Located at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and 2.5 hours east from San Francisco, Tuolumne County and its historic towns in northern California are the perfect getaway for history enthusiasts, nature lovers, foodies and adventure seekers alike. From incredible towns frozen in time to delicious food, to fun steam train rides and Gold Rush era saloons, here are a few must-visit spots that you shouldn’t miss when in the region:
Things to Do:
Check out Railtown 1897 State Historic Park: Here history comes to life with vintage steam trains, a working roundhouse, and movie prop tours. Railtown and its trains have been featured in hundreds of movies and TV shows and is also known as “The Movie Railroad.” The 26-acre historic park even offers excursion train rides in a historic steam or diesel locomotive through California’s scenic Gold Country!
Explore Jamestown: It’s the first historic town you’ll run into if you’re coming from the west. It’s also the first town where gold was discovered in Tuolumne County! The main street here has plenty of cute shops.
Pinecrest Lake: Surrounded by forested mountain peaks, Pinecrest Lake is known for its beauty and offers plenty of activities to satisfy everyone who visits. Here you can enjoy hiking, boating, fishing, swimming or simply relaxing on the sandy beach. I highly recommend hiking the Pinecrest Lake Loop. Here you’ll walk along the perimeter of a sapphire blue lake where the views are truly breathtaking!
Where to Eat:
Lunch at The Service Station in Jamestown. It’s a cool eatery that is surrounded by the transportation revolution and car culture. We enjoyed a delicious lunch on their beautiful patio and loved their grilled salmon salad as well as their tri-tip sandwich.
Dinner at The Rock of Twain Harte. Excellent food and ambiance in a rustic, wood-clad space with a deck & a steel pavilion for outdoor dining. Their burgers and french dip were some of the best we’ve had in the area!
Breakfast at Alicia’s Sugar Shack. It’s a very popular spot among locals and visitors alike. Their homemade pastries and breakfast burritos are the best way to start your day while in Tuolumne.
Lunch at Mia’s. Their hand-tossed and brick-fired pizzas were the perfect comfort food on their outdoor patio. Their contemporary Italian-American kitchen whipped out high quality pies and summery salads – we especially enjoyed the margherita pizza and their pear manchego salad.
Where to Stay:
Lazy Z Resort: Only minutes away from downtown Twain Harte, Lazy Z Resort offers a mountain retreat that is fun for the entire family! We loved the privacy and seclusion you felt by having your own cabin in the woods. In the morning we sat out on our private deck and watched the forest come alive! The sight of deer, the sound of birds and a trickling waterfall were the perfect backdrop as we relaxed in the hot tub and lounged by the pool. There is also a fun clubhouse on site with board/card games, table tennis and corn hole.
Northwest of Tuolumne County lies Calaveras County, which inspired author Mark Twain’s first successful story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”. The county is also home to giant sequoia trees in Calaveras Big Trees State Park and beautiful wineries. Calaveras County maintains its 19th-century charm, including the historic Murphy’s Hotel, which once hosted Mark Twain. Here are a few must-visit spots throughout its historic towns in northern California:
Things to Do:
Historic Murphys: Gold Rush era small town that features tons of excellent restaurants on its historic Main Street. Stop in Murphys, long a favorite among Gold Rush fans. Main Street reflects success in historic preservation and offers many places to dine.
Ironstone Vineyards: It’s one of the larger wineries in Calaveras County and it not only has beautiful wineries, but also hosts a large grounds for events like concerts and weddings.
Big Trees State Park: Take in the majestic groves of Giant Sequoias – spend a whole day or just take a short walk on the paths. Home to scores of towering redwoods reaching up to 250 feet tall, the park offers hikes of varying difficulty levels, camping among the redwoods, cabins for rent and tours led by rangers.
Calaveras Jumping Frog Jubilee and County Fair: Held on the 3rd weekend in May each year, the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee commemorates the story that launched Mark Twain’s career, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. It’s one of the longest running fairs in California, and it draws participants from towns not only all around the country, but also all around the world.
Where to Eat:
Sarafina’s: Set amongst massive trees, the restaurant’s location is part of its charm. Their traditional Italian comfort food is sourced with the finest ingredients and cooked with the utmost attention. Make reservations in advance as this place is popular amongst tourists and locals alike.
Where to Stay:
Timberline Lodge. A centrally located, no frills place with clean kept rooms and timber wood interiors. Timberline makes it easy to enjoy all the great food and exciting adventures that await us in Calaveras County!
Author: Yusra Wahab
Digital creator for travel, lifestyle, and food.
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