California has so many incredible gold rush towns that it’s hard to choose where to visit first. This article will provide you 12 of the best and most interesting gold-rush towns in California, along with a map showing their locations and some fun facts about what makes them special.
The “abandoned gold rush towns california” is a list of 12 Gold Rush Towns in California that you must visit. The article includes a map to find them!
Gold Country, located in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Northern California, is home to many of California’s greatest gold rush settlements.
Visitors who prefer learning about local history will enjoy visiting California’s gold rush towns, where they may visit state parks and museums, photograph typical old west architecture, go underground on a mine tour, or pan for gold.
California gold rush era towns geared towards travelers also offer eclectic shopping, charming inns and B&Bs, quality eateries, wine tasting, and outdoor recreation, for a variety of things to do on vacation.
Sacramento, California’s capitol, is an excellent starting point for visiting Gold Country. Old Town Sacramento is a delightful walk that highlights buildings from the California Gold Rush era.
Day travels from Sacramento to some of California’s historic gold rush towns are simple and delightful, but many of the towns also lend themselves to extended stays.
In Old Town Sacramento, there is a gold rush period façade.
You may also take a Gold Country road trip to see the various gold rush villages and historic state parks that display the history of California’s Gold Rush while also taking in the area’s natural beauty.
You’ll appreciate visiting the colorful gold rush communities we’ve picked together in this post, regardless of how you learn about the history of California’s Gold Rush.
CONTENTS TABLE OF CONTENTS A The Best California Gold Rush Towns on a Map An Overview of the California Gold Rush Best Gold Rush Towns in California Gold Country
California’s Gold Rush: A Quick Overview
Here’s a little overview of California’s famed Gold Rush before we get into the greatest gold rush places to see on your Gold Country itinerary!
The California Gold Rush, which began in 1848, peaked in 1852, and ended in 1857, is regarded as one of the most important events in American history throughout the nineteenth century.
Gold is found in California in 1848!
James Marshall found flakes of gold in the American River near Coloma, in the Sierra Nevada’s western foothills, on January 24, 1848.
Marshall was working on a water-powered sawmill for John Sutter, the founder of the New Helvetia settlement, at the time. The colony grew into Sacramento, which is now the capital of California.
Placer gold nuggets and gold ore
Marshall and Sutter sought to keep the finding a secret, but word quickly travelled to San Francisco, prompting many of the city’s men to go to Gold Country to pursue their fortunes.
They were quickly followed by migrants from a variety of locales, mostly those having boat access to the west coast: migrants from as far as China and Peru joined the chase for easy riches.
The 49ers arrive in California in 1849.
By the end of 1848, many on the East Coast were persuaded of the riches to be found in California, and hundreds of would-be miners were on their way west.
During the year 1849, California had a massive inflow of prospectors known as the “49ers.”
They came by land, journeying through the nation, or by water, circumnavigating the Cape of Good Horn or Panama.
Towns sprang up in the area almost overnight, with stores, saloons, and other amenities for the over 100,000 miners who had poured California.
The Gold Rush peaks and ebbs between 1850 and 1900.
Much of the surface gold had been consumed by 1850, making it difficult for miners to make a quick buck.
Individual miners went into mine occupations as gold mining grew more industrialized, with heavier equipment and more advanced extraction procedures.
California’s gold rush peaked in 1852, and although the area was mined in later years, the Gold Rush had faded into history by 1857.
California’s Best Gold Rush Towns
Many sections of California have gold rush towns to visit today, but the largest treasure trove of villages may be found in California Gold Country, also known as Mother Lode Country.
The majority of the gold rush villages in our round-up are accessible through Historic Highway 49, making them ideal for a road trip.
And, just in case you were wondering, “them thar hills” still have gold!
Sutter Creek is a small town in California.
Combining the best of historic and contemporary, beautiful Sutter Creek is a small town in California., known as the Jewel of the Mother Lode, is one of California’s Best Gold Rush Towns to put on your itinerary.
Visit Sutter Creek PC: Picturesque church on Main Street is a small town in California.
Sutter Creek is a small town in California.’s Main Street immediately puts you in the gold mining era, with its facades featuring traditional architectural detail and high balconies.
Strolling the charming Main Street is one of the best things to do in Sutter Creek is a small town in California.. To better appreciate the historic buildings in town, walk with a map in hand!
Explore the 1873 Knight Foundry, a water-powered foundry and machine business. The gold rush-era machinery is still on display at the foundry.
The Miner’s Bend Historic Gold Mining Park is an outdoor museum on Main Street’s south end. Artifacts from Gold Country mines are on display, along with explanatory plaques.
