For the classic Yosemite experience at any time of the year, this affordable and refreshingly crowd-free 22-acre resort has it all: cozy cabins in the woods, a historic and lively tavern, a great restaurant serving a diverse menu, even a recreation center and library. Scattered throughout groves of towering pines, the cabins come with private bathrooms, decks, sitting areas, Sirius Satellite Radio, and comfortable quilted beds. In the evenings, you can enjoy a pitcher of beer or bottle of fine wine; play a game of Ping-Pong, pool, or horseshoes; or sit around the campfire roasting marshmallows. During the day, you’ll have easy access to all parts of Yosemite – particularly the beautiful and crowd-free Hetch Hetchy area – as well as numerous hiking trails and swimming holes. Be sure to book one of Evergreen’s guided recreation and activities programs, which include fly-fishing trips for all levels, hikes throughout the park, bike trips (the road biking around here is excellent), naturalist-led Yosemite tours, happy-hour sunset tours, massage therapy, and a variety of evening activities.
Near the entrance to Hetch Hetchy, this classic 90-year-old resort lets roughing-it guests cheat with comfy, prefurnished tents and deluxe mountain cabins. Outdoor recreational activities abound, with equipment rentals available. There’s a general store, tavern with a pool table and a restaurant (dinner mains $18 to $28) serving three hearty meals every day.
…Creative and satisfying, the Evergreen’s restaurant serves some of the best meals around, with big and delicious breakfasts, three types of burgers (Black Angus beef, buffalo and veggie) and dinner choices including dishes like rib-eye steak, grilled venison and braised seitan. The homey wooden tavern is a perennial favorite for evening cocktails, beers on tap over a game of pool and live music on select weekends. A general store fills the gap with to-go sandwiches, snacks and dreamy gelato.
It feels like summer camp at the Evergreen, where you can ditch the valley’s hordes for a cozy cabin in the woods 8 miles from Hetch Hetchy. The perfect blend of rustic charm and modern comfort, cabins have sumptuous beds, comfy armchairs, candy-cane-striped pull-out sofas, 3-by-4-foot topographic wall maps, and such retro-fun details as tree-stump end tables. The terrific roadhouse-style restaurant serves meaty dishes such as broiled elk tenderloin and bean burgers, and the long bar has a friendly feel (perhaps owing to the reggae music that plays here often). After dinner, shoot pool in the bar, play Ping-Pong outside, melt s’mores, attend a lecture or film, or play Scrabble by the fire in the barn-like recreation center.
Nine miles from the Big Oak Flat entrance and about halfway up the road to Hetch Hetchy, Evergreen Lodge is a convenient place to stay for visiting Yosemite’s high country or Hetch Hetchy’s spectacular water-filled valley. You can spend a comfortable night in your cabin, then get up early and head to the trailhead at Hetch Hetchy’s impressive dam, or drive into the main part of the park and cruise over to Tuolumne Meadows and Tioga Pass.
If you’ve stayed at Evergreen Lodge in the past, you’ll be surprised at the changes that have taken place here. In 2004, the lodge went through a major expansion. The original 12 one- and two-bedroom cabins, which date back to the 1920s, now sit side-by-side with 60 brand-new cabins. In addition to all the new buildings, there is a first-class restaurant serving three meals a day, and now the lodge offers tons of organized activities, most requiring an additional fee: nature hikes, full-moon hikes, guided bike rides, campfire talks, and the like. With everything going on here, this is an ideal place for families and groups to stay.
The Sierra is peppered with “rustic” cabin resorts of the kind that had their heyday in the decades of flapper skirts, touring cars, and moonshine. The majority of these has since fallen so far into disrepair – or worse, been subjected over the years to such haphazard shag-carpet and linoleum surface renovations – that today the word rustic is less evocative of the simplicity of yesteryear than it is redolent of propane leaks and general mouse-infested squalor. The Evergreen is one of a select few that has been rescued from such a fate. Originally a post office and general store, later a brothel and speakeasy servicing workers on the O’Shaughnessy Dam project, briefly left for dead in the early 1970’s, the Evergreen has recently (in 2004) been expanded and brought back to even greater glory by a team of creative and socially conscious investors from San Francisco – to the tune of $10 million. Cabins are clean and sparse, with tastefully retro furnishings, galvanized sconce lighting, personal satellite radio, and just the right amount of knotty-pine trim. The new Recreation Center, with its crackling fire, cozy armchairs, local-resource library, board games and wireless Internet, provides one of several congenial social hubs (others being the courtyard and the Tavern). A recreation concierge is on hand from early morning until late in the evening to help you earn your end-of-the-day libations. Activities include fly-fishing, mountain biking, white-water rafting, hiking, snowshoeing, pine needle basket weaving, Ping Pong, geocaching, hammock-lounging, horseshoes, and massage.
A short drive from the Big Oak Flat Entrance Station and Hetch Hetchy, this classic 1920s mountain resort amid tall pine trees provides a rejuvenating stay for romantic couples or active families. It’s the professionalism of the staff that makes staying in one of the many individualized units here a stress-free experience. Beautifully well-kept duplex cabins and private stand-alone cottages come with private baths and decks, heating and fan cooling, and even stereos with satellite radio. The woodsy decor makes it look a lot like a ski resort, with plush beds. Relax in the family-friendly recreation hall, equipped with board games, tourist information, and free Wi-Fi access. Mountain bikes and snowshoes can be rented. For a modest day-use fee, guests also have access to neighboring Camp Mather, which has a natural lake (can be used for swimming), tennis courts, and an outdoor swimming pool.
Just one mile from the western border of spectacular Yosemite National Park, Evergreen Lodge is the perfect base for the family vacation you have always talked about. Nestled in the tall pines on the way to Hetch Hetchy Valley, you will be ideally located to explore the wonders of Yosemite Valley, including Half Dome, El Capitan and Yosemite Falls, as well as the splendor of Yosemite’s high country and Tuolumne Meadows. Explore on your own, or try one of Evergreen’s many guided trips.
