Taken from the notes of an El Dorado County insider, El Dorado County is still an undiscovered destination by many today, but it was wildly popular during the California Gold Rush. It is a year round getaway with diverse natural scenic beauty, fascinating historic sites, and fun outdoor adventures in concert with a new generation of pioneers opening unique shops, eateries, and inns. El Dorado Insider Intel reveals why there may never be a better time plan a visit.

#5 – Apple Hill®

A family trip to visit the Apple Hill Growers means so much more than just apples and pies. It’s memories that will last a lifetime! It’s berry farms, u-pick apple ranches, and kid-friendly activities. For the grown-ups, it’s fine wines and handcrafted beers in an incredible Sierra-soaked setting. It’s Christmas trees for as far as your group can wander.

El Dorado Insider Intel:  Don’t wait until October to visit, most ranches open in September and are much less crowded then. There are lots of new things to see and do – Mill View Ranch is open year round, and has added a free old-west kid size Gold Rush town. Don’t miss the Colossal Corn Maze at Kids Inc. covering two acres with 8-foot-tall corn plants!

#4 – Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park

One of California’s most popular state parks has undergone vast improvements over the last two years that are both creative and refreshing.  Probably the most notable is the completion of a new replica of the sawmill where James Marshall discovered gold in 1848.  There are new and improved exhibits, attractions, walkways, landscaping, and signage in every direction. The park hosts living history days every month offering a hands-on history lesson with rope making, candle dipping, Dutch oven cooking, sawmill wood working, and games from the past. There are new guided walking tours and even a new app that provides a video and picture tour to many of the sights and sounds of Coloma.

El Dorado Insider Intel: Add lunch at Argonaut Farm to Fork Café to your “must do” list and you won’t regret it.  There are new owners and a new menu, with great food located inside the park.

 #3 – Dry Diggings Distillery & Poor Red’s

dry diggins distillery store

In 2016 El Dorado County welcomed a new friend to our destination, Dry Diggins Distillery. It also welcomed back an old friend – Poor Red’s BBQ. The distillery is the first of its kind in El Dorado County in a very long time. Owners Cris Steller and Gordon Helm offer a 90-minute tour and tasting which takes guests through the production cycle from field to glass, really incorporating the sense of place of Gold Country into their products and business.

El Dorado Insider Intel: For the first time since Prohibition, major legislation finally passed enabling craft distilleries to sell direct to consumer in their tasting rooms. 


poor reds storefront

Back in the day, people came from all over California to enjoy 3 things at Poor Red’s – great barbeque, their famous Golden Cadillac cocktail, and great company.  The Golden Cadillac cocktail, which includes Galliano, was so popular that in 1999 Galliano proclaimed Poor Red’s as its largest consumer in the world  responsible for 3% of the U.S. market.

Poor Red’s is located in the town of El Dorado on Pleasant Valley Road at Highway 49, and was originally constructed as a weigh station for Wells Fargo. Locals have been anxiously awaiting the return of this Gold Country icon like kids at Christmas.

El Dorado Insider Intel:  Poor Red’s previously operated under the name Kelly’s Bar from 1927 until 1945. Poor Red won the bar in a game of dice, and he and his wife and bookkeeper Rich Opal took it.

#2 – Whitewater Rafting

kids whitewater rafting

Cascading down from the Sierra Nevada runs the West Coast’s most popular whitewater resource – the South Fork of the American River. An intermediate (Class III) river, the South Fork American River is suitable for kids 7 to 75! An El Dorado County white water rafting trip combines the river’s natural beauty, rich historical background, and exhilarating rapids into one great whitewater vacation experience.

El Dorado Insider Intel:  2016 stands to be the best California whitewater rafting in 5 years! We have had a solid snowpack, and just one year after the driest winter ever recorded in California history, things are definitely looking up. The South Fork of the American River is a completely different river at higher flows and a guaranteed thrill ride.

#1World Gold Panning Championships

world gold panning competition

El Dorado County will host the 2016 World Gold Panning Championships, “The Olympics of Gold Panning” right here where the California Gold Rush started. During a county-wide, week-long celebration September 11-18, 2016, more than 600 competitors from over 20 countries will participate in this unusual sporting event.  This promises to be an unforgettable event which has already gained worldwide attention.

El Dorado Insider Intel: There has never been a time where there are so many different ways to enjoy Gold Country.  Visitors will experience rare access to historical sites like Gold Bug Park and Mine, historical reenactments, museum tours and melodrama skits, and live music and performances during Coloma Gold Rush Live and the Divide Gold Rush Days.  There are excursions to Apple Hill, whitewater excitement, and exclusive wine tours and tastings. Visitors are invited kick up their heels at the Street Stomp and Barn Dance or kick off their heels at the Grape stomp at the Fairgrounds. Rock hounds will enjoy the El Dorado County Mineral and Gem Society’s annual Rock and Gem show. Downtown Placerville goes to the dogs at Oktoberfest and the Wiener Dog Races.  It truly will be an unprecedented week to experience El Dorado County!