CA Gold Rush

We’ve all heard of the 49ers right? No no, I’m not referring to the San Francisco football team… I’m talking about something else! The 49ers- a nickname given to the miners that took part in the 1849 California Gold Rush. 

Located in the Northeastern area in CA, the historic Highway 49 passes through the old mining communities that have been very well preserved. Go on a roadtrip through this highway to travel back in time to the sights of these mining towns! It’s perfect for families with kids as there are tons of interactive mining activities to experience, for history lovers that want to take a step back in time, for architectural lovers to admire different structures and couples looking to get a change of scenery. 

HISTORY

A glimpse of history… On Jan 24,1848, James Wilson Marshall, a carpenter from NJ found flakes of gold in the American River at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains. This moment instantly changed California- leading to the largest immigration in US history! Word got out worldwide- migrants from Chile, China, Peru, Brazil, Caribbeans etc spent their life savings to make the trek to CA to pursue their dream of gaining immense wealth! People dreamed of striking big and living a prosperous life and California experienced a huge rapid economic growth. Because of this event, a total of $2 billion worth of precious metals was extracted during the Gold Rush period.

AWARENESS

Although the Gold Rush was a significant event that has shaped our history, it is IMPORTANT we recognize the shameful parts of our past as it created dark devastation to the Native Americans community. The Gold Rush was a heinous chapter in CA history & I personally find it important to address and spread more awareness on the whole truth before we get to the fun sights and itinerary.

First, all the mining, specifically hydraulic mining, destroyed the regions landscape. It ruined fertile land for native farmers, choked the rivers with sediments, ultimately destroying crops, making it extremely difficult for Native Americans to survive and eventually became victims of starvation.

Second, violence, discrimination and genocide against Native Americans were carried out. Hundreds of Native Americans were enslaved and used as laborers and makeshift militia for James Marshall (the one who found flakes of gold) to defend his territory and expand his empire. Mass massacres wiped out tribal populations (9,000-16,000 were murdered in cold blood), children were forced to attend “Indian Assimilation School,” and people caught diseases that were brought in from overseas. 80% of Native Americans were wiped out 20 years later, specifically the Nisenan Maidu and Miwok tribes, and by 1870, only 30,000 Native Americans remained in CA, most of them on reservations WITHOUT access to their homelands. 

This part of the history shouldn’t be overlooked or avoided because ignoring our history doesn’t make the situation disappear. There can only be progress by confronting the truth, acknowledging these experiences, learning from the past so we can move forward. Keep that in mind as you explore these communities!  

Towns and developments were created to accommodate the gold miners and to this day, so many of them are still well maintained for historical preservation and tourism! You’ll have an array of Gold Rush towns to choose from, however not all of them are worth visiting. All the towns start to blend together, but there was one town that was memorable and stood out the most so I will be highlighting that one!

COLUMBIA, CA 

Columbia State Historic Park 

This area is the largest single collection of existing Gold Rush era structures! You can spend a whole day roaming around here- the streets are lined up with boutiques specializing in nineteenth century goods. You’ll see merchants dressed in 1850’s costumes, areas for you to pan for gold, museums & blacksmith shops. Fun fact- I was told by a local that the reason so many of these towns are at the bottom of hilly mountains is because of all the mining. The land use to be flat and because of the insane digging it created these huge pits.

P.S I applaud the town for its free admission, parking, and guides!! You can even bowl for free at an antique bowling alley.

Stop by a saloon to quench your thirst with a Sarsaparilla soda (tastes just like root beer!) This is a popular soda in Southeast Asia- I actually grew up drinking it and didn’t understand why it was so popular in these historical towns. I learned that the Native Americans used Sarsaparilla as a medicinal drink to cure blood problems. Sarsaparilla is produced from a vine and the beverage became popular in the US in the 19th century.

Other Gold Rush Towns to visit if you have extra time!

Jamestown: Railtown 1897 State Historic Park- offers seasonal excursion rides! Featured in a ton of films. 

Murphy: For wine lovers! A Charming town known for their vineyards & award winning wine- there are 25 wine tasting rooms along the main street.

Nevada City: Hike the Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

Sonora: Sonora, named after the miners from Sonora Mexico who settled the City in 1848. Visit the Tuolumne Museum  & History Center.