The historic main lodge houses their restaurant and tavern, which is the heart and soul of the property. Evergreen’s recreation center, complete with indoor/outdoor fireplace, is the perfect place to play games, make s’mores or plan the next day’s hike. Nightly complimentary activities include campfires, movies and live music.
The cabins are very comfortable, with spacious bathrooms, private decks and ceiling fans. For serenity’s sake, there are no phones or televisions in the cabins.
As electronics consume more of our kids’ time, many families are searching for a way to incorporate nature into the mix. Evergreen Lodge at Yosemite National Park is like family camp, with comfortable accommodations, good food and a recreation department that makes it easy for families at all activity levels to experience the beauty of the park and the surrounding area. The huge bonus for parents is the adult downtime that comes naturally as kids run off and play in the resort’s very safe-feeling environment.
A stop at this Groveland lodge is a great way for a family to do Yosemite. You get the out-in-nature experience, without developing the back problems that come from sleeping in a tent. The Evergreen features great rec facilities the kids can’t wait to get to every night, including a game room, outdoor games, an outdoor fireplace — where staff sets up the guests with s’mores every night — and a tavern next to the restaurant.
The best way to have Yosemite all to yourself…
Maybe it was during my 30-minute, deep-tissue massage amid stately pines, or perhaps it was when I was reclining in a hot tub to watched the sun set, or even when I was fiddling with the Sirius XM satellite radio (available in each cabin) to find the all-’80s Hair Bands station, but it eventually hit me: I’m out in the wilderness, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.
You know, a guy can get used to this “glamping” thing. At this 22-acre lodge, cabin and tent-cabin facility, which also boasts a high-end restaurant, handsome oak-paneled tavern, pool, spa, bocce courts, foosball and many other diversions, like the nightly s’mores roast, the weekly movie night and, yes, bingo, the owners have somehow managed to blend the ritzy with the rustic.
But Evergreen, built in 1921 for dam construction workers and turned into a lodge in the 1950s, doesn’t let tourists forget they are a mere 1.5 miles from the Yosemite entrance. The lodge offers an array of guided outdoor recreation options for guests without experience or the gumption to venture into the park by themselves.
There’s the eight-hour “Naturalist Tour,” led by, of course, a naturalist, that hits nearly all the highlights, such as waterfalls, rock formations and includes a hike and picnic lunch ($115) and a private fly-fishing trip with guides who won’t yell at you if you hook them on your cast. And, in season, you can raft on the Tuolumne and Merced rivers. David and Julie Dumingan, of Worthing, England, were in the midst of a whirlwind trip of national parks in the West and had only one day to visit Yosemite. They chose Evergreen’s eight-hour hike.
“We only did it because we wanted to maximize what we needed to see and let someone who really knows the park lead us, and it certainly was a help,” he said. “We stopped at all the pertinent scenic points to take our pictures. We did do a 3-mile walk and ate well.”
Lest you think you’re not roughing it at Evergreen, do note this great, great sacrifice: no cell service and spotty Wi-Fi. Good thing Twain had a cabin of his own to write “Roughing It,” because it might have been impossible here.
Then again, he might never have left the hot tub.
Honeymoons must be two things: romantic and memorable. Any old trip to the beach is simply not going to suffice for a couple’s post-nuptial getaway. Thankfully, there are plenty of unique and luxurious properties out there for newlyweds.
Remote jungle hideaways, cozy mountain lodges, luxe European grand dames, and gorgeous beachfront properties are waiting with a bottle of champagne at the ready to toast your “I dos.” Any of these romantic hotels around the world would be the perfect honeymoon locale.
…Evergreen Lodge is a 22-acre cabin resort surrounded by Stanislaus National Forest, about one mile from Yosemite National Park’s western border.
The 90 cabins come in different sizes — some perfect for newlyweds, others great for a large family — and are rustic, cozy, and comfortable with large private decks. Techies beware: There are no phones or TVs in the cabins, and the Wi-Fi service in the recreation halls is less than reliable.
It’s a great spot for nature lovers, though, who want to be disconnected from the world for a bit and enjoy the serenity of the surrounding pine trees instead.
Guests looking for something active to do will find it, too — there’s some equipment for rent on-site, such as mountain bikes and snowshoes, plus fly fishing, bocce ball, rafting, horseback riding, a nice outdoor pool, and two recreational halls filled with games, books, and arts & crafts materials…
…As the name suggests, Evergreen Lodge is tucked deep within a forest full of pine trees. With a restaurant,general store, tavern, pool, massage cabana, a sunset lookout point, and more, the lodge is more of a community than just a temporary place to sleep. After a full day of exploring, we wanted nothing more than to retreat to our cabin and just kick back – so relaxing!…
…What we all liked the most was that, no matter what type of travel style you prefer, you can enjoy yourself. If you like to keep busy and mingle, you can do that. If you want to just sit on your private porch and chill, you can do that too. The whole area is huge and spread out. The set up is so cute with lamps lighting every walkway.
Food is very important to me. This is true if I’m home or if I’m traveling, and this is especially true after a day of being out on trails, subsisting on water and beef jerky. So I don’t think I can be emphatic enough about this–the restaurant at Evergreen Lodge was amazing.
I don’t know what I was expecting from a restaurant in such a remote remote location, but it certainly wasn’t coconut curry squash soup with a raspberry port reduction and roasted pumpkin seeds. Yet that is exactly what I found, and I could not have been happier.
