California Gold Country attractions are as simple as farm filled with daffodils. Others include caverns, mine camps and vineyards. From the California State Capitol in Sacramento to Railtown 1897 in Jamestown, here you'll find unique Gold Country points of interest and other popular attractions.
The California State Capitol is located off Interstate 5 in downtown Sacramento. The museum offers daily tours of the State Capitol every hour except on major holidays. The State Capitol grounds include 40 acres of park which contains gardens and memorials to important Californian figures and veterans of war.
California State Capitol Museum
10th and L Streets
Sacramento, California 95814
Old Sacramento is located at 3rd and J Streets directly off Interstate 5 in downtown Sacramento. This park is several square blocks of preserved and rebuilt gold mining era buildings. Old Sacramento structures now house touristy shops, museums and restaurants. The State Railroad Museum is located within Old Sacramento State Park. Visitors can ride in historic buggies, take an historic train ride or join a river boat cruise on the Sacramento River. Activities include picnicking, sightseeing, shopping and biking on the river trail. Accommodations are available on the historic Delta King river boat.
Old Sacramento State Park
1002 2nd Street
Sacramento, California 95814
Leland Stanford Mansion is located off Interstate 5 off the Q Street exit. Situated in Downtown Sacramento only one block from the State Capitol, the Stanford Mansion is an historic 1800's Victorian home that today serves as a museum and California's official reception center, where the Governor and Legislature meet with dignitaries from other states and countries. The mansion features crystal chandeliers, gilded mirrors and rich wood accents. Guided tours are mandatory and include an orientation film about the mansion's history. Stanford was the founder of Stanford University.
Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park
800 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
The Governor's Mansion is located in downtown Sacramento at H and 16th Streets. This Victorian mansion was constructed in 1877 and has been the home to California Governors since 1903. Earl Warren and Ronald Reagan were among the last to stay at the mansion. Visitors are welcome to tour the mansion on docent-led tours. Period furnishings and lavishly ornate architecture embellish the home.
UPDATE: The Governor's Mansion is once again the home of California's current Governor, Jerry Brown. Tours are canceled until the mansion is vacant again.
Governor's Mansion State Historic Park
1526 H Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Sutter's Fort is located in the heart of Sacramento between K & L and 26th & 28th streets. The fort was established in 1839 by Swiss immigrant, John Sutter who called it New Helvetia (New Switzerland). This was Sacramento's first non-Indian settlement and was the main destination for settlers crossing the Sierra Nevada. In 1847, the first few men from the Donner Party reached the fort and aid was sent to save the remaining settlers. The fort was overrun by gold miners in 1849 and today has been rebuilt to its former state.
Sutter's Fort State Park
2701 L Street
Sacramento, California 95816
Old City Cemetery is located south of downtown Sacramento off Interstate 5. This is the cemetery that many of Gold Country's notables and early pioneers are buried. Visit the graves of John Sutter, Jr., Edwin Crocker, Mark Hopkins, cholera victims, Old Fellows members, Masonic members and Soldiers of the Spanish American War. In addition to grave sites the cemetery also include a rose garden and memorials to firefighters, the Battleship Maine and more. The Old City Cemetery is very picturesque with elaborate ironwork, manicured gardens and impressive headstones & mausoleums.
Old City Cemetery
Sacramento, CA 95818
Underground Gold Miners Museum is located south of Highway 49 from Downieville. The Underground Gold Miners Museum displays artifacts, documents, photos and stories related to the Alleghany Mining District. The museum depicts the life and hardships of underground miners and mining operations.
Underground Gold Miners Museum
Alleghany Mining Museum
356 Main Street
Alleghany, CA 95910
Bridgeport Covered Bridge is located off Highway 20 approximately 10 miles north of Penn Valley. Situated within South Yuba River State Park, this is a beautiful section of the Yuba River with steep granite walls, deep swimming holes, hiking trials and picnic areas. The Bridgeport Bridge is the longest single-span covered bridge in the world that spans 210 feet over the Yuba River. This was once a major transportation corridor for supplies from San Francisco headed for the California gold fields. Activities at South Yuba River State Park include swimming, fishing, gold panning, hiking, mountain biking and wildflower viewing. The park also offers a Visitor Center, historic barn, old cemetery and ruins.
