A perfect addition to any California itinerary, Tuolumne County’s Gold Country is alive with thriving historic towns including Jamestown, Sonora and Columbia.
Experience the Old West like nowhere else by taking a ride on the famous Sierra No. 28 locomotive, panning for gold and taking a drive along Historic Highway 49. As the historic Railtown 1897 State Historic Park celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, discover the best of Tuolumne’s Gold Country with this three-day itinerary.
Coming from cities like San Francisco and Sacramento, Jamestown is the first town in Tuolumne County when travelling from the west and makes the perfect starting point. Jamestown is where gold was first discovered in the county and several of the town’s buildings that date back to the 1870s are now quaint historic inns, restaurants, shops, microbreweries and wine tasting rooms. For a true Gold Country experience, start your day by getting your hands dirty panning for gold like the 49ers once did.
Visit Railtown 1897 State Historic Park to explore 24 acres of preserved Sierra Railway. Take a guided tour of the historic roundhouse and locomotives and be sure not to miss the Movie Railroad Exhibit. Hop on a train for a 45-minute trip through the scenic Sierra foothills. Before leaving, stop by The Depot Store, a railroad specialty store for authentic souvenirs.
Grab a bite at Jamestown’s Main Street. There are a variety of local restaurants in historic inns that will suit all tastes, and the Jamestown Hotel is a great historic option as it was built in 1858.
After dinner, take a short 15-minute drive to Columbia State Historic Park, which preserves the historic downtown district that was once a bustling, lively gold town.
Wake up in Columbia State Historic Park where travellers can stop by the working blacksmith shop.
Enjoy lunch at Columbia Kate’s Teahouse, then explore the unique shopping opportunities available at Columbia Merchants to find the perfect souvenir or special gift. Spend the rest of the afternoon experiencing an authentic stagecoach ride, dipping your own candle, dressing up in costume for an old-fashioned photo or catching a show at the historic Fallon House Theatre.
After exploring Columbia, drive 15 minutes to reach Sonora and wander around the town’s iconic shops in historic buildings, each with their own unique story. Tour the Tuolumne County Museum, which is housed inside the former county jail built in 1866.
Enjoy dinner at local hot spot Flappy’s Pizza Co and head to the quaint mountain town of Twain Harte, to experience more history in the ‘Gateway to the Sierra’. Named after Mark Twain and Bret Harte, the small town charm will win all hearts, with a selection of charming B&Bs, rustic resorts and quaint cabins to choose from.
After grabbing breakfast at Bean Around the Block, head east on Highway 108 for more adventure and some breathtaking scenery. Saddle up for a horseback ride into the wilderness to see the Sierra as the pioneers did. Seasonal trips are available at Aspen Meadow Pack Station or higher up in the mountains at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.
Take a short drive to the town of Tuolumne for a bite to eat at Cover’s Apple Ranch, which serves lunch and handmade traditional bakery items, fresh-pressed cider, jams and sauces. Afterwards, enjoy an easy hike along the West Side Trail, which follows the old railroad line of the Hetch Hetchy and Yosemite Valley Railway. This idyllic trail features interpretive signs, scenic vistas and colourful wildflower meadows and is the perfect end to a historic stay in Yosemite’s Tuolumne County.
Head south to stay and enjoy the wonders of Yosemite National Park, or east to experience the incredible High Sierra. Whichever route you choose, there’s no wrong way to end your trip to Tuolumne County.