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Gold Country Towns

Gold Country Towns Overview

Gold Country

California Gold Country has some of the oldest towns in the state. These small towns were originally established during the 1849 Gold Rush by placer miners in search of easy riches. Situated along the west-facing foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, California Gold Country is a huge tourist draw for its historic gold towns, caverns, recreational lakes, wineries and more. Visit the largest goldmine in Gold Country in Grass Valley. See Sutter's Mill where the 1849 Gold Rush started in Coloma. View hundreds of Native American mortars at Indian Grinding Rocks State Park outside of Jackson. Decend over 100 feet into Moaning Cavern in Murphys. Stand in the shadow of Giant Sequoia trees in Calaveras Big Trees State Park outside of Angels Camp. Rent a houseboat on New Melones Lake outside of Sonora and Jamestown. From recreation to historical significance, Gold Country towns have plenty of interesting aspects.

Gold Country Towns

California State Capitol

Sacramento played a pivotal role during the Gold Rush as the major city on the way to San Francisco. Most of the gold from Gold Country was brought to Sacramento before heading to smelters in the Bay Area. Old Sacramento is a preserved portion of the original town that existed back then. Today, Old Sac is a major tourist attraction with museums, restaurants, touristy shops and a riverboat hotel. In the heart of downtown Sacramento is the California State Capitol. Visitors are welcome to explore the Sacramento Capitol on their own or join a tour. Sutters Fort was once a welcome site for early pioneers heading west over the Sierras in wagon trains. The fort still contains structures and artifacts relating to the great migration. Several Victorian mansions are on public display in Sacramento including the Governor's Mansion, Leland Stanford Mansion and Crocker Art Museum.

Blog See our Sacramento blog.
Flickr photo album See our Sacramento photo album on Flickr.

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Downieville is located in the northernmost region of Highway 49 at the confluence of the Yuba and Downieville Rivers. Downieville is an historic small town that still retains its Old West charm and offers several activities and points of interest. Have fun on nature's roller coaster with a white water rafting outfitter on the Yuba River. Enjoy some of the best trout fishing in the state. Explore the mountain trails on a mountain bike with Downieville Outfitters who also rent Enduro-level bikes. The Downieville Classic mountain bike race is a big event every summer. Go deep into the 16 to 1 Mine at the Underground Gold Miners Museum. Learn the rich history of the town at the Downieville Museum. Have a picnic and explore the grounds at the Kentucky Mine Museum. Think the gold was all mined already - think again. Gold Panning is still a productive activity in the region.

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Nevada City

Nevada City is located off Highways 49 and 20 between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. The sister city to Grass Valley, this small town remains alive with tourism and features a large, historic downtown, many Victorian Bed & Breakfast Inns and horse drawn carriage rides around town. Try a pastie at Cousin Jack Pasties while visiting this small town. Pasties were the main staple of the miners during the gold era. Nearby attractions include the Empire Mine State Historic Park and Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park. Additional activities include camping, fishing, hiking and mountain biking.

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Downtown Grass Valley

Grass Valley is located off Highways 49 and 20 between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. The sister city to Nevada City, this small town remains alive with tourism and features a large, historic downtown, many Victorian Bed & Breakfast Inns and an historic hotel. Be sure to drop by the Holbrooke Hotel while visiting this small town. Perfect your game at one of two local golf courses. Nearby attractions include the Empire Mine State Historic Park and Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park. Both are former gold mines that used very different techniques. Additional activities include camping, fishing, hiking and mountain biking.

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Old Town Auburn

Auburn is located off Highway 49 and Interstate 80 between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. The small town of Auburn has two downtowns, the historic downtown from the 1850's and the more modern downtown that has a 1950's look to it. The Placer County Museum is situated in the historic courthouse building from 1889. Perfect your game at one of several local golf courses. The Auburn State Recreation Area is a short drive south on Highway 49 and offers opportunities for fishing, swimming, white water rafting and hiking along the American River. Nearby attractions include Grass Valley & Nevada City and Marshall's Gold Discovery State Park where gold was first discovered in 1848.

