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Introducing Gold Country

You may think that California’s Gold Country gets its name from the tawny tones of the rolling foothills of the Sierra mountains, but, although fitting, this is not the case. For there really was (and is) gold in them thar hills and this was where the modern California was born.

Fortunately for us, the incalculable wealth that flowed out of the hills was spent developing the state elsewhere and for many decades after the 1849 Gold Rush subsided, the Gold Country returned to a kind of peaceful repose. Today, towns redolent with a feel more than a century old are strung out like vintage pearls along Hwy 49.

Although Nevada City and its slightly larger companion Grass Valley seem clipped from a history book, the towns share a vibrant culture that’s not dependent on tourism. Auburn and thriving Placerville are close to the quiet and moody place where it all began at the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park. Sutter Creek is at the heart of a grouping of towns such as Volcano that are right off the beaten track. Finally, Sonora and its surrounds (including such storied names as Jamestown and Angels Camp) exudes frontier legacy.

The Gold Country is one of the Golden State’s highlights, and if you are going to Yosemite, Lake Tahoe or Nevada then towns such as Sonora, Placerville or Nevada City should definitely figure into your itinerary. Better yet, make Hwy 49 part of a grand circle tour that includes the coast in one direction and this evocative and compelling region in the other.