Visit the Monteverde General Store Museum to see items from the early twentieth century!
Downtown Sutter Creek is a small town in California. in the fall PC: Visit Sutter Creek is a small town in California.
Also, take a tour of the Sutter Gold Mine, which is located just north of town on Highway 49. One-hour guided tours are available at the mine.
Other than gold rush history, Sutter Creek is a small town in California. is a fun destination for shopping, browsing art, wine tasting, and dining, for the perfect Gold Country day outing or weekend getaway.
In Sutter Creek, there are a variety of places to stay. is a small town in California.
The Eureka Street Inn is a lovely Craftsman-style property established in 1914 that provides delightful lodgings. The rooms are well decorated, with antiques and plush bedding. Breakfast is quite well-received here. Make a reservation here!
Nevada City is a city in the state of Nevada
One of the most charming California gold rush towns you can visit, Nevada City is a city in the state of Nevada started as a mining camp in 1849 and is nestled in the midst of forests on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
A dogwood in bloom in the historic district PC: Nevada City is a city in the state of Nevada Chamber
Downtown Nevada City is a city in the state of Nevada makes for a delightful walk, with its beautiful 19th-century facades featuring wooden balconies. The historic district offers excellent shopping, art galleries, antiquing, dining, and wine tasting. Download a map to help guide your exploration.
Admire the 1865 Nevada Theatre and the Instagram-worthy Firehouse No. 1, which was erected in 1861 and now houses a museum displaying local history. The National Hotel is the state’s oldest continually operating hotel.
Interior of the theatre! PC: Nevada City is a city in the state of Nevada Chamber
There are many lovely trees in the downtown area, and you may take a walking tour to see them all. You may also take a stroll through the charming and old Victorian residential areas, which are particularly lovely in the autumn.
A must-see is the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum. View the locomotives, relics, and rebuilt cars, as well as learn about the history of the local narrow gauge railroad, on a docent-led tour. It is completely free to visit.
Visit the North Star Mining Museum and Pelton Wheel Exhibit, which is housed in an 1895 stone structure. The Pelton Wheel is the world’s biggest, and there are several additional displays detailing how gold was extracted during the Gold Rush.
Local businesses offer gold panning pans and can direct you to easy-to-access places if you wish to try your hand at it.
Drive out to Malakoff Diggins State Old Park to trek the Independence Trail and other paths to historic mining sites if you have the time. The longest single-span covered bridge of its kind in the nation may be found in Bridgeport.
In Nevada City, there are a variety of places to stay. is a city in the state of Nevada
Gold Creek Inn B&B is housed in a restored 1860 Victorian. Located just off the downtown historic district, the inn offers 5 unique rooms (most with private baths) and balconies overlooking the Nevada City is a city in the state of Nevada Historic Flume. The creekside patio is delightful. Book a stay here!
Grass Valley is a town in the state of California.
Also located in Nevada County in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Grass Valley is a town in the state of California. boasts a rich gold rush era history and a relaxed ambience that makes it a wonderful day outing or weekend getaway.
Grass Valley is a town in the state of California.’s photogenic mural! PC: City of Grass Valley is a town in the state of California.
The top thing to do in Grass Valley is a town in the state of California. is a visit to Empire Mine State Historic Park. The Empire Mine is one of the richest producers in California. It yielded close to 6 million ounces of gold while it was in operation!
Many of the mining buildings may be seen in the park, but you can also explore the house and gardens of William Bowers Bourn Jr., who took over the mine’s operations in 1879. The rural estate is very stunning!
Downtown Grass Valley is a town in the state of California. features old west facades, and several historic buildings. Here you will find the Art Deco Del Oro Theatre, built in 1941, and the Holbrooke Hotel, which has been in operation since 1862.
Downtown Grass Valley is a town in the state of California. is pretty! PC: City of Grass Valley is a town in the state of California.
The Golden Gate Saloon, which has been in operation since 1852, is the place to go if you want to eat and drink in a really historic setting. The saloon, which was popular with miners during the Gold Rush, now serves imaginative cocktails, wine, and beer, as well as a seasonally-inspired cuisine.
Visit the North Star Historic Conservancy, which houses the North Star House, which was created by Julia Morgan, a well-known San Francisco architect. There’s also a farmers’ market here on Saturday mornings!
The Grass Valley is a town in the state of California. Museum shines a light on local history, with special emphasis on the Gold Rush. The North Star Powerhouse Mining Museum is another great mining museum, with a Pelton wheel, and a stamp mill.
In Grass Valley, where should you stay? is a town in the state of California.