During my three nights at Evergreen, I dined at the restaurant three times–once in the main dining room and twice at the bar. I’ll get to why that is in a moment. The menu is the same in both locations, and the selection was more than adequate for a three night stay. In fact, beyond wishing I could have stayed longer because the resort was so beautiful and Yosemite was breathtaking, I would have looked forward to a few more meals at Evergreen as well…
A Yosemite retreat gets an outside makeover
SUNSHINE SPOT: When you think of a hotel’s pool renovation, and new loungers, and a new bar area, you might be forgiven for thinking of a property in the desert, maybe Palm Springs, maybe Las Vegas. But when a mountain lodge pool gets a rethinking, it is a bit more of a surprise. After all, we too often associate the forests and hotels found in forests with snow and colder climes. And yet if you’ve been to a higher elevation property in the summertime, you often wish you did have a pool. The temps are warm, it is light late, and you’re probably not going to go find some mountain stream to splash in, just to get your swim on. If a stream isn’t your thing, but lounging by water with a cocktail is, and you love you some Yosemite rather fiercely — and who doesn’t? — check out the new outdoor renovations at the historic Evergreen Lodge in the western part of the national park.
THE NEW STUFF: There’s a pool bar with snack and drinks, including mocktails. And the pool and tub were rethought with a green touch: They’re filled with salt water, meaning fewer chemicals will be required in their upkeep. And the redwood tables near the pool? Yep, they’re old wine casks, which is charming and greener, too. This all gets us to thinking two things. One? Shouldn’t every mountain lodge have a swimming pool, regardless of the snowier months? And two, shouldn’t we all be in Yosemite right now?
…Three times now we’ve stayed just outside the main gate at the Evergreen Lodge, a kid-friendly place that still manages to make you feel like you’re in the middle of the woods, maybe because you are, as evidenced by the herd of deer grazing at the foot of the bed each morning. It’s also just a few miles up the road from Hetch Hetchy, one of the most underrated scenic spots in California and another wonderful place where children can frighten their parents by trying to jump over a dam.
At the lodge, the kids play tackle shuffleboard in the same game room every year, roll around the same sandbox, hit each other with the same Ping-Pong paddles and swing the same red-hot s’more sticks at each other’s faces in front of the big outdoor fireplace. It’s like a commercial for a family vacation, only with more violence.
But there really is something great about going to the same place every year, especially if it’s a place the whole family has come to love. We don’t have to worry when our kids take off from the cabin, because we know they will be in the same spot they were last year … and the year before. Instead of trudging back to a motel to stare at TV after a big day, the kids are energized because they’re heading back to evening activities with a bunch of kids their own age (while many of the parents head for the tavern).
If only they had a talent show and Patrick Swayze hanging around.
This year we were out hiking, when a couple of young people in their early 20s (sadly, those qualify as “young people” now) called out my kids’ names and started chatting them up. Apparently, they’d made friends the previous night around the fire. Plus there are no TVs, and wireless is only available in a couple of spots. Kids have to actually play, or go chew on trees or something.
A lodge like that is more than just icing on the wilderness cake. It’s part of establishing a family tradition that brings us closer. And a family needs to be as close as possible when the 4-year-old is trying to jump into a river.
…Evergreen Lodge at Yosemite: After corresponding with this property’s charming owner for a seeming eternity, trying to arrange a visit, it was well worth the wait – and it jumps into first place on our go-to list when planning a trip to Yosemite. The only downside? It’s so nice you might not want to leave.
National park and its surroundings offer year-round outdoor fun
…This summer, we took a couple weeks to explore Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon, among others. But we’d never taken our sons, now 15 and 11, to the most popular and closest one of all: Yosemite. Our $80 national parks pass doesn’t expire until July, so we headed there during Thanksgiving break. I’d heard Birch Lane teacher Amy George rave about a historic lodge near the park. So we decided to escape the family drama of my kids’ least-favorite holiday, and headed for the mountains.
Yosemite in late November was a delight. It was cold but clear, with some fall color still clinging to the trees, and even snow in higher, shady spots. This was the opposite experience to our hot, red-rock July hikes in Zion National Park.
We arrived at Evergreen Lodge on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It’s on the western side of the park, a few miles off of Highway 120 — about a three-hour drive from Davis.
The historic lodge and collection of cabins is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. It was built in 1921 to house the workers who constructed the O’Shaughnessy Dam in Hetch Hetchy Valley. Renovations in the past decade have added 75 more cabins and lots of family-friendly amenities and children’s activities.
There are small to mid-size cabins, a lodge with indoor and outdoor fireplace, recreation room, restaurant and tavern. Although there aren’t kitchens in the cabins, the on-site food is amazing. There’s everything from grilled cheese for the kids to bison burger or gourmet vegetarian meals for the adults. We were even more thrilled by the beverages: 10 beers on tap, and Peet’s coffee. It was great to have such a selection, because the nearest restaurant this time of year is about a 45-minute drive back to Groveland.
The recreational activities for families are endless. Pingpong, shuffleboard, pool, bocce ball and free s’mores makings every night. Yoga (in the summer) and massage are available for a fee, along with outdoor excursions led by staff naturalists. A swimming pool is under construction.
Lodging starts at about $100 a night, but is often more than double that, depending on the season and cabin choice. Thanksgiving weekend prices started near $200 a night. The cabins are comfortable and adorable, with maids who leave animal-shaped towel sculptures on your bed.
Evergreen is a great place for families. In the evenings, we could sit in the lodge or by the fire while our boys made s’mores or played pool or pingpong on their own. It’s also a great escape from television, Internet and cell phones. (Land lines are available in the lodge for free.) There is spotty wifi in the lodge, but nothing else. Cheers to that!…
The best way to have this park all to yourself? Hetch Hetchy Valley
We’ve discovered our new happy place, which gets us the same waterfalls and soaring granite cliffs of Yosemite Valley, minus the fanny packs, tour buses, and family reunion photos.