Sutter Creek: Visit Knight Fondry- a national historic mechanical Engineering Landmark

INSTAGRAMMABLE SEDONA

I dive straight to the point and list out all of my top instagrammable spots in each city I visit. I know, I know, it sounds so cliche/vain and I’m well aware that traveling is NOT about getting the most perfect shots or creating a false illusion on social media, but I truly enjoy the process and experience of capturing these moments and hope it inspires and motivates you to get out of your comfort zone and explore these magical destinations . The photos are not just for the world to see, but for my memories and keepsake. If you enjoy capturing some killer angles and views, keep on reading! 

Disclaimer: Please be respectful. Be polite. Be educated. Be safe. Act with manners. Every city is special, ancient, historical, etc. So please do NOT climb on a monument, dress appropriately, don’t hog a spot if you see a bunch of people waiting to have a turn, don’t ride an elephant (harms the animal/not an industry you should support), trespass into private property, etc. You get the point…?

Seems to me we are turning road trips to Sedona into a yearly tradition! Our first trip here was around the same time last year and we could not get enough of it! As you drive towards Sedona, you start seeing the red canyons peaking in the distance and the closer you get, the more amazed you become. There truly is something special about this town. The abundant, positive energy flow radiates here. You instantly connect deeper to your spirituality, there is heightened inner peace that settles in, and you instantaneously become present. The thoughts, stressors, anxieties in life magically fade away and you become one with Earth’s power.  Even with 2 trips here, I still feel like there are soooo many other spots I’ve missed and have not yet visited. These are just the main instagrammable spots that I recommend so far.

SECRET SLICKROCK

This was a hidden gem that we discovered through our airbnb host. It was literally in their backyard (about a 10 min walk) There is a trail that you can follow to get to this spot called the Secret Slickrock Trailhead. It’s only a short walk up to an unobstructed view of Cathedral Rock.  It’s not as popular of a spot so you can definitely find some peaceful moments here for sunset/sunrise. We sat down and watched the mountains glow from red to orange as the sun came down and it was a pretty epic moment. Highly recommend to set up a fun little picnic!

Address: Chavez Crossing Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336

FAY CANYON ARCH TRAIL

1.5 mile out and back trail that is soooo underrated! It’s got an awesome view and a thrilling upward climb (as if you’re rockclimbing) It’s pretty steep towards the end so if you have a fear of heights, this might not be for you. I do want to point out that as you are on the Fay Canyon trail, there is a normal straight trail that is very walkable, however the spot pictured above is a side trail that takes you UP to the arch so don’t get confused! You will abruptly turn right to continue on an unmarked trail… The only way to describe the entrance is you will see 2 cairns with a wooden stick on top… I know, slightly confusing but make sure you are looking out for it as you walk on the trail at the bottom. From there, you just keep hiking up until you reach the arch! (Side Trail for Arch (marked by cairns)34.9083775, -111.8627545) You can also download the trail map app that will show you where the entrance to that turn is.

RED ROCK CROSSING

Park at the Crescent Moon Picnic Site (Address: 300 Red Rock Crossing Rd, Munds Park, AZ 86017)

There is a $11 fee (cash only), please support and be a good citizen even if there’s not a person monitoring. The money goes towards maintenance and supporting Sedona national parks. From the parking/ picnic area, continue on a path that leads you towards Oak Creek. You will see an old ranch on the left side, but head right in stead! There is an entrance to a path that will lead you closer to the creek. Check out this website for more information on how to get to the specific vortex energy spot here.

Address: 333 Red Rock Crossing Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336

BELL ROCK TRAIL

Unfortunately, it was over 95 degrees all weekend long and it was impossible to go on a long hike. Even stepping out for more than 10 minutes in the sun made you feel a little loopy. We decided it was not a safe choice to hike, but I read everywhere online that this is quite an enjoyable hike. We wandered around the entrance of the trail for about 5 minutes and even from the bottom of the trail you can capture an insane view. 

Address: Bell Rock Access Trail, Sedona, AZ 86336

Soldier’s Pass/ Brins Mesa 

Wow wow wow! This was our very first hike in Sedona last year and it exceeded our expectations. If you only have time for 1 hike in Sedona, this is the one I would HIGHLY recommend. If you know me well, you know I’m not a work out fanatic, but if I can get through this hike, you can too! This was recommended to us by our airbnb host. We started bright and early at 5AM to avoid the heat later in the day. It’s a 6.4 mile loop and you will pass by the 7 sacred pools. We loved every minute of it. This hike is on the longer end with no shade the majority of the time, so please pack enough water and snacks.