Bridgeport Covered Bridge
South Yuba River State Park
17660 Pleasant Valley Road
Penn Valley, CA 95946
Empire Mine State Park is located at the intersections of highways 20 and 49 northeast of Sacramento. Empire Mine was one of the oldest, largest, deepest, longest and richest gold mines in California. The grounds include the owner's home and gardens, original mine buildings and equipment and a museum. The 3 dimensional model of the 367 miles of shafts below the surface is impressive. Be sure to go out back and look down the shaft that miners used to be catapulted into. Other activities include hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
Empire Mine State Park
10791 East Empire Street
Grass Valley, CA 95959
Northstar Mining Museum is located at the intersection of Highways 49 and 20. The Northstar Mine Powerhouse & Pelton Wheel Museum features a powerhouse building and massive mining equipment used during hydraulic mining operations that were banned in 1884. See hundreds of mining artifacts including a working stamp mill, ore cars, Cornish pump and the largest Pelton Wheel ever constructed. Several displays depict the life and struggle of miners during the Gold Rush.
Pelton Wheel Museum
10933 Allison Ranch Road
Grass Valley CA 95945
Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum is located off Highway 49 (20) from Gold Flat Road. They Narrow Gauge Railroad began in 1876 to haul supplies into, and gold out of, Gold Country. The museum features many different railcars including engines, boxcars, coaches, tank cars and more. Also on display is a 1901 steam car built by a local miner operator and a rail bus.
Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum
5 Kidder Court
Nevada City, CA 95959
Firehouse No.1 Museum is located off Highway 49 in downtown Nevada City. The Historic Firehouse No.1 Museum was once a fire station from 1861 to 1938 when fire engines were horse-drawn wagons and handcarts. The museum houses a collection of Indian basketry, Donner Party relics, a Chinese temple and artifacts from the daily life of gold country families including firearms, children's toys, glass bottles, Victorian clothing and more.
Firehouse No.1 Museum
214 Main Street
Nevada City, CA 95959
Malakoff Diggins State Park is located 11 miles north of Nevada City. Situated deep in the forest off Highway 49, Malakoff Diggins is the site of a former hydraulic strip mining operation. Local streams were harnessed and used to wash entire mountains away in pursuit of gold. This process was eventually banned but not before suffering the scars that are evident at Malakoff Diggins. The North Bloomfield Museum documents the history of the old North Bloomfield mining town that supported Malakoff Diggins. Activities include sightseeing, picnicking, camping, fishing, hiking and gold panning.
Malakoff Diggins State Park
23579 North Bloomfield Road
Nevada City, CA 95959
Placer County Museum is located on Maple Street off Interstate 80, east of Sacramento. Housed in the original courthouse building, this historic 1889 building features colonial architecture with a bell tower, dome and classic columns. The original jail, treasurers office and courthouse are now museum displays of the county's gold mining history, Indian artifacts, an original stagecoach and gift shop.
Placer County Museum
101 Maple Street
Auburn, CA 95603
Bernhard Museum is situated at the entrance to the Gold Country Fairgrounds south of Auburn. This historic 1851 hotel is filled with artifacts and furnishings from a bygone era. The grounds feature several historic building including a small winery.
291 Auburn Folsom Road
Auburn, CA 95603
Marshall Gold Discovery State Park is located on Highway 49 between Placerville and Auburn in Coloma. This is where the 1849 Gold Rush all began. This is the site of Sutter's Mill where in 1848, James W. Marshall discovered gold at the bottom of a sawmill. Activities include hiking, sightseeing and gold panning. Coloma Resort resides just across the river where camping, gold panning, fishing, white water rafting and many more activities are available.
Marshall Gold Discovery State Park
310 Back Street
Coloma, California 95613
Apple Hill is located east of Placerville on Highway 50 in the town of Camino. Here you will find a plethora of farms, ranches and wineries eager to please with fresh fruit, berries, pies, wines, cider and more. Take the Snows Road exit north (left) off Highway 50 and follow the signs to the Apple Hill Information Center to get a map and find out what crop is in season.
