The Logger and the Gold Pan: Our Visit to Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

All aboard Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

All aboard Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

Yesterday, we had the chance to hop aboard “The Logger” train at Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, just minutes from where we are staying at Tenaya Lodge at the southern gate of Yosemite National Park. The narrow-guage steam locomotive once powered through the hills here, helping lumber barons log the area until 1931. Today, you can ride it through a young forest, hearing all about the history of the railroad along the way.

logger steam train

“The Logger” train offers two cars made with chiseled log seats–bring your sun hats!

Our kids, faced with the option of sitting in the shaded, covered cars OR riding on these open cars created from real logs (each side seat is one piece) opted for the logs, naturally. The one-hour round trip ride is partly shaded throughout, but it was nice to relax and enjoy some snacks and water during our 15-minute break half-way through at the shaded picnic area. (If you want to cool off even more, just go dip your toes in the small Lewis Creek below the picnic area, behind the amphitheater.)

Take a short break at this shady picnic area before your return on the train.

A shady picnic area for snacks half-way through your train journey.

We had a nice time on the train ride, and the kids seemed to really enjoy it–particularly when we were given a demonstration of a “blow down,” where suddenly steam was not only puffing out the top of the engine, but was shooting in an impressive loud blast straight out the side of it. It’s a little trick they use to help regulate the pressure, when needed, in steam engines.

Impressive steam shooting out the side in a "blow down."

Impressive steam shooting out the side in a “blow down.”

After our ride, we finished our picnic in another shaded picnic area by the train station. Having heard there was another activity on site, the kids would not go until we’d checked out the prospect of panning for gold here, too. While we weren’t overly thrilled at what we expected to be sand pit with prizes hidden in it for kids to scoop through and sift, the gold panning at Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad turned out to be an unexpected highlight.

Getting a personalized demonstration of gold-panning--for real.

Getting a personalized demonstration of gold-panning–for real.

My eldest daughter was taught (as we all listened in and learned, too, of course) about California’s gold history, how to pan for actual gold–how to tell if what you’ve got is real gold, and then she was set loose to try her own hands at it. We were all a little nervous. Whatever was in that pan, if she spilled too much, too quickly, it was game over whether it had gold in there or not.

Sharing the real secret of how to tell if the sparkly stuff is REAL, or just a fool's gold...

Sharing the real secret of how to tell if the sparkly stuff is REAL, or just a fool’s gold…

With help from our “gold panning coach,” she did it! And then the real test. To tell if that stuff left in the pan was actually gold or not. It was a test. And it was REAL! She was thrilled to get to keep her treasure in a small vial to take home, and it was nice to know for the $10 it cost for the instruction and experience, we were bringing home $5 worth of gold.

Find gold and you get to take it home!

Find gold and you get to take it home!

As you may be guessing… she wasn’t the only one who struck gold before we were finished there! And a special treasure was given to little brother for learning so much and being patient, too (he was very pleased with his striped rock).

The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad also offers a shorter 30-minute Jenny Car ride pulled by its steam locomotives, and has special moonlight evening rides with barbecue steak dinners and entertainment twice weekly throughout summer. To find out more about the railroad and buy advance tickets online, visit their website at http://www.ymsprr.com/.

Yosemite Mountain
Sugar Pine Railroad
56001 Hwy 41
Fish Camp, CA 93623
(559) 683-7273

Thanks so much to Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad and the Tenaya Lodge for providing this opportunity. Now, back to all the amazing activities we’re packing into this stay at Tenaya Lodge in Yosemite! Much more to do and to come…

Safe journeys,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby and Take-Along Travels with Baby

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3 Comments

  1. Ann

    Glad I saw this. We’ll be in Yosemite next month and I’m pretty sure my kids will like this.

  2. Anthony The Travel Tart

    I’ve been to Yosemite but had no idea this existed! Oh well, next time!

    1. Shelly Rivoli (Post author)

      Yes, and there’s a great creek hike with boulder pools and a hotspring I found out about nearby. Will have to check it out next time, too! 😉

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