Hetch Hetchy – 40 miles from the valley in the park’s northwest corner – is Yosemite’s mini-me, minus the crowds (and we’re not kidding about the crowd control – the Hetch Hetchy entrance sees the fewest cars of Yosemite’s five gates). In May, the waterfalls and wildflowers are at their peak, so our best advice? Go now. Here’s what to do with all that time you won’t be sitting in traffic…
…The plush Evergreen Lodge has 90 cozy cabins and a handful of cushy tents; outdoor activities; and wait till you get a massage at the spa, topped off with a microbrew and platter of ribs…
From luxe to affordable, this iconic american landscape has lodging options to suit all tastes…
…Tucked away on the less-touristed western edge of the park, Evergreen Lodge began as a 1921 general store and tavern (and brothel, as legend would have it) and recently added 24 cedar cabins in old-growth forest. Parents love the property’s open-air dining patio and massage cabana; kids go crazy for the new play area, featuring three 10-foot-tall bark tepees in the style of the local Miwok tribe…
A rustic retreat with a colorful history, impressive renovations and Yosemite next door – no wonder the Evergreen Lodge draws visitors from around the world. And Tuolumne county is fortunate enough to be home to this hidden gem.
“Unique” co-owner Lee Zimmerman agrees, barely begins to describe the newly revived lodge and its cluster of cabins just outside Yosemite National Park’s western border. After all, this place built in 1921 to house workers constructing nearby O’Shaughnessy Dam in Hetch Hetchy Valley, was once where moonshine was brewed and one cabin doubled as a brothel – at least according to lore.
Today, the Evergreen’s 22 off-the-beaten-track acres includes 90 cabins amid old-growth forest stands, a newly renovated main lodge, restaurant, tavern, a plaza featuring a 1,200-square-foot sun deck, kids play area complete with Me-Wok shelters, theater, and, ahhh, an open-air massage cabana…
Yosemite National Park // California
John Muir was prophetic when he wrote that in Yosemite Valley “Nature had gathered her choicest treasures, to draw her lovers into close and confiding communion with her.” That communion can get downright cozy with the park’s 3.6 million visitors in 2007. But the truth is, they don’t all need to squeeze into the seven-mile (eleven-kilometer) valley. Marvel at the temple, by all means, but look to high country, low country, and the unsung glories of the Sierra Nevada for your solitude. There’s a lot of park out there…
…The cedar-shrouded cabins at Evergreen Lodge, about 500 yards (457 meters) from the park’s western boundary on the road to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, are a good way to dodge the larger and louder campgrounds in the valley.
Carlon Falls, Yosemite National Park, CA
En route to Hetch Hetchy, pull off winding Evergreen Road at the South Fork Tuolumne River for a mostly flat, two-mile hike to this rare year-round waterfall. Bordered by towering ponderosa pines, with meadows of purple lupine and small bright sunflowers nearby, this secret swimming hole is rarely visited by Yosemite pilgrims. The 35-foot falls cascades over wide granite ledges into a boulderstrewn pool, where, most of the time, the birds in the canopy and the whoosh of rushing water are the only other sounds you’ll hear. Exactly how a good swimming hole should be.
The swimming hole described in this article is just down the road from the Evergreen Lodge.
Like many great nature writers before me (Muir, Thoreau, Ann Landers), I’m writing in the woods. Well, I’m sort of in the woods. Actually, I’m in the rec room at the Evergreen Lodge, which is in the woods, but has a great restaurant and an amazing sandbox.
I know the sandbox is amazing because my kids would rather be inside it than staring at the wonders of nature. Yesterday morning, when it was time to head to Yosemite, they moaned, in unison, “Awwwww, who wants to gaze in gap-mouthed wonder upon the majesty of Mother Earth’s greatest works when we can roll around in this wet sand and throw some at this stupid boy we met last night?”
…This a common parental mistake — expecting kids to appreciate things before they’re 35. This is the second year we’ve come to the Evergreen Lodge, about eight miles outside the Yosemite gate. The first night, my family made s’mores in the fire pit, enjoyed first-rate food and played Battleship in the rec room. My mom and wife compared it to the camp in “Dirty Dancing,” which, translated, meant they both wished for cha-cha lessons from Patrick Swayze…
Yosemite’s Northwest Corner
No single hike can stand in for all the glories of Yosemite’s backcountry, but a 27-mile loop in the lightly traveled northwest corner of the park comes close. The trek begins at Hetch Hetchy, a valley once dear to Muir but now partially submerged by a reservoir. To start, take the Wapama Trail east along the north shore. All that’s visible of the valley today is soaring granite to either side, punctuated by two waterfalls, Tueeulala and 1,300-foot Wapama (each will spritz you as you pass). Pitch camp 6.5 miles in at the edge of rushing Rancheria Creek. The next day, proceed through Tiltill Valley’s open meadows and switchback up into the high country to Lake Vernon, tucked in a tight-walled cirque. Plan on staying a day or two to scramble up nearby Mount Gibson (8,412 feet) and hike through Jack Main Canyon for views of shimmering backcountry tarns and streams. Finally, head southeast through lodgepole pines to a wildflower show at Beehive Meadow before zigzagging back down to Hetch Hetchy.
Those in the know bed down just outside the park at Evergreen Lodge near the quiet, and often overlooked, Hetch Hetchy area. The retreat has freestanding cedar cabins, a friendly vibe, good food, and offers guided hikes, biking, and fishing in the park…
Vacations often require compromise. The kids yearn to hike, Dad hopes to enjoy the scene with a cold beer, and Mom wants a massage. California’s Evergreen Lodge is the rare place that may please everyone. Built in 1921, the lodge just west of Yosemite National Park first housed a post office, store and, it’s said, moonshine still. Today, pints are poured in the new beer garden, part of a renovation that includes 24 fresh cabins with king-size beds, spacious living rooms, and private decks. And there’s a massage cabana for relaxing after a long day hike – or for enjoying on a day with no hiking at all.
