Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory

One Tank Trip for California Camping (Northern)

Sponsored By:
Jackson Rancheria RV Park

There’s an interesting dynamic at work in the mountainous regions of Northern California. You’re very aware that this is a thriving, modern-day community, but when you smell that sharp, crisp, pine-scented mountain air and hear nothing but the sounds of nature around you, it feels like you’ve been transported back to the Gold Rush days, when this entire area was besieged with prospectors trying to make their fortunes because there was “gold in them thar hills!” Time marches on, but in this neck of the woods it does so at a much slower rate.

Mariposa is a prime example of this phenomenon. Travelers relate tales of how this town is a blend of the Old West and “Leave it to Beaver.” This is the kind of place that might have inspired Norman Rockwell; where your neighbors act like family and you can leave your doors unlocked. You can almost smell the fresh-baked pies as they’re left to cool in the windows. You may want to saddle up a horse and go for a ride on any of the numerous mountain trails, or drop a raft into the Merced River. Try your hand at panning for gold, or just sit by the riverbank with a fishing line in the water.

One of Mother’s Nature’s masterpieces is a mere 20 miles to the east on Highway 140: Yosemite National Park. For those of you who’ve never experienced the grandeur and majesty of Yosemite, you’re in for a special treat of California camping. There’s a very raw, almost primitive feel to this massive park, with miles of hiking trails, rocks to climb, waterfalls virtually everywhere you look, and of course, the sheer granite cliff – “El Capitan”. Stabbing 3,000 feet into the air, this monolith is a favorite challenge for climbers who want to test their skill. For those of us who like to keep our feet on the ground, there are plenty of sites to set up the grill and make camp.

Returning to Highway 49, the wine country of Sonora lies just 56 miles north of Mariposa, and has several wineries available for tours and tastings on this one tank trip. Some have vineyards adjacent to the premises, while others process their wine from grapes grown in the Napa Valley. Either way, this region produces some of the most palate-pleasing wine to be found anywhere.

Traveling 16 miles further north on Highway 49 takes you to Angels Camp, a small town that, like others in this area, has that Old West flair. Angels Camp has its share of wineries too, and for those interested in Western history, several mining towns are in the surrounding area, as well as many buildings left over from the Gold Rush days, and all are ready to be explored.

From Angels Camp it’s on to Jackson, which is a little less than 30 miles to the north on Highway 49. Jackson has a rich history, having first been established in 1848. The city burned to the ground less than twenty years later and was subsequently rebuilt. Today, more than forty of Jackson’s Civil War-era buildings still stand.

Keep going north on Highway 49 and 17 miles later you’ll find yourself California camping in Plymouth, which rests at the center of Gold Country. If you fancy a wine tour throughout the Shenandoah Valley, Plymouth makes an excellent beginning, being located smack-dab in the middle of wineries. You’ll aslo find museums dedicated to showcasing the history of the Gold Rush, along with a Chinese herb shop, which stands as the sole reminder of the area’s once-thriving Asian community.

A little over 20 miles further north on Highway 49, lies what used to be the final stop for lawbreakers and outlaws: Old Hangtown. Nowadays it goes by the much gentler moniker of Placerville, but this was where many a scoundrel met his end with a short drop and sudden stop. This quiet community is nestled between two mountain ranges that are thickly lined with pine trees, and the odds are good that you’ll see some tame deer and other small animals that make this area their home. Take a walk down main street, and you’ll find the Placerville Hardware Store, which has been in operation since the mid 1800s – and oddly enough, you can still buy gold-panning equipment!

Your last one tank trip stop, Auburn, is situated 28 miles west of Placerville on Highway 49. Like many of the towns in this area, started as a mining facility. One thing led to another, and in the mid-1800s, the town of Auburn was officially established. These days, Auburn serves as a vacation getaway, with opportunities for rafting, fishing, golf, and a surplus of biking trails. Take in some California history or just sit by the side of the creek and take a load off your feet.

Time may wait for no one, but in this part of Northern California, it at least ticks past slower.

Other Area Sponsors in California:
Cal Expo RV Park
Capitol West RV & MH Park

Woodall's Recommended California RV Campgrounds