California Gold Country
Cradled between the High Sierra and the Central Valley, this territory offers remnants of 1849's wild days and one of the biggest gold rushes of all time. With rustic towns, picturesque scenery, ample recreational and cultural activities, this region is filled with golden opportunities.
Sunshine: In summer, there's sun 95 percent of the time; in spring, 81 percent; in winter, 52 percent. Spring and fall are mild, while summer is warm and winter is cold.
Festivals tend to mushroom around the Gold Country because there's just so much rich and colorful history to celebrate. This is where gold was discovered in 1848; it's where Mark Twain wrote his famous Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County; and it was a key stop along the Pony Express route. These landmark events and facts from the past, as well as countless other nuggets, have spawned a Gunfighters' Rendezvous in Coulterville, a Twain-Harte Festival in Soulsbyville, and, of course, the Jumping Frog Jubilee in Angels Camp, to name but a few.
The epicenter of all this Gold Rush history is Coloma, home to Marshall Gold Discovery State Park. Many speculators made Coloma their first stop, while others headed for Columbia, where, during its heyday, 50 saloons, more than 150 gambling halls, and a single church competed for the attention of residents. These days Columbia is a historical village, much of which has been restored as a state park that's perfect for strolling.
There's a gold rush of a different sort these days in the rolling foothills of the Sierra Nevada, south of Lake Tahoe and north of Yosemite, where more than 50 wineries are spread out like vines in an arbor. Nearby are several historical gold mines, open for tours.
Also a historical center is Sacramento, California's capital. Much of this city looks as modern as any other urban center, but Old Sacramento, in addition to being the perfect introduction to the Gold Country, is a lovely repository of the state's past. Elsewhere it might be the 21st century, but here a conductor still shouts "All aboard!" over the whistle of a vintage steam engine, and as you walk past the old buildings on the banks of the Sacramento River you can almost hear the sound of a Pony Express rider galloping into town.