These historic gold rush sites provide a fun family introduction to the tumultuous settlement of the American West. There’s gold in them thar hills, and kids of every age will find inspiration in the relics of the gold rush.
It’s been more than half a century since the last citizens of Bodie, California, moved away, leaving behind the eerie, beautiful remains of a once-thriving gold mining town.
At one time home to some 10,000 people, the town was founded in the mid-1860s after gold was discovered nearby. The preserved ruins testify to the boom and bust nature of mining. Seeing what happens after an area’s natural resources have been depleted is a fascinating and important lesson for youngsters and grownups alike.
In its 106 years of operation—from 1850 to 1956—Empire Mine produced a staggering 5.8 million ounces of gold, marking it as one of the most profitable mines in the history of the American West. Miners converged here from all over the world with hopes of striking it rich.
Today, the area is crisscrossed by hiking and biking trails, and the site’s historic buildings host educational reenactments. The mine’s opulent Empire Cottage still stands, and the grounds make for a stunning wedding location.
Lots of cities have their historic downtown, with restored buildings and quaint displays, but nobody does it quite like the city of Columbia, California. The town’s Gold Rush roots inform its unique city center, harking back to the 1850s when aspiring gold barons went to work extracting the area’s most precious commodity.
Stroll downtown with the family to enjoy reenactments, tours, and period dining establishments.
It would be an understatement to describe this park as “sprawling.” With three sites in Alaska and one in Seattle, Washington, Klondike covers a lot of ground. The park’s spaces give visitors a fantastic scope for the wilderness early miners encountered. Stunning, rugged trails define much of the land, while frontier buildings transport visitors to the rough-and-tumble days of the wildest West.
The Comstock Lode, a huge silver deposit, was Virginia City’s most famous source of riches, though gold mining also played a significant role in town history.
Today you can go beneath the surface of this fascinating legacy by touring the mines that put Virginia City on the map.
The region’s literary tradition is equally proud. The brilliant satirist Mark Twain provided dispatches from Virginia City during the Gold Rush. While you’re here, check out the museum dedicated to his life and work.
Cripple Creek was a major center of Colorado’s 1890s Gold Rush. The town is replete with museums and attractions honoring its raucous past. You can enjoy a tour of old mining country by train or, if you dare, descend into a gold mine 1,000 feet underground. The town also boasts plenty of dining and lodging options.