Empire Mine State Historic Park
Empire Mine State Historic Park information
Atop 400 miles of mine shafts tunneling 11,000ft below is Gold Country’s best-preserved gold quartz–mining operation – worth a solid half-day’s exploration. The mine yard is littered with mining equipment and buildings constructed from waste rock. You can view main shaft's claustrophobic entry, next to the head frame (a tall structure used to haul ore and people from underground). By the visitors center are the country club–like manor home, gardener’s cottage and rose garden of the Bourn family, who ran the mine.
From 1850 to 1956 the miners here, mostly Cornish, produced six million ounces of gold (worth about $4 billion today). Even if you don't have that kind of dough, hiking the trails that meander past abandoned mines and equipment is free. Trailheads are at the parking lots behind the visitor center and Penn Gate to its west. The visitors center leads guided tours (11am to 2pm) and has maps.