Like other parts of Gold Country, Tuolumne County is rich in history, rugged scenery and recreational opportunities. You can get some of both and soak up some local color too at First Friday Jamestown Art Walk-Wine-Dine & Music events, continuing through October, or 2nd Saturday Art Nights held year-round in historic downtown Sonora. Either town makes a great base for jumping off into a weekend of hiking, history and off-the-beaten path exploring.
Start with a visit to somewhat off the beaten path Indigeny Reserve, a 160-acre apple ranch, cider works and distillery that opened in 2012 in the hills outside Sonora. Sure, you’ve been to wineries before, but this is different. Your dog is welcome to join you at the hard cider and brandy tasting bar or on orchard tours and self-guided strolls on two hiking trails. BYO food (and some treats for Rover) and have a picnic in the orchard before moving on to Columbia State Historic Park and Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, a stone’s throw from each other in the neighboring towns of Columbia and Jamestown.
There’s plenty of browsing to be done in Columbia, the “Gold Rush town that refused to die.” City kids have a blast panning for gold, dressing up in 19th-century costumes, sipping sarsaparilla and sampling the goods from an old-fashioned candy kitchen. Ample picnic grounds are available for enjoying takeout from Columbia restaurants, and both parking and docent-led town tours are free. If you can, visit on the second Saturday of the month, when Gold Rush Days are staged. That’s when costumed docents bring history alive and special exhibits, stores and residences are open.
Bring Barkley along for a ride aboard a rumbling, horse-drawn stagecoach before heading over to Railtown, an outdoor museum where he can accompany you both on the grounds and in open-sided cars on steam-train excursions along the “Movie Railroad” that has starred in many a Hollywood film and television show. Harvest Haunt Express trains run weekends in October with a “skeleton crew” and fun weekly themes. Polar Express trains themed to the beloved children’s tale take off on 11 dates in November and December with storybook characters and Santa on board.
Photo Credit: Nikki Coleman