This is due to its extraordinary community efforts to preserve its rich “wild west” Gold Rush history and culture. A Gold Rush Country Preserve America Community.
Everywhere you travel in and around Tuolumne County will offer you a look into the past which includes the multi-cultural history of the Gold Rush era. You can walk in the footsteps of the Chinese miners of Chinese Camp (now a semi-ghost town), revel in the rich Mexican heritage of Columbia, Jamestown and Sonora where gold glittered in the stream bottoms, and hear the haunting stories of the African-American Buffalo Soldiers of Yosemite Valley.
Try your luck panning in our local streams - - there’s still 70% of the gold left to find!
One can almost smell the gunpowder and hear the piano playing from the Fandango Halls, where cowboys, miners and dancing girls lived amongst the dirt roads and gunfights that governed their lives. Today, their echoes are heard throughout the historic buildings and shops, preserved like living, breathing museums.
One can sip from an ice-cold sarsaparilla while experiencing a live, staged shoot-out in the streets, or just shop in search of that unique antique. Whether you visit one of our seven museums, take in some casino night life at Black Oak Casino & Family Fun Center or just want to enjoy dinner and live theatre -- Tuolumne County is your stage. Nearby cavern tours and zip-lining are available at Moaning and Mercer Caverns north of Sonora.
In addition to Tuolumne County’s history, there is an abundance of nature. Over half of Yosemite National Park with its iconic natural wonders is in Tuolumne County and the Stanislaus National Forest is a playground of endless diversions. Rivers, lakes, mountains, meadows and foothills make up the incredible backdrop of such rugged beauty, which was birthed thousands of years ago; an outdoor lover’s dream!
SONORA is the largest of Tuolumne County Gold Rush towns and is the county seat. The unique shops and restaurant choices add to the historic flavor of this well-preserved gold rush era town. The miners tunneled for gold underneath what is now the downtown area and remnants of their search for gold can be seen in the tunnels exhibited in the library basement of Legend’s Ice Cream Parlor & Antique Shop. The Bradford Street Tuolumne County Museum and History Center provides a view of the local heritage. You can stroll by The Candy Vault and their unique retro candies & gifts to get there. Art galleries, theatres, historic churches and charming Victorian homes are treats for the eyes. The Veteran’s Memorial Hall & Military Museum and Firehouse Museum are within walking distance of each other.
COLUMBIA State Historic Park, about 4 miles north of Sonora, is one of the largest and best preserved gold rush towns in the United States. You will relive the 1849 California Gold Rush days when you walk down the streets of Columbia. See the stagecoach rumble down the streets where cars aren’t allowed -- and they have the right of way! Sample handmade candies in the Columbia Candy Kitchen (recently named one of the Top 10 Sweet Shops in the U.S. by USA Today), watch a blacksmith forge his steel, attend a live performance at the historic Fallon House Theatre or stop for some Sarsaparilla at one of the local saloons. The brave can take a “Ghost Walk” at the centuries old cemetery or see how children were taught in the 1850 schoolhouse (hickory switch included). Partake of local cuisine in the many restaurant choices nearby. Take a walk in 49ers’ footsteps in this town that is preserved as it was when the gold rush hit California.
JAMESTOWN: two miles east of Sonora and home of Railtown 1897 State Historic Park which houses the “The Movie Railroad” where hundreds of movies and TV shows have been filmed, is considered a main attraction. Browse the gift shop, take a steam train ride or take a tour of the park. Railtown is closed Mondays. Then enjoy shopping, historic walks, a variety of restaurants in town such as Locals Make Good Sandwich Shop where they have the largest collection of cookie cutters in California. The 1859 Historic National Hotel has been a great dining choice for years. You can sip wine Thursday-Sunday at Gianelli Vineyards Tasting Room.
GROVELAND on State Highway 120 on the way to the North entrance is the closest and most scenic route to Yosemite National Park from the Bay Area and points north. Stops there can include the Groveland Museum, the Iron Door Saloon which is the oldest continuously running saloon in California, The Groveland Hotel, a registered historic landmark, and the Cellar Restaurant with live outdoor summer entertainment.
The Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau can assist with trip planning for travelers at www.YosemiteGoldCountry.com.
A Stagecoach Ride Panning for Gold