What with the Obama family’s visits and Ken Burns’s upcoming documentary, the national parks have certainly had their 15 minutes this summer. I think it’s safe to say that most everyone in the country agrees with Burns that the parks truly are one of our country’s best ideas–a point that’s worth remembering at a time when we’re divided by issues like health care.
What I’m less enthusiastic about are the accommodation options inside most national parks. That’s why I try to stay just outside their boundaries whenever possible. Evergreen Lodge is my top choice for Yosemite–it’s just a mile from the Hetch Hetchy entrance station, which takes you into a much quieter section of spectacular wilderness than you’ll find down in the valley…
I strongly recommend opting for one of the newer cabins, which were built in 2004 and 2009 and are about 400 square feet, plus a 100-square-foot private deck. The original cabins, which date back as far as the 1920s, are much smaller but still pleasant. There’s a fantastic restaurant on the property, a general store where you can buy picnic supplies, an outdoor plaza where people roast marshmallows in the evening, and an activity desk to help you figure out what to do inside or outside the park. Evergreen Lodge is the perfect combination of rustic simplicity and all the creature comforts, and this is a great time of year to be in the park–the kids are back in school so the crowds are gone, and the crisp fall air is invigorating…
Remnants of the Miwok people’s ancestral land are highlighted by frothy falls, breathtaking views
Maybe it was the exotic, sexy sound of “Hetch Hetchy” that cast a spell on me. Year after year, every new book and map fed my fascination for the Miwok Indians’ ancestral land, tucked in the northwest corner of Yosemite National Park. Hetch Hetchy had become some mystical, legendary place in my mind…
…After several failed attempts to schedule a getaway to the Hetch Hetchy region of Yosemite National Park, we finally made and kept a reservation at the Evergreen Lodge, a lesser known stitch in California’s tapestry of historic landmarks and a cozy base camp for exploring Hetch Hetchy’s hiking trails.
We savored the leisurely drive across the Central Valley and climbed into the foothills through the old mining town of Mariposa, along the scenic Merced River to El Portal and up Big Oak Flat Road to the Evergreen road junction just outside the northern entrance of the park.
I never expected the drive along Evergreen Road to be such a visual treat with bucolic pockets of meadows and vales rolling out to the forested foothills interrupted by meandering forks of the Tuolumne River.
The restored Evergreen Lodge and its compound of rustic to classic cabins, custom camping facility, recreational activity center including bicycle rentals, dining room with outdoor patio and fireside terrace beneath a canopy of pines exuded yesteryear Yosemite Valley, minus the world famous gem’s hustle-bustle of human and vehicular traffic…
…By 8 a.m.[the next morning], summer’s robust, warm air current at barely 4,000 feet already rippled across the water, warning of a hot day ahead, so we set out on our 6- mile hike, crossing the dam and following a path through a tunnel to the trailhead. The trail undulated along the shore for the first 3 miles, exposing a grandiose, dazzling panorama. We walked below Wapama Falls along raised walkways and bridges cooled by the veil of mist…
…As the sun slipped lower on the horizon, still cool and euphoric, we gathered our packs and retraced our 6-mile steps to the car, focused on our next mission — ice cream bars at the Evergreen Lodge store and scheduling a return visit to Hetch Hetchy, perhaps under the white veil of winter next time.
A Yosemite-adjacent parkland of abundant beauty is a little-known find for hikers and campers.
You might say it was a family challenge. My daughter Courtney was graduating from high school, so I asked what she wanted to do to celebrate. She replied, “Go camping somewhere we never have been that is less than a day’s drive from Los Angeles.”
Not a simple request. We’ve done a lot of California camping. Out came the road map, familiar Yosemite in the middle. But what was that spot northwest of the park? Two words. Hetch Hetchy. Challenge met…
…One of our friends who had recently visited Hetch Hetchy — mountaineering guide Doug Robinson — had insisted that we check out Evergreen Lodge. Doug’s advice usually is worth following, and this was no exception.
Evergreen Lodge was built in 1921 for men working on O’Shaughnessy Dam. Legend has it that moonshine was distilled in the lodge basement and that a couple of the cabins were operated as a brothel. By the ’50s and ’60s, however, it had become a mainstream tourist spot with outdoor dining and dancing and a live orchestra.
More recently, it has undergone major renovations, including the addition of 75 well-equipped cabins and other modern buildings wrapped in forest-flavored wooden exteriors. The dining-room menu includes venison, fresh trout and wild boar.
Because there is no cellphone access in the area, the lodge has regular telephone lines available to guests as well as Internet service. Both Courtney and Celine seized the opportunity to check their accumulated e-mails. A range of activities also is available for both kids and adults.
Recreation manager Lesli Brown, who recently hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail with her husband, showed me the lodge’s latest addition — camping. Away from the main lodge, 15 tents of varying sizes have been set up. It’s called Custom Camping. Each tent includes foam mattresses, sleeping bags, towels and lanterns. There is a communal bathhouse nearby.
“It’s a way to immerse people into the woods and provide a different feel from staying in a lodge room,” Brown said. “Some people really love to camp but can’t always bring their gear, especially if they are coming from abroad. So this works for them, and it’s cheaper too.”…
Now you can camp like a diva in Yosemite Park
For those who didn’t make the cut in the Camp Mather lottery, or who may be ready for a few more creature comforts and a little less “Kumbaya,” Evergreen Lodge has got your number. Located adjacent to Camp Mather and a mile from the Hetch Hetchy entrance to Yosemite, Evergreen has undergone a complete makeover in the past few years, transforming from a tavern with a handful of rustic wood cabins (built in 1921 to house dam workers) to a full-service mountain resort. Construction was completed in May on 90 simply but tastefully furnished cedar cottages that dot a 22-acre area around the original tavern, augmented by a gourmet restaurant with an inviting outdoor beer garden, a well-equipped kids’ rec room, a toddler play area with teepees, a theater and a sun deck perfect for wine sipping and unforced socializing. There’s even a massage cabana and at night, s’mores round the fire (no singing required).
