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The Gold Country is so immense that it would take weeks to thoroughly explore. So I have narrowed my coverage to include three of my favorite regions, each of which can be explored in just 2 or 3 days: the charismatic side-by-side towns of Nevada City and Grass Valley; the Gold Rush communities of Amador City, Sutter Creek, and Jackson; and the wonderfully authentic neighboring mining towns of Angels Camp, Murphys, Columbia, Sonora, and Jamestown.

Whether you're intent on panning for gold, exploring old mines and caverns, or rafting the area's many white-water rivers, the Gold Country is one of the most underrated and least congested tourist destinations in California, a winning combination of Old West ambience, affordable bed-and-breakfasts (many have a 2-night minimum on weekends), and outdoor adventures galore.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.