Welcome to Gold Country
With its gold mining history, Gold Country is a great place to visit for both the history nut and the nature lover. Once upon a time, Empire Mine State Historic Park was the biggest gold mining operation in California, and before it closed in 1956, the mine produced 5.6 million ounces of gold! When the Gold Rush began in California in the mid-1800s, hundreds of thousands of pioneers headed west to make their fortune. Today, this history still lies thick upon the land in Gold Country, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in the northern part of the state.
While gold may have drawn many settlers from 1848 onward, today the major draws are the history, natural environment and cultural attractions of the region. From farmers’ markets, craft breweries and wine tours, there’s plenty for foodies to see and taste; and for fans of small-town wanderings, places like Auburn and Jamestown provide plenty of quaint storefronts and small museums.
The natural environment is impressive as well, with flower-filled meadows, oak trees and views of the mountains in the background. You can spend your days hiking, fishing, rafting, mountain biking or simply strolling through the countryside at numerous parks and open spaces.
Get closer to nature with cave and mine adventures, or get some pampering at the Sierra Hot Springs. You can even visit the famous Folsom Prison Museum, which you may have heard of in the Johnny Cash song. As always, there’s great food and wine to be had all over the region, as this area is well known for its Zinfandel.
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At Columbia State Historic Park, experience a living gold rush town and try your hand at panning for gold. There are plenty of guided tours and special activities to keep you interested no matter what time of year you go. Empire Mine State Historic Park, meanwhile, preserves a historic gold mine so that you can get up close and personal with the mining equipment, plus experience miles of scenic trails.
Though not as well known as cultural capitals like San Francisco or Los Angeles, California’s state capital has more than just administrative buildings to attract outside viewers. Walk along the waterfront, visit the California Auto Museum or experience the California State Fair, held each July in Sacramento. Old Sacramento State Historic Park and the California State Railroad Museum provide historical context to this up-and-coming city.
Known mostly for its gold panning opportunities, the American River is also an incredibly popular rafting destination, with rapids from the easy Class II rapids of the South Fork to the Class IV-V rapids upriver, with names like Bogus Thunder and Texas Chainsaw Mama. If you don’t have your own rafting equipment, you can rent it at many places along the river or go together with a guided tour.