Engaging Journeys, Engaged Journalism

Hostel Territory Inland

Go East. You’ll Find Fine Hostels There Too.

 Many of California’s hostels are situated along the state’s long, long coastline, which seems only natural. Not every state has a coast, let alone so much of it, so of course people want to go coastal here. But the Golden State barely even begins at the Pacific Ocean. There are worthy hostels inland as well.

Before we consider them, let’s recap the benefits of hostel-based travel, always the first choice of those who prefer to spend small but live big.

At many hostels these days fresh linens and towels are the rule rather than the exception (no need to BYO bedding), not to mention the option of couples’ and family rooms. Hostels typically offer lots of shared living space along with TV, computers, free wifi, and endless other communications and entertainment options. Most include laundry facilities and a full kitchen, preparing your own meals being a major cost savings.

The main point: Hostels aren’t “youth hostels” anymore. They offer the opportunity to meet a great variety of fellow travelers, people of all ages and backgrounds from around the world—because hostels are typically located in, or within easy reach of, the places people most want to go.

A Capital Hostel

It’s one of Sacramento’s best secrets. Aside from being an inexpensive and safe choice to hang one’s hat, the Hostelling International Sacramento Hostel is an unusually elegant place to just hang out. There’s no hostel quite like it anywhere in the United States.

Sacramento's HI hostel is one of the most elegant in the U.S.  (photo by astronomy blog)

Sacramento’s HI hostel is one of the most elegant in the U.S. (photo by astronomy blog)

Open since 1995, the Sacramento Hostel is housed in the historic Llewellyn Williams mansion—also known locally as Mory’s Place, after previous owner Mory Holmes—downtown near city hall at 925 H Street (at 10th). This 1885 Italianate Victorian was restored to its original grandeur at a cost of $2.1 million, thanks to financial support from American Youth Hostels, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Sacramento City Council. Sure to draw anyone’s eye are stunning features such as the original chandeliers, embossed wallpapers, and painted-glass skylight; hand-carved oak staircases, wall panels, and other decorative details; parquet floors; period-style carpeting; and handcrafted marble fireplaces.

But there are many modern comforts, starting with fresh, airy guest rooms. Dorm beds are about $30 per night; the eight private rooms sleep from one to four people and range from $60 to $100. Facilities also include modern shared baths and a roomy, sleek, fully stocked, and accessible kitchen. Common areas include two parlors downstairs—available even during the day—and dining room (complimentary continental breakfast is served each morning). When it’s not blistering hot—and even in summer it may not be, thanks to Sacramento’s heavenly Delta breezes—you can enjoy the wraparound front veranda or the patio furnished with umbrella tables and barbecue. Head to the basement rec room for TV and movies, games, and books to borrow. Conveniences include free wifi, onsite laundry, secure lockers, and storage for bikes and baggage.

the spacious kitchen at Sacramento’s excellent downtown hostel (photo by Loco Steve)

Parking can be a challenge, given the downtown location. Best bet if you’re driving is to arrange onsite gated (uncovered) parking for $5 per night. There’s a nearby public lot that charges $7.50 per day. Another neighborhood option is street parking (free overnight) then feeding the meters between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., a viable plan if you’ll be out and about most of the day anyway.

Sorry, Fifi and Fido. No pets.

Hostel Tahoe

Borrowing or renting a cabin is the classic Tahoe stay, but if you don’t want to “go big,” consider Hostel Tahoe in Kings Beach near the lake’s northern shore, a real treat for cost-conscious travelers.

Homey and welcoming as all get out, Hostel Tahoe is a reborn motel that offers appealing private rooms as well as dorm-style bunkrooms. The shared living area features a fireplace—that Tahoe essential—plus free wifi, movies, books, board games, even a guitar to play. There’s a well-stocked kitchen too, plus free weekend breakfast featuring homemade granola and baked goods.

Escape the South Tahoe crowds with a hostel stay in Kings Beach. (North Tahoe photo by Daniel Hoherd)

Escape the South Tahoe crowds with a hostel stay in Kings Beach. (North Tahoe photo by Daniel Hoherd)

Special freebies include free bikes complete with helmets, locks, and carry baskets (first-some, first-served), and bike racks if you’d rather bring your own; a spacious outdoor patio with BBQ and tables; personal dorm lockers (BYO lock); and free maps plus helpful savvy-local advice about where to go and what to do. The hostel provides free day storage for your luggage plus outdoor gear storage (BYO lock for that too).

