Highway 49, located in the gold country in the Sierra Foothills, is dotted with dozens of historic towns and places of interest. It’s a location where the state’s present merges with the past. Whether you wish to shop for antiques, learn some bits of history or wander among flowers, here are 10 top destinations along the historic highway.
Located in Volcano in Amador County, Daffodil Hill is a ranch that has been owned by the McLaughlin family since 1887. Originally, it served as a regular stopping place for teamsters who were hauling timber from the Sierras during the gold rush days. Today, the land is blanketed with an estimated 300,000 bulbs that when in full bloom visitors can enjoy. There are also pine trees, an original 1880s barn, wagon wheels and gold rush era mining equipment on the property.
Location: 18310 Rams Horne Grade, Volcano
Hours: Open seven days a week in the Spring from mid-March through the first few weeks in April from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Depending on weather.
For more information: Call 209-296-7048.
2. Sutter Creek
A mixture of the old and the new, Sutter Creek offers visitors the conveniences of the modern world while preserving its historic gold rush charm. From antiques and gifts to art and fashion, there are several shops to browse. There are also around a dozen restaurants including Italian, Mexican, cafes and delis. Since Sutter Creek is located in the heart of the Sierra Foothill Wine Region, there are various wineries and tasting rooms in the area.
Location: 45 miles east of Sacramento
Located just 9 miles from Highway 49, Preston Castle is a former correctional institute for minors that opened in 1894. It was used until 1950 when a new school was completed. The 120-year-old, 50,000 square-foot building has been named as a California State Historical Landmark. It’s open for visitors to tour on most Saturdays and select Thursdays from April through September.
Location: Located at the end of Palm Drive, off Highway 104.
Hours: Tours are held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Admission: Admission for tours is $10 for adults, $5 for children age 12 and under and free for children under 5.
For more information: Call 209-256-3623.
Located in the heart of Gold Rush country, Ironstone Winery was built in the style of a 19th century gold stamp mill. The 14-acre property includes a tasting room and gourmet deli, a museum, the gardens, gold panning, a jewelry shop, wine caverns, a culinary center and a lakeside park. Guests are free to roam around or take a tour led by a guide that also includes a private wine tasting. There is also a concert series that is held on various weekends during the summer.
Location: 1894 Six Mile Road, Murphys
Hours: Hours vary
Visitors of Columbia can travel back in time to a 19th century mining town. Columbia State Historic Park is a living gold rush town with the largest gold rush-era structures in the state. The park is open seven days a week for guests to explore the unique shops, pan for gold, ride a stagecoach, visit a working blacksmith shop, dress up for an old-time photo and maybe catch a play at the theater.
Location: Parrots Ferry Road, off Highway 49.
Hours: Open seven days a week all year.
Located in Jamestown, Railtown 1897 is one of only two remaining fully operational original shortline roundhouse complexes in the country. It has also been used to film several movies and TV shows including Back to the Future III, Lone Ranger, Petticoat Junction and Little House on the Prairie.
Those who visit can take a historic steam or diesel train trip through the Gold Country and visit the museum store. Guests can take a guided or self guided tour of the grounds that include the air-powered turntable, the shops, the roundhouse and a chance to see movie props including background scenery and an 1880s railroad caboose used in Back to the Future III.
Location: 10501 Reservoir Road, Jamestown.
Hours: April through October from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and November through March from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Admission: Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children ages 6 to 17 and free for children ages 5 and under.
Located just 9 miles off Highway 49 is the California Caverns, where visitors can take different tours and explore the inside of the caves that were naturally formed in the earth. The different tours include a trail of the lakes walk tour, the Mammoth Cave Expedition and the Middle Earth Expedition.
Location: 9565 Cave City Road, Mountain Ranch
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission: Prices vary depending on the expedition.
8. Apple Hill
Just outside of Placerville, Apple Hill is a mix of 50 ranches along the hillside running next to Highway 50. Each offers specific produce and family activities. Most of the ranches are open seasonally. Some open in June for summer fruit season and most open in the fall and are open through December. The fall months are most popular and include activities such as hayrides, corn or hay-bale mazes and farm animal feeding. Some ranches offer self picking of produce including grapes, apples and pumpkins. Many stops along the route offer baked goods for purchase as well as barbecue lunches.
Location: Off Highway 50, just past Placerville. Main exit is Camino Avenue.
Hours: Hours vary depending on the ranch.
Admission: Free but there is a nominal fee for the hay rides and corn mazes.
Just up the hill from Apple Hill is Gold Bug Park and Mine. The 61-acre park offers a variety of activities for families to explore. Visitors can venture into the Gold Bug Mine for a self-guided audio tour. Blacksmiths at work can be observed in the blacksmith shop. Guided tours are offered of the Priest Mine, which was all hand dug in the early 1850s. Thousands of pick marks can still be seen. There is also a stamp mill, a museum detailing the Gold Rush history, gem panning and hiking trails.
Location: 2635 Goldbug Lane, Placerville.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April through October and from noon to 4 p.m. November through March.
Admission: Park admission is free. Admission for the Gold Bug Mine is $6 for adults, $4 for youth ages 10 to 17, $3 for children ages 3 to 9 and free for children ages 2 and under. The cost for gem panning is $2 per hour.
Voted as best garden center and nursery in Amador County in 2014, the Amador Flower Farm features more than 14 acres of demonstration gardens and more than 1,000 different daylilies. The farm, located in Plymouth, has themed gardens such as the Western Garden, the Royal Court, the Stout Medal Garden and the Cottage Hill. The themed gardens have over 200 unusual perennials and grasses as companion plants to highlight the daylilies. Visitors are welcome to roam through the gardens as well as the growing grounds that feature plants that are shipped to catalog customers all over the world. There is also a gift shop featuring gardening gift items, a nursery and a place for a picnic lunch under the Heritage Oak trees.
Location: 22001 Shenandoah School Road, Plymouth.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily March through November and Thursday through Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. December through February.
For more information: Call 209-245-6660.