Camino, California 95709
Gold Bug Mine is located off Bedford Avenue in Placerville. The property includes a mine shaft, stamp mill, blacksmith shop, museum and other historic buildings. Take self guided tour approximately 100 yards into an actual gold mine offers numbered markers with mining tutorials. Visitors are required to wear hard hats due to the low ceiling in some points. See a towering stamp mill where granite rocks from the mine were pounded for processing. Local historians are on-hand to answer questions and give interesting facts. Gold panning available.
Gold Bug Mine
2635 Goldbug Lane
Placerville, California 95667
Fountain & Tallman Museum is located at Highways 49 and 50 in downtown Placerville. Situated in an historic 1852 brick building that produced soda water for miners during the Gold Rush. It is the oldest building in Placerville and houses a museum with local artifacts.
Fountain & Tallman Museum
524 Main Street
Placerville, CA 95667
Amador Flower Farm is located northeast of the historic town of Plymouth on Shenandoah Road. Amador Flower Farm features 14 acres of 1000 daylily varieties in pots. Their grounds include picnic areas and a gift shop. Visitors are welcome to tour the flower gardens year round. All potted daylilies are for sale. Admission is free.
Amador Flower Farm
22001 Shenandoah School Road
Plymouth, CA 95669
Kennedy Mine is located off Highway 49 just north of Jackson. Established during the Gold Rush, this mine was famous for being the deepest. The Kennedy Mine is open on weekends for surface tours of the mine office, stamp mill, tailing wheels, a steam boiler and head frame. The head frame was used to drop miners nearly a mile underground to active mine shafts. A gift shop shows an educational video and sells gold related memorabilia.
Masonic Caves are located near the intersection of Highways 104 and 88 in the town of Volcano. These limestone caves were once used for secret meetings by Masons. They consist of different levels and vary in size and shape. Several openings lead into the caves which honeycomb throughout the hill. The highlight is the beautiful moss that covers the cave entrances making for very picturesque moments.
TIP: Caves are accessed by walking through the yard of a private residence, which is kind of strange, but we were greeted and welcomed through by the owners. Don't be shy to walk through to the back because it's worth exploring.
Pine Grove-Volcano Road
Volcano, California 95689
Black Chasm is located near the intersection of Highways 104 and 88 in the town of Volcano. This multi-room cavern is a National Natural Landmark and features stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones and rare helictite crystals. A 50-minute tour traverses the cavern including a suspended walkway that overlooks portions of an underground lake. Above ground is a large visitor center, picnic area and gemstone mining & gold panning opportunities.
15701 Pioneer-Volcano Road
Volcano, California, 95689
Daffodil Hill is located northeast of the historic town of Volcano. You can get there by either heading east out of Sutter Creek along Shake Ridge Road or north from Volcano along Rams Horn Grade. Daffodil Hill is a private farm open to the public one month a year during the daffodil bloom. This is usually mid-March to mid-April. Expect crowds but 4 acres of blooming daffodils can be worth the hassle. Admission is free.
Shake Ridge Road and Rams Horn Grade
Volcano, California 95689
Indian Grinding Rocks State Park is located off Highway 88 southeast of Sacramento. The park is nestled in a little valley of oak trees and meadows. Evidence of Indian inhabitants is clearly marked in the boulders throughout the park where mortar holes were formed from Indians grinding acorns into flour. This is the largest collection of Indian mortars found anywhere in North America. Today, the Miwok tribe continues to hold ceremonies at the 'Round House' on the property.
Indian Grinding Rocks State Park
14881 Pine Grove-Volcano Road
Pine Grove, California 95665
Calaveras County Museum is located off Highway 49 on Main Street in San Andreas. The museum is contained within the historic Calaveras County Courthouse. The grounds include a jail yard where prisoners were housed, hung and buried. The courthouse is still in operation and houses many artifacts from the Gold Rush era. Other artifacts include those left by Chinese immigrants and those of local Indian tribes. The Camanche Catholic Church was moved here when the Camanche Reservoir was filled in with water.
