RV Vacation Idea – Panning for Gold in California’s Sierra Nevada

Gold Nugget

Gold Nugget

California’s Sierra Nevada region is famous for a number of reasons. It is home to Yosemite, King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. It runs through Central and Eastern California in a mighty green swath where waterfalls, giant trees, and rugged mountain peaks amaze its visitors. But there’s one more great reason to visit the Sierra Nevada on your next RV vacation, and that’s the abundant gold panning opportunities waiting there. Here’s what you need to know to plan your gold panning RV vacation.

No Claim Jumping!
Let’s talk about the most important “need to know.” Because California is world-famous for its gold rush days, it stands to reason that millions of acres of its land and waterways have been staked as private claims for gold prospecting. It’s important to avoid those private claims on your trip!

You’ll want to focus your search for gold on areas where “public casual panning” is allowed. That simply means you can use your hands and pans to collect gold from a waterway for non-commercial purposes. Here are some suggestions for places to pan for nuggets:

  • Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park – This park is a study in gold mining history! Tour the museum to learn the impact of hydraulic mining on the environment and then take part in gold panning on Humbug Creek. Check their website for public panning schedules. Rent an RV for the trip in Reno, two hours east or Sacramento, about two hours south. Where to camp? Nevada County Gold’s website has a comprehensive list of area campgrounds.
  • South Yuba River State Park – Just downstream from the Malakoff Diggins, you’ll find South Yuba River State Park, where gold panning is allowed along a twenty-mile section of the river. Watch a gold panning demonstration to learn the best techniques and then watch for the shimmer of gold in your own pans. While you’re there, plan time to enjoy some of the best swimming holes in California!
  • Columbia State Historic Park – Columbia, CA is a town rich with gold mining history. The mining settlement there was preserved as a State Historic Park, and retains the 1850s flavor of the Gold Rush. About an hour and a half west of Stockton, this vintage gold town offers the chance to pan for your own mother lode. Just down the road from the State Historic Park, Marble Quarry RV Park offers all the amenities and easy access to Columbia and Quarry Hiking Trails.
  • Marshall Gold Discovery State Park – About an hour east of Sacramento, you’ll find the place that started it all. In Coloma, CA, Marshall Gold Discovery State Park marks the spot where, in 1848, James Marshall discovered gold on the American River near Sutter’s Mill. Visitors to the park are given the chance to experience their own personal gold rush while panning for gold on the American River. American River Resort in Coloma features beautiful river-side RV camping, and is a short five-minute walk from the State Park.

Admit it; you’re feeling the effects of gold fever! The best cure is to visit one or more of these gold-rich areas where public gold panning is allowed. Check each site for information on permits and equipment necessary, and book your reservations at one of the campgrounds mentioned. All that’s left is to pack your RV (or rent one if there’s not one parked out back) and head for the Sierra Nevada. An RV vacation spent panning for gold in California’s Sierra Nevada will be one your family treasures for years to come.

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One Response to RV Vacation Idea – Panning for Gold in California’s Sierra Nevada

  1. Rick says:

    If you want to be certain you don’t claim jump check out this site. It shows you where all the active California gold claims are located.


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