California's Oldest Bar

Exploring California's Oldest Bar: Historical Significance

California's Oldest Bar is in Groveland, on the way to Yosemite National Park - Canva

It is fascinating to discover Pacific Northwest bars and pubs with historical significance. One such place claims to be the oldest bar in California (there is a dispute about that, which I will get to in a minute). It's located in the city of Groveland, right before you get to Yosemite National Park. It was built in 1852 and used for people during the Gold Rush olden days. Wow, it’s 171 years old! It’s not listed on the National Historic Places list, but it is registered as a California Historical Landmark.


California's Oldest Bar Iron Door Saloon
Google Street View

On the way to Yosemite National Park on California Highway 120, a road sign greets you, “Groveland, Population 3,139, Elevation 2,846.”

Running steady as a bar/saloon since 1896, I think it's pretty cool that the Iron Door Saloon in Groveland has over 127 years of drinking, dancing, eating, and general rebel rousing.

California's Oldest Bar Iron Door Saloon
Iron Door Saloon via Google Maps

The building's murals include scenes of a horse-drawn carriage, an indigenous warrior, and a couple of California brown bears. The old-timey window signs in the windows depicting the building’s history as a boarding house, notary, a place for groceries, household stuff, and clothes.

California's Oldest Bar Iron Door Saloon
Google Street View

Besides the vast selection of beers on tap, customers love the “famous garlic soup." There's money hanging from the ceiling (ask your server why), and travelers enjoy playing pool and staring at the elk heads and old pioneer day artifacts hanging on the wall.


The other oldest bar in California is Smiley’s Saloon in Bolinas. It started operating as a bar much earlier than the Iron Door (1851), but it closed down for a while and reopened in the 70s.

Oldest Bar in California Smileys Saloon in Bolinas CA
Smiley's Saloon via Google Maps

The next time you’re out near Yosemite National Park, maybe you’ll want to stop in for a visit to the Iron Door.

The Iron Door Saloon: 18761 Main Street, Groveland
Now offering online ordering.
Closed every Wednesday. Opens at 8 a.m. every other day.

Other "Oldest" places to see in the Pacific Northwest:

5 Popular Things to Do in WA's Oldest Town: Steilacoom

5 Things You’ve Got to Try at the Oldest Restaurant in Oregon



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