Motorhome and Away
Gold Country 2010

Home > Our California Tour > Gold Country 

 Around the Gold Country

We travelled back to San Francisco airport to pick up our rental car rather than drive through the city centre (and easier to drop off at the end) and after doing a couple of circuits around the parking lot as I had never driven an automatic before, set off and immediately got lost in a maze of roads ending up on a trading estate. Eventually we picked up Highway 101 and drove south then across the Bay, luckily toll free eastbound, towards Hayward and stayed on the rather busy freeways using our tomtom and heading east. After about 70 miles we reached Oakdale and left the flat roads of the Central Valley passing through more interesting countryside of dry grassy hills to reach Jamestown and found a cheap motel near Sonora. The small towns around here originated from the gold rush starting in 1849 and developed as mining communities and trading posts and still had historic downtowns with many old buildings. Several were used for film sets for Westerns and we visited the Railtown 1897 museum to see the old trains of the Sierra Railway. Unfortunately they were using a diesel locomotive for the rides when we visited. We were surprised how undeveloped the towns were with many old wooden homesteads and ranches in the hills and apart from near Sonora, where there was a large shopping mall, the main streets were lined with small businesses and shops although perhaps more selling antiques and gifts than in the past. Judging by the number of places for sale they have been hit badly by the recession. When we visited the preserved Historic State town of Columbia it was their Harvest "Festifall" weekend so there were additional attractions of craft stalls and entertainers. We drove up to the Big Trees State Park in Calaveras County where there were walking trails among the giant sequoias and tall redwoods then stopped at Murphys a popular wine tasting centre and Angels Camp which was holding a Mark Twain Motherlode festival.

      Angels Camp church
      wooden church at Angels Camp

After another night at the motel we headed south on Route 49 and came across the old trading town of Coulterville with its single street of old buildings (and car), a small museum and the Hotel Jeffery, the first to be opened in 1851. We continued on a scenic drive on the winding Route 49, surprisingly largely unfenced (compared to European roads), across the Sierra Nevada foothills. After looking around Mariposa, a popular tourist stopover with another traditional historic main street, we called in to a Rayleys supermarket at Oakhurst to stock up before heading for the cabin we had booked in the Yosemite National Park.

          coulterville old car
          Coulterville main street

Jamestown Antiques Emporium

sonora church          columbia harvest festifall
Sonora Church                       At the Columbia Festifall

sierra railway steam loco
Old locomotive at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park

giant sequoia
Giant Sequoia at Big Trees state park

1851 hotel Coulterville
The first Gold Rush hotel opened in 1851 at Coulterville


   big tree stump      mailboxes     Angels Camp main street
        Massive stump at Big Trees Park                   Typical US mailboxes                          Angels Camp main street

<<< San Francisco
Yosemite  >>>