Placer County, California audio tour: California’s Gold Rush: A Highway 49 driving tour from Auburn to Placerville

California’s Gold Rush: A Highway 49 driving tour from Auburn to Placerville

Driving Tour

120 mins

About the Tour

Explore California’s Gold Country on a driving tour along Highway 49, and some of the state’s most peaceful backroads from Auburn to Placerville. I’ll share the history of the California Gold Rush as you visit the gold rush towns of Auburn, Placerville and Coloma, where gold was first discovered in January 1848. You’ll also hear stories from miners’ diaries that’ll bring history to life.

Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the Gold Rush Museum, a stamp mill, and a blacksmith shop. You’ll also find examples of some of the tools used in placer mining, the method used to find minerals in stream beds, which gave Placerville its name.

Your drive from Auburn to Placerville takes you along the spectacular American River. We’ll offer plenty of suggestions of places to get out and stretch your legs, and walk along the river where early prospectors panned for gold.

On this tour, you’ll have the opportunity to:

• See where gold was first discovered by James Marshall at John Sutter’s Mill whilevisiting Marshall Gold Discovery State Park
• Learn how gold was mined
• Find out how miners traveled to California in 1848
• Explore Gold Bug Mine, an actual hard-rock mine from the late 1880’s
• Take in the beauty of the peaceful, untouched backroads of California
• Hike along the Gerle Loop trail at Magnolia Ranch Trailhead where you’ll catch glimpses of the American River
• See the James Marshall Monument and learn more about the man who first reported gold in the area

This driving tour is the first part of a series of four driving tours that explore California’s Gold Country, covering the area from Auburn to Jamestown, California. Each tour in the series may be enjoyed on its own or together, as part of the series. All stops along the way are optional. Fees to visit parks, trailheads, wineries, or museums are not included in the price of this tour. For detailed information about the stops on this driving tour, please see “Places to stop along the way” in the tour description.

This 32-mile driving tour may be completed in about 2 hours without any stops. On the other hand, this is your adventure. You may stop where you want when you want and for as long as you want. It’s up to you. Happy Adventures!


Voice acting credit: Voice of John Doble by Brandon Baumann

Please review the “Precautions” section for important information on driving and hiking.

Companion Hiking and Walking Tours of the Gold Rush Country may be found here


Redwood Trail by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

Fig Leaf Rag - distressed by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

Drankin Song by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

Tour Producer


Lynn Momboisse

Hi! My name is Lynn and I am a native of California and have resided in Northern California for most of my life. For many years I lived in beautiful Carmel-by-the-Sea where I co-authored the book Historic Homes and Inns of Carmel-by-the-Sea. My love of history and passion for discovering the beauty of the Golden State has led me to create a fun little blog titled "Adventures of a Home Town Tourist" where I recount many of my walking tours and hiking adventures throughout the world. I currently live in the majestic Sierra Foothills and will be exploring and writing about my adventures throughout this gorgeous country. And now I'll be able to further share my travels with you through the power of the new VoiceMap tour app. I can't wait for you to join me. Happy Adventures!

How VoiceMap Works

Focus on your surroundings, not the screen

VoiceMap’s audio tour app uses GPS to play audio automatically, at the right time and place. Just install it, then download your tour and go to the starting point to begin your walk, drive, cycle, train trip or even boat ride.

Follow a route with turn-by-turn-directions

Tours follow a route from a fixed starting point. This is how we provide turn-by-turn directions. It also helps publishers tell a story greater than the sum of its parts. But you can use Resume to pick up a tour from the closest location whenever you like.

Listen as many times as you like

You can listen to your tours as often as you like using both the VoiceMap app and the VoiceMap website. Your access to tours doesn’t expire.

Take virtual tours anywhere

Just select Virtual mode in the VoiceMap app to listen to tours at home – or anywhere else. You’ll see the option after you download the tour. You can also listen to the whole tour here on the website.

Buy for less on and sync

Once you’ve purchased a tour, it’s added to your VoiceMap library. If you sign into the app using the same method you used on the website, you’ll have access to your full library of tours in both places.

Use VoiceMap offline

The VoiceMap app works entirely offline if there’s no data connection, so you don’t have to pay roaming fees. Just download the tour over WiFi before you get started.

Major Landmarks

  • Old Town Auburn

  • Auburn Gold Rush Museum

  • Black Hole of Calcutta Falls Trail

  • Everhart Vineyards & Winery

  • Magnolia Ranch Trailhead for Gerle Loop Trail

  • American River

  • Marshall Gold Discovery State Park

  • Replica Sutter’s Mill

  • James Marshall Monument

  • Gold Bug Mine

  • Old Town Placerville

Directions to Starting Point

Starting point Valero Gas Station 1650 Lincoln Way, Auburn California

From the south
Take Highway I-80 E. Exit 119A from I-80 E. The Valero Gas Station will be visible as you exit the freeway. Pull into the parking area next to the Food Shop and park facing the large statue of the prospector across the street.