Directions: From the roundabout intersection of State Route 179 and State Route 89A in Sedona, go north on SR 89A for 0.2 miles to Jordan Road. Turn left onto Jordan Road and continue 0.7 miles to Park Ridge Drive. Turn left onto Park Ridge Drive and continue 0.1 miles to where the pavement ends. From there, continue 0.5 miles on the dirt road that leads to the Jim Thompson Trailhead.

LOVER’S KNOLL

One of my favorite scenic viewpoint. Parking is limited since you do pull over on the side of the road. It doesn’t get crowded and you don’t have to do too much walking to get to this spot. Absolutely breathtaking view!

Address: 1891 Upper Red Rock Loop Road Sedona, AZ 86336 GPS Coordinates: 34.8388857, Lng: -111.8235568

AERIE TRAILHEAD

I’ve read that it was a pretty boring trail, but the drive here was very enjoyable. It’s a bit more secluded and farther away from the center of town so if you are looking for a quiet spot to enjoy the scenery then this is the place! We did not do the hike, but rather found a space to sit and watch the sunset from the parking lot.

Address: 340 Aerie Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336

CRESCENT MOON RANCH

If you’re looking for serenity, this is it. Listen to the water running in the creek and admire the glowing rocks during sunset. You won’t want to leave this place. It’s so spread out that you can roam and wander everywhere without it being too crowded. This trail is not strenuous and you won’t have to hike at all so it is the perfect place if you’re looking for a relaxing stroll during sunset.

Address: 333 Red Rock Crossing Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336

AIRBNB: CATHEDRAL ROCK VIEW

This Airbnb was such a gem. The price was considerably cheap compared to all the other accommodations in Sedona. You feel the energy of Sedona the moment you wake up and look out the window. It’s a small space, but there’s everything you would need inside. There’s privacy (separate entrance on the side door), everything was sparkling clean, a grill outside to use, a spacious backyard for you to roam freely and explore. Most of the bathrooms in hotels/airbbnbs have never exceeded my expectations, but the shower here made me want to take an hour long shower! I looovedddd the shower here- it was a luxurious rain shower system and wish I could transport back to my home. If you’re coming to Sedona & you love airbnbs, this is the place to stay at!!

Use my LINK to sign up and get $20 off your first home booking!!


I’d love to see your recreations of these instagrammable spots, so don’t forget to tag me on IG @sophcation ! Have a rejuvenating time here and stayed tuned for my next adventure!

Xoxo, Soph

INSTAGRAMMABLE PCH

We finally had the chance to explore  our home state, California, from the comfort of our car. David and I both grew up in Santa Monica, CA and I lived in northern CA for 4 years (UC Davis for college), and we’ve done road trips here and there, but we’ve never taken the coast on Highway 1 the whole way. I don’t know why it didn’t happen sooner because it was an epic adventure! So I’m super excited to share my guide with you and hope it encourages you to get out of the comfort of your home and explore the beauty the California coast has to offer. I will most definitely be doing this drive again in the future!

Find more photo inspo on my instagram @sophcation !

SANTA MONICA, CA

We left around 8am and started our drive on PCH. One thing I prefer with driving vs flying is that you can pack AS MUCH AS YOU WANT and it’s so accessible. It’s a long drive so I recommend bringing water, tea, snacks for the road and using the bathroom before you leave the house. No one enjoys peeing in a gas station bathroom… 

SANTA BARBARA, CA

Santa Barbara Courthouse

Our first stop! We’ve been here a couple times already, but here’s a few things you can do: munch on some seafood along the wharf, visit the old mission, go on a whale watching tour, etc . Santa Barbara hands down has the most beautiful courthouse, so this time we stopped by to admire the old Spanish architecture! 

SURF BEACH // LOMPOC, CA

Surf Beach

We turned off our GPS and made the wrong turn, but it led us to the most beautiful beach in CA….. I COULD NOT believe it. Growing up in SM, our beaches were always muddy and brown and I always thought I had to travel far to find serene, white sand, turquoise water beaches. I never realized that there was one this close! It reminded me of the beaches in Cape Town, South Africa. 

When you pull up, there is a small parking lot (maybe fits around 15 cars?) At first, we pulled over at this dead end to check our GPS, but something made me hop out the car and walk over to see what it was all about…. And when I walked past the parking lot over a slight hill, I looked down and saw the most precious and clean beach. I ran back to the car and told David that he HAD to come out and see it.