New hybrid corporate structures allow nonprofits to accept private investment without diluting their missions
…Social enterprises…often don’t fit neatly into existing ownership structures. Those that register as nonprofits have trouble tapping private capital to expand, while for-profit companies risk compromising their missions because they must put shareholders’ returns first. But growing interest in hybrid business models has spurred recent efforts at the state level to create new corporate structures that allow entrepreneurs to integrate nonfinancial goals into for-profit businesses…
…Of course, approaches to business structure vary. Some nonprofits control 100% of the for-profit enterprise…Other models split financial returns with outside investors but retain control of the mission through special classes of stock or other agreements written into the company’s governing documents. Lee Zimmerman and Brian Anderluh bought Evergreen Lodge, an historic tourist lodge on the edge of Yosemite, in 2001 with a plan to start a summer jobs program for young adults from the Bay Area. They formed an LLC and raised $15 million in debt and equity from socially minded investors like Pacific Community Ventures and Juma Ventures, both nonprofits.
Zimmerman cautioned investors that returns could be diluted because of the company’s social mission to hire disadvantaged youths, but he’s not certain they will be. “I think that long term we will be able to fund this program and provide near-identical returns as an entity that didn’t have this social program,” he says. To reassure investors, however, Evergreen Lodge offered to return the initial capital invested once the company could afford to replace it with debt—which Zimmerman expects to happen in two years. Investors will retain ownership and still receive dividends, but they’ll be able to get their original money out without selling the company…
With the grandeur of Yosemite down one road, and the underrated beauty of Hetch Hetchy just down the other, one would think children couldn’t get to either fast enough.
Unless, of course, they’re playing in a sandbox.
Throw in game rooms, Indian teepees, guided activities, a theater and an outdoor fireplace for evening s’more-making, and the Evergreen Lodge becomes a man-made family destination that exists because of the incredible natural scenery around it.
Just minutes outside Yosemite’s western border, Evergreen offers the feel of getting away from it all without having to wrench one’s back sleeping in a tent (although Evergreen does have tent camping available, where everything is provided except the actual campers). The lodge, which sits on 22 acres, was built in the 1920s to accommodate workers constructing nearby O’Shaughnessy Dam at Hetch Hetchy. Evergreen just opened 24 new family cabins, pouring $5 million into upgrades, including furnishings for older cabins and renovations in the main lodge and historic tavern.
“There used to be fights in the bar,” says Lee Zimmerman of Oakland, one of three owners. “It was quite a rough and tumble place.”
The closest thing to fighting now is the occasional bickering of 7-year-olds in the outdoor sandbox, ringed by bark teepees. Evergreen also renovated the kitchen of its first-rate (for the forest, anyway) restaurant, with a menu ranging from buffalo burgers to ahi sushi. There’s also a new sun deck, beer garden and more outdoor restaurant seating, all of which can be used for events such as weddings.
The new family cabins feature a master bedroom, a two-bed room and a living area in between with a foldout sofa. The furnishings are comfortable, with rustic décor and replication of old fruit labels bearing images of Yosemite. Decks overlook the surrounding forest and, best of all, there’s no phone or television in sight.
Evergreen offers guided activities and easy access to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, with its two spectacular waterfalls spiraling off granite outcroppings. The dam itself is incredible, where visitors can stand atop the thundering spillways launching Tuolumne River water to the Bay Area. And it’s not overrun by tourists. They’re too busy speeding onward to Yosemite.
The word is Cozy. This month, we’re craving simple pleasures: a snug little cabin in the woods, chocolate and romance…
Hidden gem: Just outside Yosemite National Park, Evergreen Lodge will open 24 new cabins in April, with interiors by San Francisco designer Charles de Lisle.
Looking for that secluded spot to really get away from it all? Here, five places where you can unplug and explore the great outdoors…
Evergreen Lodge at Yosemite, California
This rustic lodge’s 66 spacious cabins are just a five-mile trek from Carlon Falls, a secret swimming hole flanked by sky-high ponderosa pines…
…The park interior is full of enjoyable options including heated tent cabins and less rustic lodge rooms, but more comfort for your dollar — as well as, perhaps, serenity — may be had outside park boundaries. You could try the Evergreen Lodge, one mile outside the park’s western border…
The latest in camping is roughing it the easy way… Evergreen Lodge Near Yosemite National Park [offers] fifteen small tents with air beds, camp chairs, and toiletries.
SINCE 2001, Lee Zimmerman’s Evergreen Lodge has helped almost 60 low-income young adults get their lives on track, while consistently paying 9 percent back to investors backing his business.
…The company deserves praise for its good deeds. But what might be more remarkable about the founders of Evergreen Lodge is the way they raised capital to build a business that has two bottom lines: one financial and one social.
…Such business models are becoming increasingly popular among philanthropists and foundations, which like the idea of self-sustaining charities. They also want their investments to have the same kind of social impact as their donations, an idea called mission-related, or program-related, investing.
…Evergreen Lodge, just outside of Yosemite National Park, hires promising young people from low-income areas. The three co-founders believed that they could give these people a foundation for more stable lives by putting them in a rural environment with a full-time “counselor” who paid close attention to their needs.
…Mr. Zimmerman and his partners and their investors are still refining the model. But he’s excited that the basic model has worked, and he says that “what we’re trying to do can be applied to many different kinds of businesses.”
…If he’s right, the timing is excellent. Billions of dollars could soon start flowing to social entrepreneurs, especially from foundations…
Is it really possible for a small business owner to make a profit and give back at the same time? We met three California-based entrepreneurs who are proving that it is.