From the north
Take Highway I-80 W. Exit 119A from I-80 W. Follow sign for Old Town Auburn and turn right on Placer Street. Turn right and cross over freeway using Union Street. Turn right onto Maple Street. Left into the Valero Gas Station. Pull into the parking area next to the Food Shop and park facing the large statue of the prospector across the street.

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Places to stop along the way

Companion Hiking and Walking Tours of the Gold Rush Country may be found here

All listed opening and closing times are as of April 2022 and subject to change at any time.

THE FOLLOWING STOPS ARE OPTIONAL. Parking fees for stops are not included in the price of this audio tour.

For basic information of individual California State Parks visit their website
If you enter and pay for parking at a California State Park, keep your parking receipt as it is good for parking at any other California State Park you visit on the same day.

OLD TOWN AUBURN: See self-guided walking map in companion brochure

GOLD RUSH MUSEUM: (601 Lincoln Way, Auburn) / Open Friday – Sunday: 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. / Admission is free.

BLACK HOLE OF CALCUTTA FALLS TRAILHEAD: (Auburn State Recreational Area - Intersection of Highway 193 and Highway 49 in Auburn) / Limited free parking / paid parking is $10

EVERHART VINEYARDS & WINERY: (5821 Highway 49, Pilot Hill) / Hours Thursday through Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 pm. / (530-885-WINE) / Charge for tasting.

MAGNOLIA TRAILHEAD FOR GERLE LOOP: (6023 Coloma Road/Highway 49, Pilot Hill) / Restroom facility in parking lot/ Free Parking

MARSHALL GOLD DISCOVERY STATE HISTORIC PARK: (Highway 49, Coloma) / Day Use Open 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. / Visitor Center and Museum Open 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m./ Public Restroom in Parking lot. More info here

LUCE DITCH FLUME RED SHACK TRAILHEAD: (Intersection of Red Shack Road and Highway 49, Coloma) / Free parking / No Restroom Facility

GOLD BUG MINE: (2635 Gold Bug Lane, Placerville) / Open November through March Saturday and Sunday only weather permitting 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. / Open April through October daily weather permitting from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. / Free parking and to explore the grounds / $10 to tour the mine, blacksmith and stamp mill / Portable Restroom in Parking lot

PLACERVILLE: See self-guided walking map in companion brochure.

Best time of day

This area of California may be enjoyed at any time of the year. But if you have an option, visit in the spring, summer, or early fall. Spring and fall because of the cooler weather. Summer, though more crowded and much warmer than other times of the year, has the largest open hours for parks and museums. See PLACES TO STOP ALONG THE WAY for current museum and park hours.


Speed limits on the highway during this driving tour average between 35 and 50 miles an hour. Take your time, be cautious and mindful as you drive these winding backroads. Pull over at turn-outs if you find cars piling up behind you. Obey the speed limit and any California Transportation workers instructions.

When we are touring through the old towns along this tour please keep your speed limit at or under 15 miles per hour.

If you park and leave your car for any reason, cover all your valuables, securely lock your car doors and take your keys with you. Cars are too often broken into, so it is best to take ALL valuables with you.

If you take any of the optional hikes along the way, stay on the paths and be careful as you walk, as the paths are uneven. Avoid touching poison oak which is prevalent near most paths.

This tour relies on GPS, not cell reception, so your tour will run well even on back roads, however you will not have reliable cell reception in some areas along this driving tour, so you will not be able to send or receive texts or receive calls along various stretches of this highway.

Search for VoiceMap Audio Tour on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Download the free App. Sign Up for a new account with your email and a password of your choice, go to the Explore option and search for “PLACER COUNTY” and purchase the tour you are interested in.

Download the tour while you have good WiFi reception. Click on the gear icon on the lower right corner and put the tour into yd/mi mode and turn off Tour Player Autolock and Audio Lost Alert.

Then, select the “ACCOUNT” option, select the tour you are going to take and read the information in the “ABOUT” option in the upper right. If you need directions to the starting point select “DIRECTIONS”. It will open another window in Apple Maps. You will need to close that window or use your phones interface to go back to the VoiceMap app to start the tour.

Go to your starting point, press “START” and follow the instructions of the narrator. Place your phone in a hands free holder on your car dashboard as there is a map on your screen that will show our travel route.

We also suggest that you have your phone plugged into an external charging port so that your tour isn’t interrupted by a dead battery.

You may pause this tour at any time using the pause button and resume it at any of the locations along the tour. If you decide stop along the way and take a meal break, or take one of the optional hikes, you should exit your tour by pressing the “END TOUR” downward facing arrow on the top right, then just restart it from the closest location by restarting the tour using the “Resume” button. You will be prompted with 3 stops. Chose the stop closest to your location.

Using the Video setting on your phone will shut down the VoiceMap app (and every other open app) and you will need to reload your tour. So, if you are using your phone for photos, try to use the Photo setting.


Preview mode limited to first 3 locations.
California’s Gold Rush: A Highway 49 driving tour from Auburn to Placerville