48 Hours in Off-the-beaten-path Gold Country
Nestled along Historic Hwy. 49 on the northern edge of Calaveras County you’ll find charming and quaint Mokelumne Hill—an entire town that is designated as a California Historical Landmark. But a trip to Mokelumne Hill (or “Moke Hill as locals call it) isn’t just for the history geeks out there, because this authentic Gold Country retreat offers a perfect weekend getaway for anyone who is looking to escape the grind and kick back at a leisurely pace. If you go, here’s how to make a weekend out of it…
FRIDAY – Cut your work week short and make your way to Mokelumne Hill—an easy drive that’s a little over an hour from Sacramento and 2.5 hours from San Francisco.
Check in to the Historic Hotel Leger, one of the oldest inns in the state, which recently received a welcome upgrade after appearing on the Travel Channel’s Hotel Impossible. Settle into one of the hotel’s 14 historic rooms before heading downstairs to the saloon to enjoy a libation in the very spot that outlaws like Black Bart could once be found playing cards. After all, this old-time watering hole has been serving spirits since 1851. There will be plenty of exploring tomorrow. For now, take in everything Hotel Leger has to offer and grab a table at its Whitewater Grill for some seasonal comfort food.
SATURDAY – Take a morning stroll through Mokelumne Hill’s cute neighborhood back streets, and end up at Frank’s Café, located along Hwy. 49 for a hearty breakfast. This family-owned shop knows how to fill your belly—especially if you’re a pancake lover. For something a bit more rustic, order up Frank’s chicken-fried steak and eggs which gets rave reviews from the locals.
You’re probably going to want to walk off a bit of that breakfast, so grab the Mokelumne Hill Walking Tour map and brochure, which are available for a suggested 50-cent donation at the Mokelumne Hill Library & Historic Center, Hotel Leger and various shops throughout town. As you locate more than 40 historic sites along Main Street and the surrounding neighborhood you’ll learn more about the town’s roots and the people that originally settled here. And if you’re fascinated by all this history make sure to spend some time at the Library. Here you’ll find historic documents and more fascinating information about the area, as well as a special series of photographs from a Moke Hill resident who was able to capture some amazing photographs of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 from a unique vantage point on a boat.
Continuing on the walking tour, you’ll pass by several shops that are worth checking out. Stop in at Moke Hill Nuts, which offers a slew of yummy samples for your tasting pleasure, as well as McHale’s Revival Shop, an eclectic little store specializing in vintage items and one-of-a-kind gifts. And don’t miss one of the biggest gems you’ll find along Main Street—Petroglyphe Gallery—a contemporary art gallery in an unlikely spot that not only features stunning art from a variety of artists, but offers great events throughout the year. (Insider tip: Petroglyphe Gallery will be hosting an Artist’s Opening Reception Party on October 5, 2013 from 6-9 pm to kick off its new exhibit, Personal Petroglyphs: Two Painters Journey in the Desert Southwest, which will run through November 10.)
After a morning of exploring and walking, kick back at the Waystation Alehouse & Grill for a burger and beer kind of lunch. Afterward, wine lovers are going to want to cross the street to check out Renegade Winery where you’re sure to find owners Mark and Sue Rueger behind the counter, pouring barrel samples and telling stories. Never seen a winery in action? You can’t get more up-close-and personal than you can here…their winemaking facilities are attached to the tasting room and open for touring.
Spend the rest of your afternoon lounging by Hotel Leger’s pool or reading a book down in the Saloon. Why not? Then, if you’ve got any room left in your belly (come on, it’s vacation!), head down to Jeff Tuttle’s Union House for wood-fired pizzas, and if you’re lucky, some local entertainment to help finish off the evening.
SUNDAY – You’re probably still full from yesterday, so grab a fresh pastry or bagel as part of Hotel Leger’s continental breakfast before you hit the road. On your way out of town, think about checking out California Cavern. Their convenient location near Mokelumne Hill gives you the perfect opportunity to have a good adventure before you head home. How daring are you? The Mammoth Cave Tour will have you walking, climbing and wiggling through thirteen chambers of the cavern.
Or, for a more relaxing morning, take your morning joe to go and grab a little slice of nature before you head out. Public access to the Mokelumne River is available at the Mokelumne River Whitewater Trail Middle Bar Launch site on Hwy. 49 just a few miles outside of town. Bring a chair, maybe even your fishing pole, and watch the river ripple by. Plan a summer trip, and you could even float away your Sunday and take a tube down the river.
This weekend itinerary offers the perfect mix of relaxation, wandering and fun in Mokelumne Hill. Have you been? Tell us what you love about Historic Mokelumne Hill below.