If you’re one of those who have a love-hate relationship with Yosemite (it’s gorgeous, but crowded), we have the solution: visit the less-traveled northwest corner around Hetch Hetchy. Back before the valley was dammed to create the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir — SF’s controversial water source — John Muir called it “one of nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples. A second Yosemite.”
For a leisurely exploration of this uncrowded treasure, overnight at the historic Evergreen Lodge, only 6 miles from the reservoir. Built in 1921 to house the men who worked on the O’Shaughnessy Dam, this rustic place combines the quintessential Yosemite experience with a comfortable and friendly atmosphere. Their staff can lead you on one of their excellent outings (bike rides, hikes, fly-fishing trips) or give you enough information to explore on your own.
Be sure to hike the 2.5 miles to impressive Wapama Falls; the trail is open and easy, with wide views of the gorgeous valley and a full 1,000-foot refreshing waterfall at your turnaround point. Also highly recommended: a 1.5-mile hike to your own private swimming hole at Carlon Falls; you’ll have to ask Joe, Evergreen’s benevolent manager, for the directions to this secluded spot. If Yosemite Valley is the heart of this national park, Hetch Hetchy is its soul.
CUSTOM CAMPING: A great budget alternative is Evergreen’s “custom camping”; the tents are already set up for you, with everything from air beds to towels and toiletries. Cost is $50-$80.
Three passionate entrepreneurs turn around a rustic lodge – and the lives of the needy youth they employ
Growing up in a struggling family where he was shuttled among relatives for years, Ted Smith, now 24, says he spent much of his teens and early 20s abusing drugs and alcohol. Then, in December 2003, a friend who was driving him home from a party slammed his car into a tree. Smith wound up in a hospital for two weeks with a broken femur – and a determination to make a new start in life.
Six months later the San Francisco resident heard about an internship program for underprivileged youths at Evergreen Lodge in Groveland, Calif., near Yosemite National Park. The resort wanted 18- to 24-year-olds to work at housekeeping, cooking and other jobs. Smith, who had gotten treatment for his drug use, immediately applied for a dishwashing position and in June 2004 was hired at $7.50 an hour. He quickly mastered new responsibilities as a line cook.
In December 2004 he and his girlfriend, a front-desk clerk he had started dating, moved to her family’s home in Las Vegas, where he got a full-time job as a fry cook at a hotel-casino. He then married his girlfriend, and they are saving to buy a two-bedroom house, where they hope to start a family. They recently moved to Lincoln City, Ore., where he found work at the Chinook Winds Casino as a sauté cook. “I grew up poor, and no one taught me any other way to live,” he says. “At Evergreen Lodge, I learned there’s more to life than I’d realized. The lodge helped me turn my life around.”
Evergreen Lodge is a rare phenomenon: a business that has achieved its dual mission of giving back to society and earning a profit…
Enjoying the Great Outdoors in Yosemite National Park
It’s OK that I don’t like camping [but] this time – in the campground of all campgrounds, Yosemite! – I decided to take a chance. Having heard about the Evergreen Lodge’s new cushy “custom camping” program, which is geared towards first-timers or those who may have had one too many negative camping experiences (read: mosquito bites, rain, a bit of a hangover), I felt it was time to be risky. And what a great experience it was.
My husband and I drove three-and-a-half hours from San Francisco to the northwest corner of Yosemite National Park – not far from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir – where we found the Evergreen Lodge, a spiffy yet rustic 85-year-old resort that recently completed a $10 million renovation that includes new cabins, a new recreation center and general store, completely renovated restaurant and a new meeting center for weekend weddings and nightly movies. Other modernized amenities include a new bathhouse (think health-club standards), Internet and free long-distance (don’t even try to get cellular service here).
The lodge’s rec center also organizes several programs – from guided hikes to fly-fishing to sunset tours – and is a great resource for maps and directions to the local swimming hole. And lastly, the staff was very professional and helpful…in getting us ready for camping.
Cushy Camping 101
After checking in at 3 p.m., the front desk gave us each a mesh bag that had a fleece sleeping-bag liner, a white, fluffy towel, eco-friendly shampoo and soap and a pillow case. They also gave us a brand-new, battery powered Coleman lantern, as well as a map to find our camp site.
The camp site was about a five-minute walk from the general store and restaurant, and about a one-minute walk from the new bathhouse. Our tent was all set up – a new Wenger two-person tent with a mesh top for sleeping under the stars. Inside the tent was a fully blown up air mattress, two brand-new sleeping bags, two firm pillows and a small dust broom. Outside the tent, there were two foldable chairs for hanging out. Ta-dah, all done.
Oops, I forgot to bring Off! (Well, I live in San Francisco, which is usually too cold for mosquitoes, so I couldn’t find any at the local Walgreens). I ran up to the general store and they had it – along with about anything you could have left behind, from bottled water, juice and beer to Pepto, Nyquil and Tums. You could even get a latte at the store’s espresso bar.
The tents were roughly 10 to 15 feet apart from each other, and on the two nights we were there – midweek – only about half of the camp sites were full. Normally, there are about 12 tents in the lodge’s camping area.
Camp Food? Table for two
Food. On both nights, we had a great, hearty meal at the lodge’s restaurant – and not just burgers. The menu changes daily and I had grilled tuna steak on night No. 1 and Tuscan-style lasagna on night No. 2. The tavern also features about a dozen beers on draft and an impressive wine list, with the likes of Selby, J and St. Supery. The restaurant also serves breakfast and lunch, and the general store has coffee and pastries in the morning – if you’re in a rush to get to the valley floor before the crowds.
…So despite a few mosquito bites, some blisters and sunburned shoulders, camping for this non-camper was quite a success.
Renovations at nearby lodge add to lure of Hetch Hetchy
Yosemite National Park — Forgive me, John Muir, for I am about to utter an environmental blasphemy: Hetch Hetchy [even with its dam] is actually a pretty nice place…I drove there last fall to do a little solitary hiking and also to check out Evergreen Lodge, a recently refurbished resort just outside the park boundary.
