Gold Country Travel Guide

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Hartley House Inn

Hartley House Inn

Randy Hartley

California's Gold Country runs in a band perhaps 50 miles wide from Mariposa, near Yosemite National Park on the south, to Downieville on the north. State highway 49 follows the old wagon road route that connected the mining towns of 1850 along the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains at an elevation of roughly 1000 to 3000 feet. The highway winds its way over and between the Sierra foothills through rocky canyons, grasslands, pine forests, and scrub oaks. Along the way it visits a score of picturesque mining towns filled with wineries, antique shops, historic hotels, restaurants, live theatre, and historic exhibits. Towns like Volcano, Dry Diggings, Hangtown (now Placerville), Columbia, Sonora, and Murphys are strung along the highway at intervals like gold nuggets on a necklace. The Gold Country is also the gateway to the high Sierras, which rise from near sea level to 10,000 feet in elevation within an hour's drive. Destinations like Lake Tahoe, Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Bear Valley, and Yosemite National Park line the eastern edge of this region. To the west lies the great Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley, the heart of California's $6 Billion agricultural industry. Activities in or near the Gold Country include camping, fishing, hunting, snow skiing, rock climbing, bicycling, white water rafting, hiking, antiquing, wine tasting, and relaxing.

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