Rates are $30 to $35 for a dorm bed (higher rates in summer and winter, lower for stays longer than a week), $65 and up for a queen room (sleeps two), and $75 and up for a family room (sleeps three or four). All rooms feature private bathrooms—complete with Dr. Bronner’s organic soaps—even the four-bed male and female dorms.

No pets, though true service animals are allowed.

Yosemite Bug Rustic Resort

Need to get away from it all? For many of us, Yosemite is the ultimate escape. Luckily the area even offers a resort for the 99 percent.

Also known as Hostelling International’s Midpines Hostel, the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort outside Mariposa—just 26 miles from Yosemite Valley via Highway 40—is in many respects a destination in its own right, what with the good-food June Bug Cafe, affordable spa, yoga classes, and all. Yosemite Bug could even be an inspiring yet affordable reunion or meeting choice. No in-room TVs or phones. What could be better?

The Yosemite Bug's cafe: cozy as all get out (photo by jshyun)

The Yosemite Bug’s cafe is warm and welcoming. (photo by jshyun)

Accommodation options here are almost as varied as the real-food cafe menu, ranging charming, full-service private cabins with down duvets (some have shared private baths) to hostel bunkbeds and classic rubberized canvas or heated, furnished tent cabins

Prices for “camping bathroom” stays range from about $25 to $30 per person per night for bunk beds in the single-sex or group dorm cabins to $40-$65 and up for tent cabins (two to four people).

The most affordable options for private rooms in cabins are those that use the “camping baths” (communal bathrooms), with multiple sinks, toilet stalls, etc., much like bathrooms at campgrounds, dorm-style stays starting at $50 per night for two to four people. Private cabins that share a large bathroom between two rooms are $65 to $115 per room (up to four people, additional rollaway bed sometimes allowed). Cabin rooms with well-appointed private rooms—complete with private decks and outdoor tables—are $75 to $155 per night.

The Bug is pet-friendly, too, at $20 per stay, though you can’t leave four-legged family members in your room all day.

Cabins are cozy, too, though the terrain can be challenging. Accessible options are available, but call early. (photo by jshyun)

One potential drawback for aging boomers is ease of access; you might have to hoof it up and down hills for 500 feet one-way just to get from your car to where you’re staying. However, two cabins are accessible (call to make arrangements), as are the restaurant and onsite meeting rooms. Another option, especially for families or small groups, is the nearby Starlight House just off the highway in Midpines proper ($260 and up).

Hostellers and other guests enjoy all the benefits here that most hostels offer, including a fully stocked, self-serve kitchen and laundry facilities (small fee), storage lockers, games, Internet access, and free wifi. Unique attractions include Bug trails, swimming hole (drought permitting), and summer fireside singalongs on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

A $10 day pass lets you enjoy the spa’s spring-fed, stainless steel hot tub, hot-rock sauna, and seven-jet and cold-rain showers. Massages, specialty baths, and body scrubs are extra.

And believe it or not, you don’t even need a car to get here—or to get from here into Yosemite. Shuttles from valley Amtrak connections and Yosemite’s YARTS bus stop at the bottom of the Bug’s driveway.

This outdoor sculpture adds some "bug" to Yosemite Bug (photo by Orin Zebest)

This unusual nature sculpture adds the “bug” to Yosemite Bug. (photo by Orin Zebest)

About that café: The June Bug serves three meals a day, everything reasonably priced, with local and organic foods, produce from the Bug’s garden, and sustainable fish and meat choices worked into the menu as much as possible. Vegan and vegetarian options here are much more than an afterthought, so everyone will eat well here. The dinner menu changes ever few days. Children’s menu, too. You can even request a homemade sack lunch (order during breakfast). Premium wines and locals beers and ales served.

Hostel up, whichever inland option you choose.

This story's featured initial image is a photo of Hostelling International's Sacramento hostel by Tobias.

This story’s initial image is Hostelling International’s Sacramento showplace. (photo by Tobias)

What do you think? Let us know by sending a letter (a.k.a. email). Send your comments to editor@uptheroad.org. Please include a phone number in case we need to chat.

Up the Road’s Editor Kim Weir has been scribbling away at one thing or another for a shocking number of years.

A member of the Society of American Travel Writers since 1991, as a nonfiction writer Weir tends to focus on California and the West. She holds a bachelors degree in environmental studies and analysis and a MFA in creative writing.



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