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Now shift gears—mentally and physically—with a walk through the grounds of William Bowers Bourn Jr., who took over management of the mine in 1879.

Bourn Cottage—a humble name for this magnificent country estate, where no expense was spared to create a two-story stone citadel patterned after the noble estates of 19th century England, complete with redwood interiors, and leaded-glass windows. The Mine Yard Tour sheds light on the rough lives of the miners who worked here.

Here, in a stretch of the snowmelt-fed American River that slides past the don’t-blink town of Coloma, a sawmill employee named James Marshall first discovered glints of the precious metal in the river’s silt. Coloma mushroomed into a town with some 10,000 people, and up went a schoolhouse, a general store, and a tin-roofed post office.

These and other historic buildings are now protected as part of Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park.

Your road trip now heads north on Highway 49 to begin a fascinating and fun trip to some of the Gold Rush’s most historic towns—also great destinations for innovative restaurants, award-winning wines, and charming boutiques and inns.