Wrights Lake. Photo: Dallas Waldon
Wrights Lake – Located on the western border of Desolation Wilderness, Wrights Lake is a stunning lake that also serves as the starting point for a number of hiking trails via the Twin Lakes trailhead. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the lake.
Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park– James W. Marshall discovered gold here in 1848 on the South Fork of the American River. Today, it’s a California State Park featuring a replica of the original sawmill and over 20 historic buildings including a mining exhibit, Chinese store exhibits, and a schoolhouse exhibit. Come here to pan for gold, go for a hike, see the blacksmith, or enjoy a picnic under the oak trees. Entrance is free though there is an $8 parking fee.
South Fork American River– This major tributary of the American River provides not just amazing scenery, but class II and III rapids. It’s an ideal river for families and first-timers, and because it’s dam controlled, you can raft from March through November.
Union Valley Reservoir– This reservoir, located about 20 miles northeast of Placerville offers lots of dog-friendly camping, along with boating, fishing, swimming, and wonderful hiking.
Madrone Tree Hill Camp– A bucolic, family-owned farm with Christmas trees and trails. It’s perfect for camping under the stars. You feel like you are a million miles away, but you’re in the heart of the Apple Hill™ Growers.
Placerville Downtown–The Historic Main Street is filled with buildings dating back to the Gold Rush, charming shops and restaurants, and small-town friendliness. At the center is the old Belltower which has stood for over 100 years, honoring the city’s volunteer firemen.
Placerville Hardware– More than a hardware store, the “oldest hardware store west of the Mississippi” features nuts and bolts, but also gifts, souvenirs, and the largest stock of gold panning supplies in the area. It looks much the same as it did during the Gold Rush, with rolling ladders and rope still sold by the foot, but also a huge inventory of kitchen and garden supplies.
Cary House Hotel– Located on Placerville’s Main Street, this historic hotel features period pieces and antiques dating back to 1857, free wifi, and free parking. It’s had a number of famous guests including Black Bart, John Studebaker, Mark Twain (who also wrote for Mountain Democrat at one time), and President Ulysses S. Grant. During renovations in the 1920s, enough gold was found under the hotel ($600) to build a fourth story.
Totem Coffee Roasters– Located next to the Cary House, this local roastery and coffee house offers handcrafted coffees, indoor and outdoor seating, a seasonal menu, and local craft beers on tap. The outdoor seating in the courtyard is a serene spot for reading, chatting, or working online.
Raft California– Whitewater rafting trips on the South Fork of the American River. Open to all ages and levels!
Rainbow Orchards – Home to the original hot cider donut, this third-generation family farm also boasts apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, and blueberries, fresh-pressed cider (they have a cider press on site), hard cider, wine, and a variety of home-baked treats. If you live in the Bay area, you can find Rainbow Orchards mountain-grown fruit at one of the dozens of farmers’ markets in the San Francisco region.
Wofford Acres Winery– This off-the-beaten-path gem features one of the best views in Apple Hill™. Bring a picnic and treat yourself to a few bottles of their wines and tasty hard cider, one to drink while enjoying the views (responsibly, of course!).
How many of these locations can you spot?