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California Gold Country

Heading to the historic home of the West's biggest Gold Rush? We suggest what to do and where to eat in six friendly towns.

Via Staff
  • A country road in Shenandoah Valley near Plymouth California, picture
    Photo credit
    Photo: Gary Crabbe
    Photo caption
    A country road winds through the Shenandoah Valley near Plymouth, Calif.
  • Downtown Jackson, California with Sierra Nevada foothills , picture
    Photo credit
    Photo: Sean Arbabi
    Photo caption
    Downtown Jackson, Calif., glows amid the greenery of the Sierra Nevada foothills.
  • Red cattle barn near Amador City California, picture
    Photo credit
    Photo: Chuck Haney
    Photo caption
    A red barn rests on the rolling hills near Amador City, Calif.

Want to get a feel for life before people swarmed California? Gold Country is the place to do it. Here, wooden balconies and stone walkways still line streets, and homes have wide, welcoming front porches. It’s quiet, too: These six towns have populations of about 4,200 at the high end. (In Amador City, which proclaims itself “Gold Country’s Hidden Nugget,” the count is just 208.) There’s a bona fide Main Street in every town except Amador City, where the main thoroughfare is Highway 49, the road that links five of these towns. You could explore original gold mines and run Class IV rivers and cycle classic winding back roads, but the real draw here is the pace: lazy. So you might prefer to browse antique stores, dine at joints either left over from the 1950s or newly gourmet, and sip wine from nearby Shenandoah Valley on one of those porches. With good weather, no crowds, and good eats without having to reserve a table, Gold Country is still a find. Amador County Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau: 115 Main St., Jackson, (209) 223-0350, Calaveras Visitors Bureau: 1192 S. Main St., Angels Camp, (800) 225-3764,

Check out the rest of our Gold Country package:
Amador City: Antiques and boutiques
Angels Camp: More than Mark Twain
Jackson: Main Street meets mining town
Murphys: Tasting rooms and gold lore
Plymouth: Top-notch eats and wines
Sutter Creek: A handsome Gold Country base camp

This article was first published in September 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.