Mariposa County is in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. It was originally the largest county in California at the time of statehood in 1850, but over the years was split up to form twelve other counties, giving it the nickname "the Mother of Counties".
Rural Mariposa County has no incorporated cities, and in fact does not even have a permanent traffic light within its borders. The county was one of the eight original counties of California when statehood was granted in 1850, and while it was originally the state's largest county, over the years has ceded most of its territory to twelve other counties, giving it the nickname "the Mother of Counties". The county is named after Mariposa Creek, which was named by Spanish explorers after the great clusters of butterflies ("mariposas" in Spanish) that they found.
- 1 Stanislaus County - While still primarily an agricultural county known for its almond trees, parts of Mariposa County's western neighbor have become a bedroom community for people trying to escape the high housing costs of the Bay Area. Travelers will find plenty of amenities, although most only see Stanislaus County while passing through on their way elsewhere.
- 2 Tuolumne County - Mariposa County's northern neighbor was one of California's original counties at the time of statehood, and today offers a glimpse into the region's gold mining and logging history, as well as numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation. Portions of Yosemite National Park lie in the county, and with limited parking and lodging inside of the park, the YARTS shuttle system makes the county's towns an option to consider for park visitors.
- 3 Mono County - Located east of Mariposa County, remote and expansive Mono County is a destination for outdoor enthusiasts. It is the eastern gateway to Yosemite National Park, home to the Old West ghost town of Bodie, and Mammoth Lakes is a favorite winter skiing getaway. The gigantic Mono Lake is perhaps the county's premier attraction, a stopover for millions of migratory birds and thousands of tourists who explore its alkaline waters and bizarre tufa formations.
- 4 Madera County - South of Mariposa County lies Madera County, whose agricultural western half offers plenty of hotels and amenities for travelers, while the mountainous eastern half features unspoiled Sierra Nevada wilderness that is home to portions of Yosemite National Park, the Ansel Adams Wilderness, and Devils Postpile National Monument with its impressive basalt columns and iconic Rainbow Falls. There are no roads crossing the county from west to east, so it may be a very circuitous route for those who want to see everything Madera has to offer!
- 5 Merced County - Mariposa County's western neighbor is located entirely within the San Joaquin Valley. Most travelers will likely just take advantage of the county's hotels and other amenities, but there are a few attractions worth considering. The Castle Air Museum in Atwater is home to over 50 planes, while the Merced National Wildlife Refuge hosts thousands of waterfowl during winter months, including huge flocks of snow geese and sandhill cranes.