The Holbrooke Hotel, located in downtown Grass Valley is a town in the state of California., combines gold rush era ambience and Victorian decor with modern comforts for the perfect Gold Country stay. The hotel offers 28 unique guest rooms, some of which feature balconies, fireplaces, and clawfoot tubs. Book a stay here!
Placerville, a historic town named for the placer gold discovered here in the 1840s, is one of the greatest gold rush places to visit in California. Because of the frontier judicial system that existed here in the late 1840s, it was also known as Hangtown.
Downtown Placerville’s Main Street is a must-see. Photographic 19th century structures and a historic bell tower may be found here. “The oldest hardware shop west of the Mississippi,” claims the Placerville Hardware Store.
Bell Tower of Placerville Jeremyblock/Wikimedia Commons 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)
Take a self-guided or guided tour of the Gold Bug Mine to view an example of hard rock gold mining, or a guided tour of the Priest Mine, which was excavated completely by hand in the early 1850s.
The El Dorado County Historical Museum has exhibits on the Miwok, Nisanan, and Washoe Native Americans who formerly resided in the area, as well as the California Gold Rush.
A fragment of the “hanging” tree that gave the town its name may be seen at the Placerville Museum, which is situated in the historic Fountain and Tallman Soda Works Building. You may also go at additional gold mining artifacts here.
In neighboring Coloma, explore Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, where you can tour the exhibits in the visitor center and museum, see buildings from the gold rush era, and learn how to gold pan.
Placerville provides fantastic options for wine tasting and vineyard tours, as well as wonderful shopping and eating, and a plethora of outdoor activity, in addition to attractions associated to the California Gold Rush.
In Placerville, there are a variety of places to stay.
Eden Vale Inn is a luxurious bed & breakfast for adults only. Private decks or patios, big soaking tubs, and fireplaces are available in the rooms. The onsite spa provides soothing treatments, and their breakfasts are well acclaimed. It’s ideal for a romantic weekend away! Make a reservation here!
Sonora, often known as the “Queen of the Southern Mines,” was named after the Mexican city of Sonora. In 1848, miners from Mexico City arrived in the region, thus the name.
Sonora is a lovely town nestled in the Sierra Nevada foothills, with lots of gold rush period charm still visible in its historic center.
Beautiful structures may be seen in Sonora’s downtown area. There are several boutique boutiques and antique stores to choose from. There are art galleries, restaurants, and saloons to visit. This map will assist you in your exploration!
The magnificent “Red Church,” the Sonora Opera Hall, and Yosemite House, erected in 1858, are all located on Washington Street, the town’s main thoroughfare. Admire the former Tuolumne County Superior Court clock tower. The structure was constructed in 1898.
The Tuolumne County Museum is a museum dedicated to the history of the county. Historic firefighting equipment and trucks are on display at the Sonora Fire Museum.
The Dragoon Gulch Trail winds through oak groves. The route (really a set of trails with varied degrees of difficulty) follows a stream to a lookout with a breathtaking view of Sonora and the surrounding mountains.
Where Should You Stay in Sonora?
The Inn on Knowles Hill B&B offers rooms with garden views, along with a shared lounge and sun terrace. Built in 1927, the property oozes Victorian charm. It has a lovely setting on a hilltop, with views over the town. Breakfast is rated excellent. Book a stay here!
Columbia, regarded as the “Gem of the Southern Mines,” still has the ambiance of the 1850s. A trip to this picturesque village is a must for each gold rush town’s itinerary.
Columbia, California’s Stagecoach
Columbia State Historic Park preserves the historic downtown, which functioned as the commerce area during the gold rush period. The park is open to the public for free.
Nearly 30 structures from the gold rush era have been restored, and strolling through the village seems like stepping back in time. Even a stagecoach trip down Main Street is available!
Look for gold in the pan. Visit the Columbia Mercantile 1855, which has been tastefully renovated and where you may have a cool sarsaparilla cocktail. At the Fallon Ice Cream Parlor, you may have some ice cream or a drink at one of the two saloons.
The park’s stores are definitely worth a look around. You may dress up in historical garb and get your picture taken at the photo shop!
There’s much to see and do, from a blacksmith’s shop to a soap and candle shop, a store selling antique apparel, and a gift shop selling things popular in the 1850-1870 era.
If you’re in Columbia in the evening, you must see a performance at the historic Fallon Theatre. Sierra Repertory Venue has been performing at the theatre for thirty years.
In Columbia, where should you stay?
There are also cottages and motels to stay in, as well as a restaurant and a café, in the park. While the hotels preserve their traditional beauty, they also provide modern conveniences for a pleasant stay. Reserve a room at Reserve California.