Surf Beach is a public beach located on Vandenberg Air Force Base. The areas north/south of Surf Beach are closed intermittently on March 1st-Sept 30 to protect the Snowy Plover bird nesting spots. If human violations reach over 50 times, the ENTIRE beach will be closed for the remainder of the nesting season. So be respectful, protect our wildlife/nature & don’t ever leave trash when visiting.. PLEASE.

ELEPHANT SEALS // SAN SIMEON, CA

Elephant Seals

This spot is located right off Highway 1 and is the ONLY elephant seal rookery in the world that is easily accessible. I am all about conservation and I have so much respect for the state for fencing the whole area off to protect these animals. Observing and witnessing these beauties in nature is such a gift. 

The elephant seals birth and breed around December- March. There is a designated parking lot and a couple pathways for you to roam around. DO NOT throw food, taunt, disrespect, etc when you are visiting. The seals are protected by federal law so it is illegal to touch, throw things at them to cause a reaction…  Use common sense and enjoy the wildlife here. 

RAGGED POINT

The stretch of highway from San Simeon to Big Sur is so incredibly picturesque. There are jaw dropping views in every twist and turn. We couldn’t help it and stopped every 5 minutes to enjoy the scenery! There are a ton of turn offs for you to pull over to take a photo. Make sure to slow down and put your signals on so cars behind you can be alerted since cars are going pretty fast here. Don’t be an idiot and hop over the fence to get a shot- it’s not safe.

BIG SUR, CA

Now this stretch of the drive was so enchanting. Take your time and pull over whenever you see something you want to explore. We had the windows down, and I heard some running water so we decided to pull over to find out. We found the Big Sur Creek and it was so magical and lush. It’s as if you walked into Disney’s Snow White movie with massive redwood trees all around you. Dip your feet into the creek for a refreshing break! I promise you won’t regret it! (*use bug spray to avoid bites)

BIXBY CREEK BRIDGE // BIG SUR, CA

Bixby Creek Bridge

You HAVE to pull over at the northern turnout and hop out to admire the beauty of architectural beauty. This iconic bridge was completed in 1932 and is one of the tallest single- span concrete bridges in the whole world. 

I recommend taking photos on the North side of the bridge.  The winds can get pretty strong here so please be careful and don’t get too close to the edge… Your life is more important than an epic photo on social media.. 

PEBBLE BEACH, CA

The Bench Restaurant. Located on 17 mile drive in Pebble Beach

The popular 17 mile drive…. We did this drive a couple years ago and you have to do this drive in your lifestime. Inside the 17 mile drive, there is a special restaurant we fell in love with. We dined at The Bench and lucked out with the best seats! Highly recommend this restaurant- can be a bit pricy… but the food was delicious!!! Tip: order seafood whenever you’re seaside- it will never disappoint.

MONTEREY, CA

I took a class in high school called California Literature and we studied John Steinbeck religiously (Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men). At the end of the year, our class took a road trip up the coast and spent some time here in Monterey. John Steinbeck is one of the best known American literary figures and you can tour the house that inspired him to write the character “Doc” in Cannery Row. Last time David and I visited Monterey Bay, we visited Monterey Bay Aquarium and walked around the quaint fisherman’s wharf.

SAN JUAN BAUTISTA, CA

Lastly, we stayed in an eco friendly luxurious Airbnb tent at a working cattle ranch. The most chic way of “glamping” and honestly, the only way I could actually camp in a tent… haha don’t judge.  It is a solar powered tent with a mini kichenette, fireplace, and separate cabin for bathroom. When you’re out in nature, there’s bound to be bugs everywhere, but this place was maintained and cleaned VERY well. You should still bring bug spray with high amounts of deet (listen I’ve tried the organic “all natural” bug spray… it doesn’t work. I got eaten alive in Thailand bc of it.) The host goes above and beyond by preparing wine, chocolates, cheese plate, and adds excellent touches in every corner of the tent. The bed/ pillows were EXTREMELY comfortable and clean. The bathroom had an outdoor shower with all the amenities you’d need and truly every detail that went into this was intentional & thoughtful. We loved the starry night, epic sunset, and morning birds chirping. It was quite a spectacular getaway. We highly recommend it and can’t wait to return.

XOXO,

Soph