TIP: Because Auburn is located off a major interstate between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, its easy accessibility can make it very crowded on weekends and holidays.

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Downtown Placerville

Placerville is located off Highways 49 and 50 between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. Once a thriving Gold town, 'Hangtown' as it was once known, this small town is renowned today for its award-winning wineries. The first winery in the Sierra Foothills still remains at Boeger Winery near downtown Placerville. Perfect your game at one of several local golf courses. Just a short drive up Highway 49 is Marshall's Gold Discovery State Park where gold was first discovered in 1848. Right across the highway is Coloma Resort where you can learn how to pan for gold in the productive American River. Closer to town is the Gold Bug Mine where you can walk through an actual gold mine. El Dorado County Historical Museum is west of town and houses a large collection of gold mining artifacts. Apple Hill is east of town and was once known for growing terrific apples and has since added pears, berries, apricots and more to the list. Just a short distance from Placerville is Folsom Lake which offers boating, houseboating, swimming, fishing, camping and more.

TIP: Because Placerville is located off a major interstate between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, its easy accessibility can make it very crowded on weekends and holidays.

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Sutter Creek is located off Highway 49 just north of Jackson. The small town of Sutter Creek is accessible by turning on Main Street from Highway 49. Sutter Creek is one of the smaller gold towns off Highway 49 and features a few Inns, hotels, restaurants and boutique shops in original Western buildings. Although small, it is surrounded by plenty of interesting sites. Join an historic tour of the Amador County with Gabby's Historical Gold Rush Tours. Or, download the Walking Map of Historic Sutter Creek for a look into the town's past. To the north outside the town of Plymouth is the Amador Flower Farm with 1000 daylily varieties on display. Just a short drive east on Highway 88 is Indian Grinding Rocks State Park where hundreds of mortars were left by Miwok Indians who still use the property for ceremonies. A bit farther east on Highway 88 is the Kirkwood Ski Resort, one of the most challenging Lake Tahoe ski resorts. Perfect your game at one of several local golf courses. Black Chasm Caverns & Masonic Caves are near the small town of Volcano. Daffodil Hill is a 4-acre farm that blooms once a year in October with thousands of daffodils. Other nearby small towns are Plymouth & Amador City, just a short drive north on Highway 49. Pardee Reservoir & Lake Camanche offer plenty of camping, picnicking, swimming and boating fun.

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Jackson is located off Highways 49 and 88 between Lodi and Lake Tahoe. This small town is surrounded by plenty of interesting sites. Join an historic tour of Amador County with Gabby's Historical Gold Rush Tours. Just a short drive east on Highway 88 is Indian Grinding Rocks State Park where hundreds of mortars were left by Miwok Indians who still use the property for ceremonies. Right across the highway is Roaring Camp Mining Co. where you can learn how to pan for gold in the productive Mokelumne River. Try your luck at Jackson Rancheria Casino where maybe your gold will come from a machine. A bit farther east on Highway 88 is Kirkwood Ski Resort, one of the most challenging Lake Tahoe ski resorts. Perfect your game at one of several local golf courses. Black Chasm Caverns & Masonic Caves are near the small town of Volcano. Daffodil Hill is a 4-acre farm that blooms once a year in October with thousands of daffodils. Other nearby small towns are Sutter Creek & Drytown, just a short drive north on Highway 49. Pardee Reservoir & Lake Camanche offer plenty of camping, picnicking, swimming and boating fun.

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Indian Grinding Rocks State Park

Volcano is located off Highway 88 east of Jackson. The small town of Volcano is so small, it's easy to miss. The focal point is the St. George Hotel with its classic colonial architecture, period accommodations and fine-dining restaurant. Across the street from the hotel is the Volcano Theatre that hosts outdoor theatre events in the summer months. Nearby attractions include Indian Grinding Rocks State Park with hundreds of Indian mortars, Masonic Caves where the Masons once secretly met and Daffodil Hill which features several acres of daffodil fields in full bloom March & April.

