Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

Things to See in the Northern Gold Country

When Mark and I stayed in Rocklin, California for a three-month house and pet sit assignment, we took advantage of the nice weekends to explore the region a bit. Located in the northern part of the Central Valley, Rocklin lies in close proximity to California’s northern gold country, an area that became famous during the 1849 gold rush. Waves of immigrants, now known as the 49ers, were attracted by the rich soils, containing gold and other minerals, and moved to the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada to work in the gold mines. Appropriately named State Route 49 is the primary north-south highway through Gold Country, along which many historic mining communities can be visited.

Nevada City street scene

Auburn

Barely a half an hour drive from us, Auburn was easily accessible for a visit. The main attractions in town are Old Town, the Gold Rush Museum and Placer County Courthouse, which also contains the Historical Museum. After a quick glimpse of town, we preferred the excellent hiking opportunities in Auburn State Recreation Park.

Grass Valley

This historic gold mining town offers an easy stroll along cute streets and an old movie theater. Its antique stores, restaurants and old hotel are popular places to visit.

Nevada City

In our opinion, Nevada City has more character than its neighbor Grass Valley. The sloped streets offer historic buildings, many events and a great atmosphere. Mark and I returned another time – without our temporary dog Herk – to visit the Victorian Christmas market in December.

North Star Mine

Near the twin gold rush cities lies this small museum, which was closed for the season when we passed by. It is possible to walk the grounds and the surrounding park any time of the year.

Empire Mine State Park

Empire Mine State Park is a jewel in more than one way. The grounds offer wonderful hiking among many trails and relics, and the museum itself offers an in-depth understanding of the gold rush era in California.

The property is beautifully maintained and you are allowed to enter old buildings, gaze at rusty equipment, partly descend into one of the mine shafts, and observe all the different work spaces of the “golden days”. Many signs explain what you see in front of you. The entrance fee is $7 a person and, believe it or not, dogs are allowed everywhere! This visit comes highly recommended and would make a splendid day trip.

Since we walked all over these sites when visiting, I think this post might be a good contribution to Jo’s Monday Walks. Check out her blog for a wonderful impression of Castro Marim in the Algarve, Portugal.

26 Comments

  1. Empire State Park looks like a real winner! But I love the Victorian homes in Northern California. We got stuck in Eureka for 30 days coming up the coast (weather) and it was a great area for that.

    Stephanie @ SV CAMBRIA

    • When we read we could take dogs to this park, we really wanted to visit. As with our own dogs, dog-friendly places get our business while others, like Calaveras Big Trees, don’t. The Victorian homes are picturesque and you can find them in many towns in the US. Getting stuck for 30 days doesn’t sound like fun. Unless, you can sightsee onshore, of course. πŸ™‚

  2. Other than Nevada City, I don’t think I’ve been to those places before. There is so much history in gold rush country – I’m glad you had the opportunity to explore! Re the sign showing the value of gold: According to my inflation calculator, $35 in 1956 would be worth $310.56 today. So, the fact that the value of a troy ounce of gold rose from $35 in 1956 to $1167.59 today, indicates that gold would have made an excellent investment back then!

    • You picked the nicest one of the gold country towns, Janis. We are still interested in visiting parts of Southern Gold Country as well, whenever we find ourselves in the Central Valley again. I guess gold has been and still is a good investment. A tad heavy, though… πŸ™‚

  3. What a wonderful area to explore! I am also also happy to steal any great hiking suggestions. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • We love hiking as well, Donna, and for that reason (and others), we are happy to find ourselves back in the San Francisco Bay Area for a little while. Hopefully, I will be able to post more hiking and excursion posts over the next few months…

  4. Isn’t it great when a place is pet friendly? I love all the Victorian era towns and houses- places with character. So much of Florida is so new it can be a bit cookie cutter.

