The discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill near Coloma triggered the Gold Rush of 1849, a momentous period for California and the nation. As you plan your Gold Country vacation or getaway, try to harken back to the time of California’s statehood designation (in 1850) and remember that Gold Country was not the laid-back, relaxing countryside you’ll enjoy today as you wind along State Route 49 and visit towns that preserve and celebrate Gold Country’s rich legacy.
Like the 49ers of old, present-day travelers can literally and figuratively “strike gold” in these historic Sierra-Nevada foothills – with a gold panning concessionaire in the former case and with the abundance of affordable activities and accommodations in the latter.
For example, outstanding Gold Country wineries offer complimentary tastings – something you’ll no longer find in California’s more chichi Napa-Sonoma Wine Country. Your tasting may even be poured by the winemaker, and he or she will often welcome your questions and comments, as well. If you enjoy learning about wine in a relaxed setting, be sure to add this activity to your Gold Country vacation planning list. (By the way, you can also find handy links to printable (pdf) Gold Country Wineries Maps at the bottom of the linked wineries article.)
You are also sure to absorb a bit of history in Gold Country – whether by design or osmosis – and the list of Sierras & Gold Country Museums where you can do that is vast and varied. Additionally, the town of Columbia is essentially “a living museum” where you can time-travel back 150 years. Its collection of Gold Rush-era brick buildings is the largest in the state, and the city offers an entertaining array of activities. Wander down Main Street, and you can catch the Wells Fargo stage coach, observe the blacksmith in action or try your hand at gold panning. When you’re ready to start planning your Gold Country vacation or getaway, click on the following link to read more about Columbia and other Gold Country tourist attractions.
A discussion of Gold Country vacation ideas wouldn’t be complete without mentioning what you can find here if you venture beneath Calaveras and Amador counties’ rolling landscape. Picture an inverted replica of the Sierra Nevada Mountains range, and you can begin to imagine the vast network of caves, caverns, tunnels and mine shafts that awaits you. Some are man-made (Sutter Gold Mine), but others are natural phenomenon, carved by water seeping through the limestone rock over the last hundreds of millions of years (Moaning, California and Mercer caverns). Guided tours are generally accessible (and the 55-to-60-degrees underground environment can offer a lovely respite during a hot summer day), and “wild cavern expeditions” can also be arranged for the most fit (and not-claustrophobic) travel adventurers.
During the May-through-September prime season, white water rafting is available on some of the state’s best rivers, joining kayaking and fishing in the area’s water sport activity set. Land lovers may choose golf, horseback riding, hunting, hiking and biking, or they may just enjoy the area’s parks (don’t miss Calaveras Big Trees State Park) or driving along the Ebbetts Pass Scenic Byway.
If you’re going to be in the area during the third week in May, you’ll want to check out the Calaveras County Fair and the “Jumping Frog Jubilee” – a tribute to Mark Twain’s first published work, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, which was based on a story he overheard at an Angels Camp bar. Also, if you plan to visit during the summer, you may want to check out Ironstone Winery’s concert schedule before locking in your dates.
As you can see, there is no shortage of things to do and ways to have fun in Gold Country. Even planning your Gold Country vacation or getaway is fun!
Note: Information in this article was accurate
when it was published, but hours, prices, etc.
change constantly. Please confirm details
with local contacts before traveling.