Gold Country Itinerary #1
Jumping Frogs, Big Trees, Wine & Gold
The Central Mother Lode contains more gold mining communities than the southern and northern sections combined, and there’s a whole lot more than gold rush history awaiting the visitor! Giant Sequoias, tales of Mark Twain and jumping frogs, and wine and gold.
Angels Camp – Another town born of the gold rush and named for George Angel, a member of the party that discovered gold here. He was actually a merchant, not a miner, and founded a trading post. He prospered from the nearly 4500 miners who were prospecting the area by 1849 since a shirt went for $50 and tools for up to $200 each! But the town is perhaps best known as Mark Twain-Bret Harte country, two writers who made the name of Angels Camp a byword that still evokes the spirit of the Gold Rush. A large statue of Mark Twain memorializes him for making the town famous with his story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” Every year since 1928 visitors from around the world gather during the third week in May in Angles Camp to watch (or participate) in the Annual Jumping Frog Jubilee.
Murphys – A charming town where Gingerbread Victorians peek shyly from behind white picket fences and where the clock seems to have frozen a century ago. Visit Ironstone Vineyards, a gracious estate of nature with over 4,200 acres of wine grapes where you’ll see a fabulous display depicting the rich history of gold and viticulture in the region including a 44-pound crystalline gold specimen. Tour the winery, then the original A.J. Bump’s antique Brunswick Bar, brought around the Horn from New York in 1907, and a massive 42-foot-high rock fireplace provide the perfect setting for sampling Ironstone’s premium wines. Enjoy a gourmet picnic lunch in the beautifully landscaped gardens.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park – These giant sequoias have been attracting visitors for over 100 years. Among the largest living things in the world and the huge cousin of the coast redwoods, their trunks are approximately twice the size of their cousins. Breathe in fresh mountain air as you stroll down an easy and well-marked path through a grove of these awesome creatures.
Gold Country Itinerary #2
The Northern Mines, Truckee & Donner Memorial
On a cold day in January, 1848, an event took place that would forever change the course of history! One small gold nugget found in the American River just east of Sacramento started the largest peacetime migration ever. By 1850, thousands of people had passed through Sacramento on their way to the gold fields.
Auburn – Thirty-five minutes east of Sacramento is Auburn, the closest of several charming gold rush towns to be found along Interstate 80 and Highway 49. Perched atop a bluff above the North Fork of the American River, Auburn takes pride in preserving its history. A good place to begin is at the Firehouse in Old Town. Its distinctive look with its narrow frame structure, pointed tower, and colorful red and white exterior make it one of the most photographed old buildings in California. The stately County Courthouse dating from 1894 overlooks Old Town from its hilltop site, and the 1849 post office is the state’s oldest continuously used post office. Quaint shops and restaurants line the streets of this historic district and Old Town became the fictional town of Harmon for the Film “Phenomenon.”
Grass Valley – From Auburn, follow historic Highway 49 to Grass Valley whose underground mines produced more than $900 million in gold, making it California’s richest. Visit Empire Mine State Historic Park which preserves the Empire Mine and the imposing castle-like Empire Cottage, the summer home of the mine’s owner.
Nevada City – Just 4 miles east of Grass Valley is Nevada City, a peaceful community with a relaxed, dignified atmosphere that has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the most beautifully preserved towns in the Gold Country. Its Victorian homes, winding streets, and white church spires rising above forested hills looks like a picture postcard. Step back into the Victorian era when you have lunch at the National Hotel, a national historic registered landmark and claims to be the oldest continually operating hotel in California. Be sure to save time to browse in the quaint shops for those unique, one of a kind gifts or souvenirs. Return to Sacramento.
Optional Extension: Donner Memorial State Park – Stands as a memorial to the members of the ill-fated Donner Party who camped here during the winter of 1846-47. Almost half perished in the severe Sierra’s winter cold and heavy snows. A monument stands on the site whose stone base is 22 feet high – the depth of snow during that fateful winter.
Truckee – Two miles east of Donner, stop in Truckee, a town that developed as a result of the transcontinental railroad and was also a logging center. Many Chinese worked on the construction of the railroad, and at one time there was a very large Chinatown. Its many restored 19th Century buildings reflect the towns’ Old West character.
Gold Country Itinerary #3
Gold, Wine, Antiques & Flowers, Amador Flower Farm – Deaver Vineyards – Shenandoah Valley Museum
From Sacramento travel follow Highway 16 through rural countryside to Plymouth in the peaceful Shenandoah Valley. Visit the Amador Flower Farm, 12 acres of gardens specializing in daylilies with over 650 varieties plus over 200 unusual perennials on display. You’ll love the 4 acres of landscaped demonstration gardens and the gift shop with its special stock of pots, statuary and unique gardening gifts. Then sample some delicious gold country wines at Deaver Vineyards and enjoy a gourmet lakeside picnic lunch (order gourmet deli sandwiches & other lunch items ahead of time from Pokerville Market in Plymouth).
Shenandoah Valley Museum – After lunch, learn about the history of wine making in the gold country at the Shenandoah Valley Museum at Sobon Estate Winery whose exhibits include many types of wine making equipment used in the early days as well as an early pioneer days exhibit. A portion of the museum is housed in the original winery building that dates back to 1856, and although it’s changed names, it is the oldest continuously operated winery in the state.
Sutter Creek – Often called “The Jewel of the Mother Lode,” Sutter Creek is a beautifully restored gold rush community where balconied buildings line the Main Street, and the residential districts have something of a New England appearance. Historic Sutter Creek is home to “The Main Street Theatre Works, an award-winning theatre company, and Knights Foundry, America’s only remaining water powered iron works and machine shop, and is a treasure trove for the serious antique and unique item shopper. Dining establishments range from an Old West Saloon for “creative continental,” to those specializing in Mediterranean and California Cuisine. Stop by the Monteverde Store Museum as well as the Sutter Creek Visitors Center for a free walking tour map.
Jackson – Amador County Museum – Mine Model Tour
Jackson was another of the many gold mining camps that sprung up along the 49er trail; however, water – not gold- was initially the reason for its existence. But rich quartz deposits were discovered in the early 1850s and the Kennedy and Argonaut Mines were two of the deepest and most productive gold mines in the U.S. At the Amador County Museum, take a trip back to 1920 and see the Kennedy Mine in full operation through the magic of large scale working models. Jackson was also the birthplace of the Native Daughters of the Golden West in 1886 and St. Sava’s Church, built in 1894, is the Mother Church in North America of the Serbian Orthodox faith. You can pick up a walking tour of Jackson’s historic downtown district, or just browse in the many shops.
Content provided by Sacramento visitors bureau.