Jamestown, the site of the first gold discovery in California’s Tuolumne County, is a must-see gold rush town. The village of Jamestown has been declared a California Historical Landmark.
On season, visit Railtown 1897 State Historic Park for excursion trips in a vintage coach powered by a steam engine or a diesel locomotive. The journey takes you through the picturesque Gold Country.
Railtown’s trains have appeared in a number of films, including Back to the Future Part III. At the park, you may also take a tour of a functional railroad roundhouse and enjoy a picnic.
Learn more about the various movies and TV series that were shot in Jamestown by walking the Jamestown Walk of Fame, which runs between the park and downtown Jamestown.
Historic structures may be found throughout downtown Jamestown, including the National Hotel and Restaurant, which was built in 1859. Enjoy wine and beer sampling while browsing the various stores and galleries.
If you wish to pan for gold in a nearby river or stream like the prospectors of old, shops in Jamestown offer pans. Panning may be done on your own or with the help of a guide.
In Jamestown, there are a variety of places to stay.
The National Hotel & Restaurant is a historic hotel with its own ghost! Rooms feature antique furniture and beds are rated super comfortable. Guests have access to a soaking tub. The onsite restaurant and saloon are well-reviewed. Book a stay here!
Murphys, originally a gold rush mining community, is now noted for its wine tasting rooms, and is located in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
The town of Murphys is known as the “Queen of the Sierra.” The town is surrounded by vineyards, making it ideal for wine tasting trips, but it also has a picturesque tree-lined Main Street.
Despite the fact that Murphys produced gold worth millions of dollars, the town was destroyed by fire three times. The town was not restored to its previous state after the second fire in 1874, but it continued to thrive as a mining supply hub.
Murphys is known for its closeness to Calaveras Big Trees State Park, one of the greatest sites to observe huge sequoias outside of national parks and forests, as well as its intriguing history.
Visit the various stores and galleries in town, drink some wine, and take a picture of the famous Murphys Hotel, which has welcomed such notables as Ulysses S. Grant and Mark Twain.
The Murphys Old Timers Museum maintains the town’s history with displays such as Native American basketry, as well as portraits, clothes, and other artifacts from the settlement’s early days.
Ironstone Vineyards is a must-see for its beautiful landscapes, outdoor gold mining exhibit with a water wheel, and the world’s biggest example of gold leaf, which weighs 44 pounds.
Where Should You Stay in Murphys?
Courtwood Inn B&B offers a log lodge ambience with modern conveniences. The tranquil retreat offers five well-appointed rooms with views. Spacious rooms feature king beds with spa tubs in the bathrooms. Breakfasts are rated excellent and wine tasting is offered in the evenings. Book a stay here!
Jackson was initially called Bottelas in 1848, and it grew up quickly following the finding of gold in California. Jackson originated as a supply and governing hub for placer gold, but when hard rock mining occurred in the region, it became a supply and governing center.
In the end, Jackson was responsible for more than half of the gold retrieved from the Mother Lode!
The historic Main Street in Jackson is a wonderful spot to wander. You’ll discover jewelry shops, antique stores, art galleries, wine sampling, and superb cafes among the classic facades. Look for the plaque commemorating the notorious Hanging Tree’s location.
You may continue your trip beyond Main Street to other sections of town, where you can see churches, cemeteries, and historic residences. To understand more about what you see while you wander, download a map.
One of the nicest things to do in Jackson is to visit the historic Kennedy Gold Mine. It was one of three mines that contributed to the town’s prosperity. For the greatest experience, join a guided surface tour.
The Amador County Museum, which is situated in a Greek Revival structure from 1859, displays a range of objects from the town’s and region’s early days. In the complex, there are large size replicas of the Kennedy Mine and the North Star Mine.
Wine aficionados can discover several dozen vineyards in the neighboring Plymouth area from which to pick for winery excursions. The Amador Flower Farm is also located in Plymouth, and visitors may explore the gardens all year.
Where Should You Stay in Jackson?
The National Hotel Jackson is a historic downtown Jackson hotel that is close to shopping, sightseeing, and eating. Some of the rooms feature balconies with views of Main Street. The rooms are spacious and have contemporary bathrooms. Make a reservation here!
If you’re searching for a town near to Sacramento with gold rush history and great outdoor activities, Folsom is the place to go.
Folsom’s Rainbow Bridge
During the gold rush, the region surrounding Folsom experienced a lot of placer gold mining. The town of Folsom was founded in 1849. Dredging became a significant operation in the mid-nineteenth century, with millions of dollars in gold retrieved.
