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Yosemite, California: Day Trip to the Gold Rush Town of Columbia

Summary. The historic goldrush town of Columbia is great for kids. The town center is preserved in a way that takes you back to the 1850s gold rush. Candy shops, saloons, and ice cream parlors line main street. Visitors can take horse drawn carriage rides or pan for real gold.


Getting there. The Town of Columbia is located in the Sierra Nevada foothills and just 4 miles from Sonora, where we stayed when visiting Yosemite, California. From Yosemite, it is about a 90 minute drive. Upon arrival, we parked in public parking and headed to the town center by foot.


Historic town. The town was founded in 1850 during the Gold Rush. Thousands arrived to try their hand at striking gold though just 10 years later, nearly all the gold had been mined. During the peak, the town had an estimated 6,000 residents and today has roughly 2,300. The historic district is actually a California State Park, featuring horse-drawn carriage rides, a museum, salons, ice cream shops, candy stores, and more.

Don't forget to stop at the museum to see some gold rush artifacts.

Pan for Gold. A fun little activity for the kids is have them try their hand at panning for Gold. Matelot Gulch Mining Co, located within the State Park provide the tools the kids will need to sift through the water, dirt, and stones for gold. Docents at the State Park dress in period costumes which definitely ads to the fun.

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