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In Search of Gold

On January 24, 1848, James Wilson Marshall, an unassuming carpenter, kicked off the California Gold Rush. His finding of small gold flakes at Sutter’s Mill ignited a nation looking for their own pot of gold.

The Gold Rush ended in 1855, but the allure of the Golden State hasn’t dimmed. Today, travelers to California can search for all things golden, from sites exploring the state’s Gold Rush history to an explosion of canary yellow, butterscotch, and mustard hues throughout nature.


Step Back in Time
In the 1850s, Shasta was one of the major Gold Rush boomtowns. Today, you can step back in time, visiting preserved buildings, including a general store and a blacksmith shop demonstrating the art of metalworking. At Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, near Redding, try to strike it rich panning for gold with a ranger.

Tuolumne Golden Sights
The first gold discovered in Tuolumne was in Jamestown. Today, visitors can pan for gold where it all began with Nugget Nick and Goldplate Nate leading the fun and muddy adventure. At Columbia State Historic Park, visitors are met with actors in period costumes and can enjoy historic inns, restaurants, and shops designed to take you back in time. To get the authentic flavor of the area, take a Gold Country Road Trip on Highway 49 through the historic towns and mines of the Gold Rush era. 

Gold Rush Museum
Gold put Auburn on the map, and today in Placer County, you can take a deep dive into Gold Rush history at the Gold Rush Museum. Recently renovated, the museum captures the era's excitement through interactive exhibits like a mining tunnel, indoor gold panning stream and Gold Rush Twitter (X) wall. 

Liquid Gold
The Highway 120 corridor leading to Yosemite National Park is rich in Gold Rush history, but today, the area focuses on its “liquid gold”, otherwise known as the pristine water source coming from the snowmelt from the High Sierra mountains. Today, this rich resource is a source of fun for rafting and fishing on the Groveland Rivers and serves as the base for artisans to make some of California’s best craft beer.

Gold Fever Trail 
Big Bear’s Gold Rush days are long gone, but visitors with a 4x4 and a vivid imagination can go back in time on the Gold Fever Trail. This self-guided road trip takes travelers through the heart of Big Bear’s Gold Rush country. While discovering the remains of Belleville, Hangman’s Tree and the Pygmy Cabin, it’s not hard to picture old-time miners searching for treasure or the wild and rowdy saloons they spent their nights in. 

Pan for Treasure
Have a golden day with the kids at El Dorado Frontier, a Gold Rush-themed amusement park inside El Dorado Regional Park in Long Beach. With the feel of an old-time Western movie set, the park encourages kids to learn about California’s gold history with a historic train trip through a mine shaft and perfect their panning skills for a variety of gemstones.

Strike Gold
Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park has taught kids how to pan for gold in its Wild West Ghost Town for generations. Blending entertainment and education, kids learn the challenges and excitement prospectors faced during the Gold Rush. As they sift through clay and gravel, kids get their own taste for the thrill of the treasure hunt. 


Honoring Native History
Unveiled in 2021, an art mural honoring the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians in Corning features bright yellow and mustard colors. The Tribe worked with the community arts group Urbanists Collective to design a contemporary mural highlighting the past, present and future. 

Poppy Jasper Rush
The 1800s had the Gold Rush, but today’s travelers can have the Poppy Jasper Rush in Morgan Hill. This local gemstone is formed from seismic activity. Its crackled and speckled golden yellow color mimics the vibrant appearance of poppy blossoms. Visit the Jewel Box or The Secret Door downtown to find your treasure to take home. 

Mountains of Gold
While Montana de Oro in Los Osos isn’t brimming with the precious metal, it’s resplendent in golden poppies. In spring and summer, travelers to the Central Coast can enjoy the colorful flowers while hiking, biking or horseback riding through the state park. 

Art and Flowers
Visitors to Ventura can enjoy Mother Nature’s artistry by viewing the hundreds of springtime wildflowers in the Channel Islands National Park or the giant, bright yellow Coreopsis on Santa Cruz Island. In the city, artists capture the golden light of a California sunset, the buzz of bumble bees and the transformation of butterflies on murals throughout Ventura Avenue. 

The Golden Hour
It’s no surprise that the Golden State wows with its rich golden sunsets. See some of the best in Carlsbad. Whether from your paddleboard or enjoying a sunset drink at Cape Rey Carlsbad Beach, the vivid sky is a California memory worth its weight in gold.