A Tour Through California Gold Country

A tour through Gold Country leads us to nineteenth-century towns sporting modern restaurants and back roads with some not so expected agricultural experiences.

California’s Gold Country is famous for and was named for its gold; you know the shiny sunny colored metal that people pay lots of money for.  I had no idea the name actually has nothing to do with the lovely golden hills in the area (but they are lovely).

general store

While we didn’t discover any gold on our tour through California’s Gold Country we did garner some shiny new friendships that are definitely worth their weight in gold…and led us to some very charming and tasty local treasures.




We met new friends’ Debbie and Steve in ‘Old Hangtown’ AKA Placerville.  The town looks as though it was clipped from a history book. It was named Hangtown because in 1949 several men were hung.  At the time I can see how a town with that name wouldn’t have been a very desirable place to go, especially to some of the conservative religious groups.  So, in 1854 the town was renamed Placerville but has never been shaken of the old name. Now most locals don’t mind the name and it’s a great lure for tourists.  Isn’t it funny how time changes things?  A name that was once deterring visitors is now bringing them in.  But I don’t want to mislead you, there is much more to this town than just its name.

free wine tastings


placerville hardware

hangman's tree

jason and nikki wynn


Back Road Experiences

back roads of gold country

There are vineyards dotted all throughout the area and they’re all rumored to be excellent.  But we were limited on our time and had to settle for just one visit.  We played a few rounds of rock paper scissors and decided on Gold Hill winery because they were not only winemakers but brewers too.  We got a “tufur” aka two for one reward on this journey.  The wine tasting was free but the beer tasting cost, which we thought was funny.  Both were decent, but we left empty handed as our pourer wasn’t too friendly.

gold hill

As we were leaving the winery we took a wrong turn and found the cutest organic farm stand.  Not only did the produce look and taste amazing, but it was all on the honor system.  You know you are out in the sticks (in a good way) when farm stands are operating on the honor system!

organic farm stand

honor system

organic farm stand




Our friends Scott and Glenda turned us on to Marco’s Café in Lotus, CA.  It’s a gathering place of the locals and it was almost walking distance from our campground.  They had local beer, wine, pizza and live music on the patio…what’s not to like!  Oh yea, skip the allure of the potato pizza and geek out on the rest of the food, everything else was very tasty.


Marco's cafe

live music at Marco's

Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park


James Marshall turned up a gold nugget in 1848 while building a saw mill along the South Fork of the American River.  As soon as the news spread, prospectors came in masses, the U.S. upped its game on the quarrel with Mexico over the ownership of California and history was made.  Now, it’s practically a ghost town with a state park and post office.  You can wonder through the park to see replicas and preservation’s of the saw mill, mining equipment, houses and stores.  We suggest going at the end of the day to experience the ghost town vibe, I don’t think we saw a soul.

china house



old jail

Camping on The American River

camping on the american river

american river


Thousand Trails Ponderosa Campground is as about as close to the American River as you can get without being in a boat….and if you have a boat, you’ll want to bring it!  The manager of this campground loves the area and is a true nature lover and kayaker himself so if you want any tips on hikes, best outfitters or the safest (or most extreme) drop in locations, he is the man.

Have you been through Gold Country?  Did you find any Gold or local treasures?  Tell us about it in the comments below.

We love comments and everyone loves a good conversation.

Disclaimer: While we were compensated to film the campground (thanks Thousand Trails!)…all of our experiences and opinions are NOT purchased and are still our own.

Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (4)

  • Claudia Davis

    Want high tea? Next time you’re in Gold Country, come to Groveland, CA…used to be Garrote… Dorie’s Tea House, across from the Iron Door Saloon, offers tea, in a cozy, served with scones and mini sandwiches on a ceramic three tier stand. Delightful!

  • You did a great job on our little town! It was nice to meet up with you both. Maybe we’ll meet up again once we head out next year!

    • Can’t wait to see you both on the road, we had such a wonderful time in Gold Country. FYI – we shared the Synapses wine with friends the other night; it tasted great and we had fun stories to share about how we got it 🙂


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