Northern California is famous for its wine, but what we love most about wine country is all the other things to do that this area offers besides just tasting alcohol! There’s amazing wine in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Placer, El Dorado, Amador, and Calaveras Counties, so we decided to show you how much fun you can have in these incredible locations.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date. If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here:
1. Take a hike in Hidden Falls Regional Park, Auburn.
Burn off some of those calories before you even make it to the winery. This fun and mellow hike in Auburn features a waterfall and is simply breathtaking. 7587 Mears Pl, Auburn
2. Start your wine tasting in the heart of Gold Country.
Head south on 49 from Auburn towards Placerville. Enjoy the rural way of life and the many wineries scattered in between these two major foothill towns. Pictured here is David Girard Vineyards, which will make you feel like you are in the middle of Napa or Tuscany, not the countryside of El Dorado County. 741 Cold Springs Rd, Placerville
3. Go whitewater rafting (with a guide!).
The South Fork of the American River is right there, and if you have never been before, rafting this whitewater river is an unforgettable experience. Make sure you book your trip through an experienced guiding company that will get you outfitted with all the correct safety gear and make sure you make it down the river safely.
4. Pan for gold in Coloma.
If rafting is a little too intense for you, there is still plenty of fun to be had in Coloma on the banks of the South Fork of the American. Learn to gold pan in the spot that sparked the start of the gold rush. The Marshall Gold Discovery State Park offers lessons, or you can pick up a pan and try your luck in the river itself. 310 Back St, Coloma
5. Sip wine outside, preferably somewhere with a view.
Tasting wine in the Sierra Nevada foothills is an outdoor experience, which is why you should seek out wineries with amazing outdoor spaces, like Lava Cap near Placerville. Pictured here, the patio space offers jaw dropping views of the vineyards and surrounding foothills. 2221 Fruitridge Rd, Placerville
6. Enjoy a casual yet sophisticated dinner out.
For a meal out that serves up plenty of flavor and old fashioned American fare with a classy attention for detail, head over to Bricks Eats and Drinks in Placerville. They offer burgers, entrees, locally sourced salads, and appetizers to die for. You will fall in love with the entire atmosphere that this place cultivates. 482 Main St, Placerville
7. Camp out under the stars at Sly Park, Jenkinson Lake.
If you enjoy camping, then you know there is no better feeling than falling asleep in nature and waking up in a tent. Check out Sly Park, which is easily accessed off highway 50 and offers easy access to the nearby grocery store. 4771 Sly Park Rd, Pollock Pines
8. Stay overnight at a guest ranch.
If you prefer going to bed with a roof over your head, try out the highly rated Seven-Up Guest Ranch. The guest cabins fit in nicely with your rural trip, and you will get a feel for what it's like to actually live in Gold Country. It also shares a driveway with the nearby Skinner Vineyards and is centrally located between the greater El Dorado Wine Country and Amador's famous Shenandoah Valley. 8060 Fairplay Road, Fair Play
9. Treat yourself to a hearty breakfast that is the next best thing to homemade.
There are few breakfast places that are loved as much as Sweetie Pies in Placerville. From their Olalieberry Muffins to their delectable quiche, you will wonder how you lived before trying this quaint establishment. Pictured here are the quiche, country potatoes and their world famous pancakes. 577 Main St, Placerville
10. Find farm fresh fruits and veggies in Apple Hill.
From there, load up on healthy snacks in Apple Hill, where you can tour the orchards and wineries all in one go. Stop in at farms like High Hill, Abel's Acres, and Kid's Inc. Top wineries in this region include Boeger, Madroña, and Crystal Basin. You can start your Apple Hill exploration here: 2461 Larsen Dr, Camino
11. Visit and paddle Lake Tahoe.
If you feel up for a scenic drive up Highway 50, continue east to South Lake Tahoe, where you can rent standup paddle boards and kayaks. This is a great way to experience the mountain scenery and the crystal clear water this region is known for. We recommend South Tahoe Standup for paddle rentals: 3135 Harrison Ave, South Lake Tahoe
12. Escape the Tahoe crowds at a remote mountain retreat.
Book a room or spacious cottage at Pioneer Inn & Suites, which is located in Amador County. It's a great break from the hustle and bustle of some of the more crowded mountain resorts, and its staff are incredibly friendly and accommodating. 24144 Ca Highway 88, Pioneer
13. Go underground at Black Chasm Caverns.
For a one of kind tour you won't find anywhere else, go explore the Black Chasm Caverns in Volcano. It's an experience like nothing else, and your guide is with you the whole time as you tour these natural caves. 15701 Volcano Pioneer Rd, Volcano
14. Walk through the towering giants of Calaveras Big Trees State Park.
This state park preserves two groves of ancient sequoia trees, and a walk through these woods will leave you impressed by their magnificent scale. It's also a great chance to stretch those legs after all this driving and adventuring.
15. Relax with a glass of wine as the sun goes down.
End your day at the incredible wineries of Amador's Shenandoah Valley. As we mentioned before, this outdoor-oriented adventure is best complemented by wineries that let you enjoy their fine wines outside. We are particularly fond of Karmere Vineyards & Winery, located at 11970 Shenandoah Rd
Plymouth. Other places to try include Oakstone, Renwood, and Toogood Estate Winery.
What did you think of this Northern California Wine Weekend itinerary? Be sure to share your thoughts on Facebook or in the comments below. Cheers!