3 Places to Experience the Wild West in Northern California

During the Gold Rush, Northern California had a reputation for being a lawless place, where every man and woman had to fend for themselves. Gold was on everyone's' minds and the towns catered to a miner's lifestyle. Although that time has long since passed, here are three places where you can step back in time and relive this important part of California's history.


Known for having the state's second oldest prison, this town has its fair share of stories. Founded during the Gold Rush Era, this town was originally filled with gold miners looking for their fortune in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Explore Folsom's Historic District where you can visit the site of California's first hydro-electric powerhouse and learn about its rich history in the Folsom History Museum or Pioneer Village.


This deserted town was once a bustling Wild West boomtown that held between 5,000-7,000 residents at its heyday. As the gold began to dwindle so did the population, until it became completely deserted in the 1940's. It is now a historical state park and visitors can wander around the eerily silent grounds and easily imagine what life was like back in the day. Rumor has it that if you take anything from this ghost town that it will bring you bad luck.


Once known as "Hangtown," due to all the hangings during the Gold Rush Era, this town located about an hour northeast of Sacramento, is the perfect place to get a feel for life here more than a century ago. Although it's a lot tamer than it once was, walking along Historic Main Street will definitely take you back in time. Make sure to stop in the antique stores where there are many treasures from a bygone era, including rusty mining tools.

Julia is a freelance writer and native San Franciscan, born and raised. She is the founder of Small World This Is, and has written for Matador, Roads and Kingdoms, and USA Today.