Hangtown Gold Bug Mine State Park is just one of many Gold Rush-related attractions along Highway 49. Following are others, listed north to south.
Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park: Twenty-six miles northeast of Nevada City on North Bloomfield Road, Malakoff was the site of 19th century hydraulic mining that carved cliffs out of mountains. Subtle, it wasn't. A visitor center tells the region's mining history and points toward hiking trails, camping sites and other activities. Park hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily during the summer, weekends only during the other months (weather permitting). For more information: (530) 265-2740 or www.parks.ca.gov.
Grass Valley: Empire Mine State Historic Park was a vein place in its heyday, yielding about 6 million ounces of gold before it was closed in 1956. Yard tours, hiking trails and picnic tables welcome visitors today; be sure to check out the Empire Cottage, surrounded by immaculate landscaping. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through August, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. September through April. Admission is $3, $1 for ages 6 to 16, free for those under 6. On East Empire Street, east of Highway 49 and south of downtown. For more information: (530) 273-8522 or www.parks.ca.gov.
Coloma: Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park. The Gold Country's most popular attraction is where James Marshall discovered gold in January 1848. Many buildings from those early prospecting days - and 70 percent of the town - are within park boundaries. Buildings are open daily, the museum from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the other buildings from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; park grounds from 8 a.m. to sundown. Entrance fee is $5 per vehicle. For more information: (530) 622-3470 or www.parks.ca.gov.
Sutter Creek: Sutter Gold Mine, a couple miles north of downtown, loads visitors onto a "Boss Buggy Shuttle" for a one-hour underground tour of a site once teeming with gold miners. You might need to sell the family silver if you're taking a large group, however - admission is $14.95 general, $9.95 for ages 3 through 13. Open daily, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the summer, 10 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m. the rest of the year. 13660 Highway 49. For more information: (209) 736-2708, (866) 762-2837 or www.suttergold.com.
Jackson: Kennedy Mine's 125-foot head frame is a local landmark that overlooks Jackson from the north. Tours of the head frame, mine buildings and stamp mill remnants are given from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends from March through October. Admission is $9 general, $5 for ages 6 through 12, free for those under 6. 12594 Kennedy Mine Road. For times and other information: (209) 223-9542 or www.kennedygoldmine.com.
Sonora: Taking a stroll in Columbia State Historic Park, a couple miles north of Sonora, is an agreeably quaint experience. It stakes itself to be the best-preserved California Gold Rush town, which is a fair claim (so to speak). Shops, eateries, charming old hotels and historically costumed docents beckon. For more information: (209) 532-0150 or www.columbiacalifornia.com.
Mariposa: The California State Mining and Mineral Museum has gemstones, a mine tunnel and related exhibits. Open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily May through September, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesdays through Mondays the rest of the year. Admission is $3 general, free for everyone younger. Two miles south of town off Highway 49, at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds. For more information: (209) 742-7625 or www.parks.ca.gov.