In a recent post, the Tripadvisor Vacation Rentals blog listed 18 charming towns to visit in California. Coming in at number 15, the historical hubbub Columbia over in Tuolumne County got mentioned. In the article, Tripadvisor described Columbia as:

“This one involves a bit of time travel. At least that’s what it feels like when you step into this living goldrush town, complete with a rumbling stagecoach, working blacksmith, costumed merchants, and old-fashioned saloons. All of this makes Columbia a hit with families or anyone with a touch of gold fever. It’s also conveniently located for visiting other historic towns in the area.”

Columbia California Tripadvisor charming small towns historical history

The town of Columbia was recently featured in a Tripadvisor blog post.

Columbia is only a 20-minute drive away and it truly is like stepping back in time; especially if you visit the Columbia State Historic Park. Of course, that could be said of many of the small towns in the Gold Country.

Following suit, we decided to list some other charming small towns here in California, all within reasonable driving distance of Murphys. You can stay here with us at the Victoria Inn, but feel free to check out our sister property, the Dunbar House Bed & Breakfast Inn, if we’re full. Thankfully, both of our inns are centrally located between Calaveras, Tuolumne, and Amador counties, so traveling to all the small towns we’ll list here (and then some!) is very easy.

Tuolumne County

Columbia isn’t the only charming small town in the neighboring Tuolumne County. Along with boasting a nearness to Yosemite National Park, Tuolumne County has a handful of historic, quaint small towns that would love to have some visitors.


Sonora California downtown historic small town

Sonora is known as the “Queen of the Southern Mines” and has a very active downtown.

Sonora has a very active historic downtown that bustles with restaurants, shops, live theatres, and museums, all housed in buildings straight from the Gold Rush. Beyond downtown, Sonora is home to the ever popular Indigeny Reserve, an organic apple orchard that specializes in hard cider. Or explore Sonora’s hiking trails, like the Dragoon Gulch Trail.

Twain Harte

Pinecrest Lake Twain Harte California summer vacation small towns

The quaint town of Twain Harte is close to Pinecrest Lake, a cool retreat from the summer heat.

Named for Mark Twain and Bret Harte, Twain Harte is a small town tucked into towering pine trees. Aside from a variety of restaurants and antique stores, Pinecrest Lake is nearby and offers boating, kayaking, cycling, fishing, and hiking.

Calaveras County

Of course, we’re partial to our hometown of Murphys. With so many tasting rooms for many excellent local wineries and fun shops museums on our Main Street alone, it’s hard not to love Murphys. Our hometown isn’t the only quaint town in Calaveras County that’s worth a visit, though.

Angels Camp

Angels Camp California Calaveras County movie theater historic main street

Angels Camp has the only movie theater in all of Calaveras County.

Only a hop, skip, and a jump away from us, Angels Camp was put on the map by Mark Twain, thanks to a short story he wrote called The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Though it was incorporated as a city in 1912, there is no “city” feel to Angels Camp. Though it offers a variety of restaurants, museums, and small shops, and has the only movie theater in all of Calaveras County, Angels Camp still feels like you’re visiting a Gold Rush town. Feel free to visit the Calaveras Visitors Center for see all that there is to do in Angels Camp and beyond.

Mokelumne Hill

Mokelumne Hill California Moke July Fourth 4th main street summer

The Fourth of July Parade on the Main Street of Mokelumne Hill is a festive summer event in the charming small town.

Though this town is especially small, it’s growing to be an unsung hotspot of Calaveras County. Eclectic art galleries and antique stores line Main Street, but the biggest draw to Mokelumne Hill is the historic Hotel Leger and Renegade Winery tasting room. Both the tasting room and hotel have excellent restaurants and frequently provide live music to listen and dance to by local musicians. And of course, you can always make your way down the canyon to relax by the Mokelumne River.

Amador County

If you decide to cross the Mokelumne River to see what’s on the other side, you’ll wind up in Amador County. There’s plenty to do in nearby Jackson alone, but here’s a couple of small Amador towns a bit off the beaten path.

Amador City

Amador City small town Amador County Mother Lode

Careful not to blink; Amador City is a charming town worth seeing during your stay in the Mother Lode.

Like Angels Camp, Amador City isn’t a true city. In fact, if you blink, you might miss it. So, keep your eyes out as you drive down Highway 49.  You can also have dinner at the Imperial Hotel Tuesday through Sunday. Or, if you’re there either Saturday or Sunday, brunch starts at 11 a.m. This small Gold Rush town has even more to offer with museums and a short drive to nearby Shenandoah Valley for wine tasting.

Sutter Creek

Sutter Creek California Theatre

The Sutter Creek Theatre used to be a silent movie theater.

Known as “The Jewel of the Mother Lode”, Sutter Creek is a gem to visit. Do you love antique stores? There’s a trove of small antique shops on Main Street, as well as restaurants for you to rest from your treasure hunting. Or perhaps consider spending an evening at the Sutter Creek Theatre, which offers a variety of live entertainment from music, theatre, film, and other artistic events.


That’s only some of the wonderful, historic small towns nestled here in the Sierra foothills. As you can see, there are plenty of charming small towns to explore when you come to the California Gold Country. All within reach of the Victoria Inn in Murphys. Come visit us today!

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