Calaveras County Museum
30 North Main Street
San Andreas, California 95249
California Cavern is located off Highway 49 going east on Mountain Ranch Road out of San Andreas. Perhaps the most adventurous of all caverns, this cavern's highlights are its underground lakes. Choose from 3 different tours starting with a one hour walking tour to a five hour raft tour. One tour has you crawling, climbing and sliding through the many passageways throughout the cave system. Features include helictites crystals, stalactites and crystal flowers. Showers are available above ground along with a picnic area and gemstone mining opportunities.
9565 Cave City Road
Mountain Ranch, California 95246
Calaveras Big Trees State Park is located east of Stockton and four miles northeast of Arnold on highway 4. This is a Giant Sequoia forest with a self-guided trail and campgrounds. Activities include hiking and camping. Some State Park campgrounds are located adjacent to the giant forest but other, more secluded camps, are farther into the park. The self-guided tour is the most interactive we've seen in a giant sequoia park with multiple walk-through trees and a bench that tilts back perfectly to relax and view the entire span of the giant trees. The hard-packed trails and boardwalks through the forest are wheelchair accessible when dry.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, The Tunnel Tree at Calaveras Big Trees, also known as the "Pioneer Cabin Tree", fell on January 8th, 2017.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Arnold, California 95223
Natural Bridges is located off Highway 4 near the town of Angels Camp. Head east on Parrots Ferry Road and watch for the trailhead parking approximately 3 miles down. A short trail leads down to the Stanislaus River where a tunnel cave can be found. Depending on river level, it is possible to swim or raft through the cave.
Parrots Ferry Road
Angels Camp, California 95222
Ironstone Vineyards Museum is located off Highway 4 just outside of the historic town of Murphys. This museum features a 44-pound gold nugget that was discovered by the local Sonora Mining Company on Christmas Day, in 1992. The grounds at Ironstone Vineyards are a beautiful place to visit and should not be missed. A restaurant, tasting room, amphitheater and more are open to the public. Gold panning with lessons is offered at the creek that runs through the property.
1894 Six Mile Road
Murphys, CA 95247
Mercer Caverns is located off Highway 4 near the town of Murphys. Make a right on Sheep Ranch Road near the end of Main Street in Murphys. This three million year old limestone cavern is accessible by 45-minute tour. Descend stairs equivalent to a 16-story building to the main cavern.
Moaning Cavern is located off Highway 4 between the towns of Murphys & Angels Camp in Vallecito. From Highway 4, make a right on Parrots Ferry Road and another right on Moaning Cave Road. This is the largest vertical cavern in California and could fit the Statue of Liberty. Choose from 3 exploration options including an open air rope rappel to the cave floor 165 feet below. The walking tour descends 234 steps via a spiral staircase. Guests are also welcome to explore the many chambers and passages by crawling, squeezing and climbing their way through. A picnic area, opportunities for gemstone mining, and the cavern store are available up top.
Moccasin Creek Trout Hatchery is located Highway 49 approximately 20 miles south of Sonora. Situated near Don Pedro Lake, the Moccasin Creek Hatchery plays an important role in hatching, raising and stocking Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout and the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout. Stop in and see the fish from hatchlings to lunkers.
Moccasin Creek Trout Hatchery
Hwy 49 & 120 junction
Moccasin, CA 95327
Columbia State Park is located 3 miles north of Sonora on Highway 49. This is a well preserved gold mining town with historic buildings, live entertainment, stagecoach rides and workers dress in era clothing. Activities include sightseeing and gold panning.
Columbia State Park
Columbia, California 95310
Railtown 1897 is located in Jamestown off highway 49 at 5th Avenue and Reservoir Road. This is an operational railroad museum and train depot. Featured attraction is a short, historic, steam locomotive ride through gold country and back. The grounds include several historic trains, some of which were used in movies, a roundhouse, blacksmith shop and gift shop.
Railtown 1897 State Park
18115 5th Avenue
Jamestown, California 95327