When Copper Valley LLC first purchased Copperopolis’ town square, golf resort and thousands of surrounding acres in 2018, building a hotel was one of the first steps listed by developers Mike Fletcher and Tom Hix in their plan to bring new interest to the rural town of 3,400.

The community seems to be waking up from its pandemic slumber with renewed vigor, as the town square can often be seen packed with people attending a range of concerts, car shows and seasonal festivals. And although previously delayed by Covid troubles, the Memorial Day weekend opening of the crown jewel of the Copper Valley development—The Gateway Hotel—has already brought a stream of visitors to discover a town now accessible for overnight stays.

“People come just for the concerts, even from out of state,” said front desk attendant Rachael Riddle, who grew up in the area and enjoys working at the four-star hotel located on the first floor of the clock tower building of the square. “I was completely mind-blown. I didn’t think it was going to be like that right off the bat.”

Riddle says most weekends are busy at the 29-room inn—a mixture of travelers passing through, visiting family, or staying in the plush, custom rooms while they explore nearby destinations like Yosemite National Park, Murphys’ wine country and the highly rated Copper Valley golf club.

From its conception and choice of name, The Gateway Hotel was intended to be a central location to stay and play in the Mother Lode’s great outdoors; hence, the pet-friendly policies and a concierge that will do just about anything to make sure guests get the most out of their stay.

Riddle recalls an instance when General Manager Bill Babis helped some guests obtain a private tour of Yosemite after they failed to book a reservation at the park.

“It’s all about being able to have all the wonderful things here at someone’s touch,” developer Fletcher said, adding that the hotel will soon offer access to beekeeping experiences, horseback and helicopter rides within walking distance of its rooms, capitalizing on the open nature space surrounding the town square.

Each of the Gateway’s rooms is one-of-a-kind, bearing the name of a Mother Lode destination and featuring photography of scenes throughout the region. The unique setup of rooms with glass doors opening out onto the square invites guests outside to surrounding restaurants and provides a place to enjoy concerts without ever leaving the space. A brand-new, private outdoor recreation area gives the illusion of an infinity pool stretching into the countryside, with a hot tub and fire pit inviting guests to float and relax.

Hotel architect Terry Weatherby with Weatherby-Reynolds-Fritson Engineering and Design described the project as “a challenge” because it is located under two stories of condominiums.

“Each room is different,” said the structural engineer who specializes in renovating historic buildings. “We had to move some walls.”

Many of the design features, from the fixtures to the upholstery, were handpicked by Fletcher and his assistant, Kaylynn McDaniel, to create a high-end yet cozy feel.

Of course, a hotel, no matter how pleasing to the eyes, is nothing without its staff. The Gateway employs roughly a dozen employees, with its manager hailing from a hospitality background spanning multiple states. Most recently, Babis managed 70 Park Avenue and The Muse Hotel in New York City before taking some time to travel the world.

Babis says he doesn’t miss the city life and has “never been happier” living within walking distance of his work in a condo across the square.

“(This is) the most beautiful place anybody could ever come, and I’m not joking,” he said.

Rooms at The Gateway Hotel and its incorporated 17 two-bedroom bungalows at the nearby golf course are priced in the mid-range and can be reserved on most hotel booking websites.


Dakota graduated from Bret Harte in 2013 and went to Davidson College, NC where she earned a bachelor's degree in Arab studies. After spending time studying in the Middle East and Europe, she is happy to be home, writing about the community she loves.

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