Ghosts and Gravitas: The Groveland Hotel

The just-outside-Yosemite inn has charm and stories to spare.

LIKE TRYING OUT THE BED when you first saunter into your hotel room, and sniffing the complimentary bar of soap in the bathroom, and peeking out the window to admire your view, there are rules and traditions that arriving travelers abide by without even truly thinking them through. One of the most prevalent? To ponder all the guests who've stayed at the inn you're currently within, and, more specifically, your room. If a hotel has a few years on the books, you're probably looking at several hundred past guests, or maybe a thousand. But what to say of a fabled, national park-close structure that's been a regional landmark for over a century and a half? The stories to be told would literally test a whole wall of shelves, if they were in book form. And while you don't need to become personally acquainted with every past guest during a weekend getaway to The Groveland Hotel, you should at least know about Lyle, "The Permanent Lodger" who occupies Room 15.

THAT'S THE PROPERTY'S "MOST POPULAR" ROOM, as you can guess, for The Groveland is just about one of the Golden State's best-known spirit-famous structures (joining the likes of the Queen Mary and Hotel del Coronado and more). Whether you'll hear Lyle playing with the room's waterworks -- the sink suddenly coming on is one of Lyle's quintessential calling cards -- you can be assured that his long-ago stay lives on in the lore of the Gold Country-esque gem. Also part of the lore: Proprietor Peggy Mosley went to school with Elvis Presley, so best hum a few hound dog-type tunes as you ready for your day of exploring nearby Yosemite and the regional towns that put 1849 on the map (and vice versa).

17 GUEST ROOMS: The Groveland property isn't petite, but it is nicely cozy, which adds to its tuck-in allure, one that suits its foothill setting (those chillier winter and spring nights can send one indoors). Will you cuddle with one of the "four-legged innkeepers" in the lobby? (They're around, so give them a pat.) Have a whiskey and beer in the saloon, in ye Old West fashion? Or dig into a Bleu Cheese Bacon Burger and a glass of local vino in the restaurant? You can do all of the above, and you don't even need to check in with Lyle beforehand, for his go-ahead. He's seen a guest or two over the decades, from his perch in Room 15, those people who've come to The Groveland for an old-fashioned inn experience. So how you spend your Groveland sojourn is up to you, not the resident ghost, but know your visit will have some history, some Gold Rush-y glamour, a bit of supernatural spirit-a-tude, a cameo by a pup or two, and, yes, tales of a certain Mr. Presley.

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