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Frog Jump Walk of Fame

Angels Camp is located off Highways 49 and 4. This small town is well known for hosting the yearly Calaveras Frog Jump. In fact, this picture is a plaque commemorating one of the many winners along the Frog Jump Walk of Fame in downtown Angels Camp. This small town is the only one in the vicinity that has a movie theater. Angels Camp has many interesting nearby attractions. New Melones Lake offers boating, houseboating, camping, hiking, fishing and many more activities. Visit Columbia State Historic Park for a realistic glimpse of a Gold Rush town complete with a blacksmith shop, candle making shop, firehouse, hotels, theatres and more. Stand in the shadow of giants at Calaveras Big Trees State Park where you'll find a campground next to a grove of Giant Sequoia trees. Peruse Mark Twain's house that he lived in during his short stay in Gold Country. Perfect your game at one of several local golf courses. Cruise the corduroy at Bear Valley Ski Resort where they have downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Descend one of many unique caverns in the region. Relax with a glass of locally produced wine at one of several nearby wineries.

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Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Murphys is located off Highway 4 east of Angels Camp. The small town of Murphys has a lot of charm and class. There are more than a dozen wine tasting rooms along Main Street. Many shops, restaurants and hotels line the street as well. Have a drink at the Murphy's Historic Hotel bar where original bullet holes remain from the Gold Rush era. Take a short drive into the country to visit Ironstone Vineyards offering many tourist attractions including a gift shop, outdoor amphitheater, record breaking gold nugget and gold panning. Take a short drive on backcountry roads to the Stevenot Vineyard for a smaller more serene experience. Murphys has many interesting nearby attractions. New Melones Lake offers boating, houseboating, camping, hiking, fishing and many more activities. Visit Columbia State Historic Park for a realistic glimpse of a Gold Rush town complete with a blacksmith shop, candle making shop, firehouse, hotels, theatres and more. Stand in the shadow of giants at Calaveras Big Trees State Park where you'll find a campground next to a grove of Giant Sequoia trees. Peruse Mark Twain's house that he lived in during his short stay in Gold Country. Perfect your game at one of several local golf courses. Cruise the corduroy at Bear Valley Ski Resort where they have downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Descend one of many unique caverns in the region. Relax with a glass of locally produced wine at one of several nearby wineries. Explore the beautiful Sierra Foothills on a horseback riding tour.

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Jamestown Gold Outfitters

Jamestown is located off Highway 49 just north of Highway 120. This small town consists of a short main street with several shops and historic hotels. Jamestown is a great place to try your hand at gold panning. Stop by the gold panners outfitter store for tips and equipment for panning. Railtown 1897 State Historic Park is worth checking out for a train ride on an historic locomotive. Jamestown has many interesting nearby attractions. New Melones Lake offers boating, houseboating, camping, hiking, fishing and many more activities. Visit Columbia State Historic Park for a realistic glimpse of a Gold Rush town complete with a blacksmith shop, candle making shop, firehouse, hotels, theatres and more. Peruse Mark Twain's house that he lived in during his short stay in Gold Country. Perfect your game at one of several local golf courses. Descend one of many unique caverns in the region. Relax with a glass of locally produced wine at one of several nearby wineries.

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Sonora is located off Highway 49 between Jamestown and Angels Camp. As one of the larger towns in the area, the small town of Sonora offers many shops, cafés, hotels and restaurants. Sonora has many interesting nearby attractions. Railtown 1897 State Historic Park is worth checking out for a train ride on an historic locomotive. New Melones Lake offers boating, houseboating, camping, hiking, fishing and many more activities. Visit Columbia State Historic Park for a realistic glimpse of a Gold Rush town complete with a blacksmith shop, candle making shop, firehouse, hotels, theatres and more. Peruse Mark Twain's house that he lived in during his short stay in Gold Country. Perfect your game at one of several local golf courses. Descend one of many unique caverns in the region. Relax with a glass of locally produced wine at one of several nearby wineries.

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