… My wife, Jeri, and I upgraded to a “deluxe cabin.” Built in 2004, it had a queen bed, a small refrigerator, a sitting area with a sofa bed, a gas-operated cast-iron stove and a private deck facing west, toward the sunset. It was unfussy, quiet and comfortable.
…The bar, which has been there since the moonshine days, was friendly and boisterous, filled with both lodge guests and locals. In the adjoining dining room, the menu was rather ambitious considering the location. I had the grilled flat iron steak with bourbon reduction, and Jeri the broiled elk tenderloin with shitake butter. Neither quite reached the level of to-die-for, but both were perfectly enjoyable.
…The lodge offers an array of guided programs, including fly fishing and a bike-hike-and-swim excursion that looked like a lot of fun. But the next morning I opted for a solitary hike at Hetch Hetchy…I had the place practically to myself. As I sauntered along the undulating trail, catching glimpses of Hetch Hetchy Dome and the El Capitan-like Wapama Rock through the pines, I heard nothing but the wind.
…I arrived at the base of thunderous Wapama Falls. Plunging 1300 feet from the valley rim, it is, according to World Waterfall Database, “probably the most powerful waterfall in Yosemite National Park”….There was no one else around. On my way back I encountered three other hikers, which made a total of eight for the day.
Outdoor options for those that would rather not pitch a tent
Another relatively new lodge has added a brand new “custom camping” option. Evergreen Lodge at Yosemite offers furnished and fully set up regular tents. Imagine sleeping under fragrant pines and stargazing through mesh “ceilings.” The tents include air beds, sleeping bags and liners, pillows, towels, toiletries and a lantern to get to the newly built bathhouse for custom campers only. Since this is a national park, open fires are a no-no, but there’s a restaurant with surprisingly gourmet fare and a great wine list, as well as an outdoor dining area and beer garden. All other amenities at Evergreen Lodge are available to campers. Rates are $45 to 75 a night for one to three people.
The Evergreen Lodge was featured on this award-winning television program, which focuses on the best places to visit in the San Francisco Bay Area and northern California.
Evergreen Lodge offers the classic Yosemite experience…For a place that caters to families and young professionals, the accommodations are surprisingly quiet. You’ll likely fall asleep to the sound of rustling leaves and chirping crickets. But Evergreen is as sociable as it is serene, thanks to a comprehensive recreation program designed by co-owner Dan Braun, considered one of the foremost Yosemite and Sierra Nevada experts. We’re talking daily guided tours, swimming-hole hopping, and other “insider” outings…
In the evening, return to enjoy great comfort food (salmon, steak, pasta) at the lodge – then hit the beautiful old tavern or beer garden for a few brews and a lively game of pool or ping pong. Each night there’s also a family-style activity, such as campfire storytelling (with S’mores!), park ranger talks, full-moon hikes, live music and bingo.
For folks seeking their inner Zen, the lodge even hosts Yoga and Pilates Weekends with top instructors from San Francisco. And talk about good karma: Evergreen hires high-potential kids from urban areas to work as summer interns each year.
Evergreen Lodge near Hetch Hetchy offers quiet beauty and plenty of activities without the valley’s crowds
…Seeking a more serene Yosemite, my partner, Wesla, and I visited the Evergreen Lodge in April. The recently refurbished and expanded lodge…is about a mile from the Hetch Hetchy entrance to the park’s less-visited north-western corner. What we lost in proximity to Yosemite Valley – the hub of park activity – we made up by joining bicycling and fly-fishing excursions led by Evergreen’s guides. In the evenings, we enjoyed family films, slide shows and s’mores. Our simple cabin seemed sublimely remote.
…our cabin was spacious and pristine, half of a newly constructed duplex with a private deck overlooking the forest. It was sparsely but smartly furnished with a queen bed, a sofa bed and a compact cast-iron stove to warm the room. Vintage photos and a topological map of the area adorned the walls.
…[The new owners] bought the property in 2001…and have since lavished more than $7 million on it. They added 50 vaulted roof duplex and free-standing cedar cabins,…a recreation center, an events hall and a general store. The lodge also schedules activities geared to families and outdoor enthusiasts.
…the standing-room-only crowds on the park’s free shuttle buses made us glad to get back to the Evergreen, where we caught up with tourist Harris and her friend. “I like the energy up here,” Harris said as we dug into desserts in the dining room. “The people are lovely. I’d definitely stay here again.” Me too.
The 10 getaways everyone will be talking about – in 5 years
Let’s face it: between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Yosemite Valley is best left to the first timers. Those who’ve braved the valley’s infamous summer gridlock would do well to instead head down the quiet meadow-and forest-lined road toward Hetch Hetchy, where granite walls jut nearly as high as El Capitan and waterfalls pound a dramatic path to the reservoir below…
…As of last summer, the new owners of Evergreen Lodge added 50 cabins and an airy rec hall where you can plan your day – the lodge hooks you up with guided hikes, horseback riding, rock climbing, and fly-fishing. All of the cabins are still basic enough (no TV’s or phones) to make the point that you should be outside, but the new ones have a bright, folksy charm. The best part of any day could be settling your hiked-out muscles into an Adirondack chair on your private deck to watch the sunset and, later, the sky teeming with stars…After a hearty dinner, lodgers and staff shoot pool and drink cocktails in the bar or circle the fireplace outside to share tales of the day’s backwoods adventures.
When the mercury drops and the summer crowds dwindle, Yosemite becomes a cool-weather wonderland. And there’s no better place to experience its pleasures than at the Evergreen Lodge, a newly renovated hideaway at the western edge of the park. Cozy and accommodating, the lodge offers a range of off-season activities, from guided snowshoe hikes to outdoor s’more-making to nighttime storytelling beneath a full moon. Private cabins cost as little as $79, but the experience is rich.