Discover the Adventure
Chico Day Trips: A Gold Country Drive

We'd Like to Recommend One of Our Chico Day Trips through NorCal's Gold Country

Chico day trips take us to the Gold Country. There are many ways to spend a day in California's Gold Country. Pick a destination to use as a home base and get in some quality visit time. Spend a weekend on the road and explore with little side trips along the way. Or take a Sunday drive up into the foothills.

Visit historic sites; get a feel for what gold rush towns were like; discover mines, pasties, hotels and Victorians that have been around since the 1800s, museums, and historic state parks.

Shop for souvenirs, or pan for gold.

Whatever your druthers, this is a trip Wolf and I have done many times.

It's one of our treasured day trip getaways - and it's even better if you can take your time and make a weekend trip out of it!

I think most of us are fascinated with tales of California's Gold Rush days and we're so lucky here in Northern California to have so many historical sites and Gold Rush Era towns that have preserved this exciting history for us.

That's why we believe you'll enjoy this little jaunt we've put together!

Do you have a favorite NorCal story?
From a family visit from years ago to something
you discovered last weekend,
Share it with the rest of us
- we'd love to learn about it!

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Chico Day Trips: Relive the California Gold Rush with a Sunday Drive

Who isn't fascinated with the California Gold Rush?

It's all about getting rich quick, bold enterprises, the Wild West, the railroads... all the elements of a romantic adventure!

Do this trip in one day for a quick overview of these historical sites along the Gold Rush trail...

Or you can turn it into a two or three day excursion (Book Now and Save at to spend more time in California's Gold Country.

Either way, you'll find it to be a charming foray into Chico day trips!

You'll start in Grass Valley, home to the Empire Mine State Historic Park and North Star Mine Powerhouse and Mining Museum.

Next along the trail is Auburn, which was a bit of a powerhouse in its own right when it came to getting people to the original gold fields at Coloma.

Continue on to Coloma, birth place of the California Gold Rush...

And finally head into Placerville, which was formerly known as Dry Diggin's and later, as Hangtown. Both were apropos names as you'll find out when you follow this Chico day trip.

Chico Day Trips: Grass Valley to Placerville

Follow this route to explore this Chico day trips romantic adventure:

  • Leave Chico on Highway 99 South
  • Take Highway 149 to Highway 70
  • Take Highway 70 to Woodruff Lane
  • Turn left onto Woodruff and continue on as it turns into Highway 20 (there will be a little jog at Browns Valley Road)
  • Arrive at Grass Valley
  • From Grass Valley, take Highway 20 to Highway 49
  • Arrive at Auburn
  • From Auburn, take Lincoln Way to pick up Highway 49/193
  • Arrive Coloma/Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park
  • From Coloma, get back on Highway 49
  • Arrive Placerville
  • Take Highway 50 out of Placerville
  • Take Highway 5 out of Sacramento and either Highway 99 or Highway 70 back to Chico - and welcome home!

Driving time for this Chico day trip is about five hours, so this will be a long-day's trip. Plan on stopping for dinner somewhere on the way home. If I may make a suggestion, Tower Cafe in the Land Park neighborhood, or
de Vere's, an Irish pub in downtown Sacramento, would be good choices. Both are favorites of ours.

Chico Day Trips
Gold Rush Sites to See
and Things to Do

These are some of the things we've enjoyed during our visits that we think you'll appreciate as well.

And be sure to take your time with the drive - it's not all about the destination, after all - and enjoy the scenery.

The Sierra Nevada foothills alone are worthy of the excursion! With their rolling hills covered in oat grasses, live oaks scattered about, and winding roads with a surprise around every corner, you'll enjoy the drive just for the sake of the drive!

In and Around Grass Valley

  • Stroll the Historic Downtown to get a flavor of the Grass Valley of the 1800s; Victorian homes, the Holbrooke Hotel, the Oberon, the Grass Valley Museum
  • Browse the shops
  • Have a pastie at Cousin Jack's
  • Explore Empire Mine State Historic Park

Added value near Grass Valley for a 2 or 3 day trip:

  1. Take a detour to the tiny community of Rough and Ready on your way to Grass Valley - it's not very big, but it dates back to 1849. It was the only mining town to have seceded from the United States (although it voted itself back in a few months later), and the drive is lovely
  2. Before heading out for Auburn, follow Highway 20 up to Nevada City for more Gold Rush Era history in the form of historic buildings like the Nevada Theater, Firehouse No. 1, the National Hotel, and the Narrow Gage RR Museum
  3. Stay at one of these historic hotels: the Holbrooke Hotel in Grass Valley or the National in Nevada City

In and around Auburn

  • Take a self-guided historic walking tour of Auburn's Old Town
  • Browse the shops
  • Don't miss the Bernhard House Museum Complex (originally the Traveler's Rest stage stop) and the Courthouse Museum
  • Have lunch at Bootleggers Old Town Tavern and Grill - we did and loved their small plates!

Added value near Auburn for a 2 or 3 day trip:

  1. Spend a day exploring the American River
  2. Pan for gold
  3. Take in an old fashioned melodrama at the Olde Coloma Theater, complete with hissing, booing, and throwing popcorn at the actors

In and Around Coloma

Gold Trail Grange Building in Coloma; Photo by Suzi RosenbergGold Trail Grange Building in Coloma; Photo by Suzi Rosenberg
  • Explore Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park for historic buildings from the 1840s, and a replica of Sutter's Mill
  • Browse the Gold Discovery Museum for dioramas and exhibits showcasing the area's history
  • Shop for a souvenir or items for your picnic lunch at one of the local shops in this very much still alive little town
  • Pan for gold in the American River just as the Argonauts did
  • Participate in any of the various interpretive programs held throughout the year

In and around Placerville

  • Tour Placerville's version of Old Town, including Gold Rush homes from the 1850s and turn-of-the-century Victorians, and the oldest hardware store west of the Mississippi
  • Visit Gold Bug Park and Mine (as in "He's caught the Gold Bug!")
  • Explore the El Dorado County Historical Museum and find out why Placerville has had so many different names
  • Visit the Hangman's Tree Tavern, the Pony Express marker, and the Snowshoe Thompson marker

Added value near Placerville for a 2 or 3 day trip:

  1. Visit Apple Hill - it's nothing to do with the Gold Rush, but this is a wonderful way to spend some time, especially in the Fall
  2. Stay at the historic Cary House Hotel

I hope you've enjoyed our Chico day trips in the Gold Country. Looking for more Northern California day trips? Here you go:

  • Big Sur to Salinas
    County seat of Monterey County, birthplace of John Steinbeck, Salinas still hasn't received much respect. But, as you'll see from this Big Sur day trip, Salinas is worthy of another look!
  • Chico to Sutter Buttes
    Looking for an interesting Day Trip you can take from Chico, CA? Try Chico to Sutter Buttes! Drive or bike the circumference, or arrange for a guided hike! Either way the Buttes are amazing!
  • Sonoma to Glen Ellen and Jack London SHP
    You don’t have to give up your Sonoma wine to go on this Sonoma to Glen Ellen to Jack London SHP – enjoy the sights, the wineries, & the beauty of Jack London’s final home.

And for some fabulous Weekend Trips:

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