The Perfect 48-Hour California Gold Country Adventure
Craving a good dose of adventure and a night (or two) sleeping under the stars? Or maybe you’re new to camping and want to give it a shot with plenty of creature comforts? Then this getaway in California’s Gold Country might be just what you need. We’ve put together the ultimate 48-hour itinerary that combines hassle-free riverside camping with a fun-filled day of whitewater rafting on the American River. If you’re near the Bay Area or Sacramento, it doesn’t get much sweeter (or easier) than this…
Gold Country Campout: OARS American River Outpost
Day 1: Set up base camp at OARS American River Outpost
6 p.m. Arrive in Coloma and check-in to the campground at OARS American River Outpost, which offers all of its American River rafting guests one night of complimentary camping. Opt to extend your stay an extra night for a small added cost so you can relax before and after your trip.
You can bring your own camping gear, or not. The Outpost has everything you need available for rent. Not into sleeping on the ground? You can also elevate your camping experience by renting one of the pre-set platform tents. They’re fully equipped to make your camping trip both comfortable and relaxing.
7 p.m. If you want to prepare dinner at your site, go for it. Otherwise, head to nearby Gorilla Rock Taco where you can get three super-tasty tacos for under $10, plus a variety of craft beers.
8 p.m. Try a game of chess on the life-size chess board in camp, unwind around a campfire (early season only), or take a jaunt down to the river and watch for shooting stars on the beach.
Day 2: American River Rafting & Catered Camp Eats
6 a.m. Rise and shine early to give yourself plenty of time to fuel up and gear up for your rafting adventure. If wrestling with your camp stove this early doesn’t sound fun, take the 2-minute stroll next door to Sierra Rizing for coffee and a variety of homemade breakfast options.
Mid-morning: Meet your guides and rafting mates at the on-site camp store for a day of rollicking fun whitewater. Departure times vary, but whether you’re rafting the popular, family-friendly South Fork of the American River, the rowdie, early season North Fork or the thrilling and scenic Middle Fork, you’re in for a day of big splashes, lots of laughs and great memories.
5 p.m. Back at camp, take advantage of the Outpost’s amenities and freshen up with a hot shower before dinner. No pit toilets here!
6 p.m. Tonight, opt for happy hour and a catered camp meal at the Outpost (ask about availability when you book your trip), or head over to Marco’s Cafe where you can grab a tasty pizza, and a cold brew on the patio. On your way over to dinner, drop by Hotshot Imaging to check out your rafting photos from the day.
8 p.m. Unwind with family and friends in camp and relive the best whitewater moments of the day. Before long, tired and content from an adventure-filled day, you’ll be ready to cozy up in your tent.
Day 3: Marshall Gold Discovery Park & Auburn State Recreation Area Hiking
8 a.m. Pack up camp and drive five minutes down the road to Marshall Gold Discovery Park. Here, you can grab a casual breakfast at the Argonaut Farm to Fork Cafe, which offers a menu inspired by the area’s local farmers and purveyors. Afterward, stroll by the river, watch a blacksmith in action or learn how to pan for gold.
10 a.m. End your adventurous weekend with a hike or trail run in the Auburn State Recreation Area, which spans a 40-mile stretch of land along the Middle and North Forks of the American River and offers more than 100 miles of recreational trails. The 2.2-mile Black Hole of Calcutta Falls hike, just 15 minutes past the Outpost, is a relatively close option and with a year-round waterfall, it’s a nice place to relax and cool off before hiking back and heading home.
Photos: Platform tents at OARS American River Outpost – Wanderlove; Dinner in camp at the Outpost – James Kaiser; Whitewater rafting on the Middle Fork of the American River – James Kaiser; Auburn State Recreation Area in California’s Gold Country – Patrick Kinney (CC BY 2.0)