The Folsom Historic District, which is centered on Sutter Street, now has gorgeous old west architecture, as well as retail, wine sampling, and eating. The historic Folsom Amphitheatre hosts live performances and movie screenings.
The Folsom Powerhouse State Historic Park is a great place to visit if you appreciate museums. The powerhouse was completed in 1895, and the antique generators may still be seen. The Folsom Prison Museum provides a unique glimpse into life behind bars.
Many items may be seen at the Folsom Railroad Museum, including a turntable that was erected in 1867 to rotate locomotives. The Folsom History Museum has displays about the area’s aboriginal peoples, as well as artifacts from the gold rush era.
Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, which includes Folsom Lake and Lake Natoma, is a fantastic place to go fishing. Hiking, biking, boating, stand-up paddleboarding, and swimming are all popular activities.
In Folsom, there are a variety of places to stay.
Fairfield Inn & Suites offers spacious accommodations with comfortable beds. Continental or buffet breakfast is included and the buffet is well-reviewed. The property features an indoor pool. Book a stay here!
Auburn is a California Historical Landmark and has a significant gold rush history. Although gold reserves were found in the soil here in 1848, it wasn’t until 1849 when miners from Auburn, New York, gave the town its present name.
Auburn, California’s Placer County Courthouse
Many historic houses and rebuilt facades from the mid-nineteenth century may be seen in Old Town Auburn. Download a map to use as a guide while you’re exploring. Saturday mornings in Old Town Auburn are dedicated to the local farmers’ market.
The Old Town Auburn Post Office is the west of the Mississippi’s oldest running post office. The beautiful Placer County Courthouse was dedicated on July 4, 1898, and most of the construction material was sourced locally.
There are also numerous fine restaurants in Old Town, as well as art galleries, antique stores, and speciality shops, such as gift and jewelry stores. Visit in the middle of December to experience Auburn’s Old Town Christmas!
The Placer County Museum, located in the courthouse, is dedicated to county history and has Native American artifacts as well as a gold collection. Local Chinese history from the gold rush period is on display in the Joss House Museum.
Wine and beer connoisseurs will find plenty of opportunities to partake in tastings. Lake Clementine is a popular destination for nature enthusiasts who want to go boating, hiking, or have a picnic. Another fantastic area to walk and enjoy the outdoors is Hidden Falls Regional Park.
Where Should You Stay in Auburn, California?
Power’s Mansion is a Victorian B&B housed in a gorgeous mansion in Old Town Auburn, convenient to shopping and dining. The property offers individually decorated rooms with antique furnishings. Breakfasts are rated excellent. Book a stay here!
Early visitors to the region saw a large number of monarch butterflies overwintering there, thus the name Mariposa, which means butterfly in Spanish. Mariposa sits at the southern end of Highway 49’s line of gold rush communities.
In Mariposa, there is a mural. Alex, Personal Computer
Mariposa, which was formerly a mining community, is now home to the Mariposa vein, as well as placer gold discovered in nearby streams. It is presently renowned as a point of entry into Yosemite National Park.
The Mariposa Museum and History Center is a local history museum with a lot of information on the gold rush. The stamp mill is still in operation, and there’s also a Yosemite Valley Railroad display.
Visit the California State Mining and Mineral Museum to see the interesting variety of minerals that the state has to offer. The Fricot Nugget, the last crystalline gold item from the 19th century, is among the almost 13,000 pieces on display.
Many buildings from the late 1800s may be seen in Mariposa’s downtown area. Take a stroll along Main Street to get a sense of the old west. To assist you navigate your walking tour of Mariposa, pick up a map at the Mariposa County Visitors Bureau.
In addition to the historic sites, there are boutiques, art galleries, and antique stores to visit, as well as eateries. In the summer, Arts Park hosts free music in the evenings.
The beautiful courthouse on Bullion Street was built in the 1850s. Mariposa is also home to one of the state’s oldest prisons. Both buildings give for fantastic picture opportunities!
The Mariposa County Courthouse is located in Mariposa, California. EPoelzl/Wikimedia/PC 3.0 Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial
On Main Street, the Mariposa Hotel Inn is situated in a 1901 edifice. Here you’ll discover historical furniture, as well as individually furnished guest rooms with all the modern conveniences. Mountain views are available in certain rooms. A highlight is breakfast on the balcony! Make a reservation here!
The Best California Gold Rush Towns on a Map
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California has been mining gold for centuries, and there are still towns that remain untouched. These 12 gold rush towns in California are a must-see on your list. Reference: california mining town.
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