    • We love pet-friendly places! And, we enjoy exploring towns with character, for sure. I know what you mean about Florida. St. Augustine is about as authentic and beautiful as it gets over there. The fake stuff elsewhere is at least entertaining! πŸ™‚

  5. I just LOVE the gold country in the Sierra foothills! The Coloma gold discovery site right out of Placerville along Hwy 50/Hwy 49 is also amazing. I have been to all of these but really need to visit more often! Excellent and informative post, Liesbet!

    • We actually went to Coloma once to check out a second hand camper. That was before I did some reading about the gold country. If only we knew back then that there was an interesting site so close by. Maybe we will be back one day! πŸ™‚

  6. You visit some great places Liesbet. Like the Empire State Park in particular.

    • That park was a pleasant surprise, since we are not history buffs at all. We really enjoyed our visit and were so happy the dog could come.

  7. Thanks, Liesbet! πŸ™‚ Sorry it took me so long to get here. I was wrecked last night after not much sleep the one before. The walking trails look wonderful and I can never get over how very American your small towns look. Wonderful πŸ™‚

    • You mean, “authentic American”, right? πŸ™‚ I hope you managed to settle in nicely again at home, and that you don’t miss the warmer weather yet, Jo. As for us, we are very excited to be in an area with great hiking again…

  8. Nevada City looks really pretty. I love the architecture! You take such great photos–thanks for sharing your adventures.

    I wish you could come with me on Friday. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks for swinging by, jmh. Have a great trip! I’d love to share a bit of adventure with you one day. As long as it is not too scary. πŸ™‚

  9. These towns / parks all look delightful. California as a whole is still on my list of states not visited (and probably won’t be for at least the next for years either). I take it you have now moved on and are no longer with Herk?

    • We have left Herk in the good care of his owner and are now on a short, one-week sit in a fancy area near San Francisco. California has so much to offer and part of us is disappointed we are not taking advantage of that (yet). In the near future, we hope to find house sits in more attractive areas, where we can go hiking and sightseeing often. Stay tuned! πŸ™‚

  10. I love the photos, Liesbet! Our Canadian gold rush towns in British Columbia and the Yukon, many of which I have visited, are much rougher places. There are lots of mining ghost towns throughout BC that were abandoned after mines closed down. They extracted a variety minerals, and sometimes are in the most unlikely places. They make interesting hiking destinations as well.

    Jude

    • It would be interesting to compare the gold rush towns in the frontier of the Yukon and BC with the ones here. I traveled through both provinces/territories, but never stopped at any of the ghost towns, mainly focusing on wildlife and nature when in Canada. I can imagine they provide wonderful hiking opportunities with some historic “discoveries” along the way. With a little bit of luck, we find a summer house sit in BC this year! πŸ™‚

  11. Looks like a movie set ~ those streets!! Nice photos! Magnificent State park. I just met someone from this area! So very pretty.
    Peta

    • We never realized we would be close to “gold country” when we did this house sit, so we were pleasantly surprised to get a glimpse into those intriguing days.

  12. I have been doing a lot of California Dreaming lately…and this post adds to my list of reasons to visit. I like the way the the architecture harkens back to the 49ers time and the landscape looks quite inviting. I have driven US ‘5’ up from LA to Oregon once but never headed west of it to make my way to Rocklin and surrounding areas. Next time.

    • Speaking of highway 5, Lisa, that is what we are on right this moment. Mark is driving – I did the first 4 hour shift, so he could work – and we are approaching Los Angeles. Rain and flooding everywhere and snow in the hills! Still only 43F outside, but it should warm up soon. No need to miss California now! πŸ™‚

  13. Thank you for this article!
    I have been in the USA (New York, Miami, Boston, Washington…) and it was an amazing experience! I visited a lot of places and did a website about it with some articles πŸ™‚
    https://operalphotography.wordpress.com/category/usa/

    • The US has a lot of interesting cities to visit and especially the National Parks are amazing. We hope to travel around the country full-time again in the soon future. Thanks for stopping by my blog, Marianne!

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