Kowana Valley Folk School


“Kowana” is the Miwok Indian word for music. When we came upon this lovely mountain valley and became the new stewards of the land, we decided to name it in honor of those that stewarded the land for so many years before.

Coming down out of the snow to spend their winters here, the Yosemite Miwok Indians ground acorns, hunted with obsidian arrows, and left their mark in the form of deep grinding holes, obsidian flakes and arrowheads , and darkened soils where their village was.

Later, in the 1850s, the goldrush came and this valley became a supply spot run by a businessman named AG Black for the gold seekers hoping to make their fortune. In 1856, a gold seeker by the name of Jean-Nicolas Perlot who knew the Indian trails and the way to the great valley of the Yosemites, was commissioned by William Coulter of Coulterville to open a trail for tourists to make the journey. While they could get to Kowana Valley by stagecoach, beyond this point the path was no more than a few feet wide in spots, too narrow for a stagecoach, so was only for the hardy travelers.

Named the Coulterville Free Trail, it was the first route into Yosemite Valley. It was the route that John Muir took on his first trip into Yosemite, and “Blacks” (now Kowana Valley) was a place he got his mail during his time in Yosemite Valley.

AG Black operated his hotel here, from 1858 till around 1870.

By then, the Big Oak Flat Road and the road that now goes through Wawona opened up to travelers who could travel by stagecoach, and the Coulterville trail and the hotel here fell into disuse.

Various families homesteaded here over the next century or so, and was once again mined in the 1950s.

In the mid 1990s, Richard and Lynn Ferry happened upon this remote gem on a long forgotten road in the middle of the Sierras.

18 years later, a dream was realized, a place to bring people where they could truly relax and take a big breath, experience a sense of community, immerse themselves in the arts, and leave the noise and distractions of everyday life behind.

Location (click here for map)

We are in the middle of the National Forest on Bull Creek Rd.. We are 11 miles south of Buck Meadows or 11 miles east of the little town of Greeley Hill. We are 25 miles from the Crane Flat entrance to Yosemilte National Park. We are a 3-4 hr drive from the San Francisco Bay area, a 3 hr drive from Sacramento, and 2 ½ hrs from Fresno.

Note: The last 4 miles of your journey here is a County maintained dirt road; in the dry months your car will get dusty.

The Facility

We are “off the grid” here. We generate all our power from solar panels, and if we use more than we make, we have to run the gas generator. It is a good place to learn about conservation and living within your energy means.

We have a unique phone setup – the phone receiver is on the mountaintop and wired down to the house. So calls can be made out in emergencies. Your hand held cell phone will not work here, unless you take a hike to the top of the hill. So this is a great opportunity to truly take a vacation from it all! Same with internet – a hike to the top of the hill and your smart phone should work fine. But why bother!

The lodge is a 2700 sq ft building that accommodates overnight guests and meals. People staying elsewhere locally can also come and participate in a workshop.

You can stay in a private room with private bath, share a bunk room with others, or stay in a pet friendly family suite. There are a total of 4 ½ baths for guest use. A covered deck, a screened in porch and a patio make for relaxing on a summer eve. With two swimming holes to stay cool on hot days, a limestone cave to explore, and many trails to walk on 300 acres, there is no shortage of things to do here.

For those who want to vacation with their horses, we have a six stall horse barn. You can ride for miles around the many trails on the property, or ride out the front gate onto miles of national forest roads and trails.