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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

Please call us at 202-633-3030 to register for this Overnight Tour, so we may confirm your room arrangements. NOTE: Contact if phone registration is unavailable.

Gold Rush California: An Adventure Into History

6-Day Tour

Depart: Saturday, October 10, 2020 - 6:00 p.m.
Return: Thursday, October 15, 2020 - 11:00 a.m.
Code: 1NNCAL
$1,850 - Double Room Member
$2,275 - Single Room Member
$2,460 - Double Room Non-Member
$2,885 - Single Room Non-Member

Old Sacramento (Photo: Garrett Peck)

A sparkle of gold flashed in the American River near Coloma, California, where James Marshall was building a sawmill in January 1848. His discovery touched off a massive wave of gold seekers as several hundred thousand young men from around the world came to California to seek their fortunes. A few got rich while most left disappointed, but the Gold Rush of 1849 forever altered California and the nation’s destiny. Author and historian Garrett Peck leads a unique six-day visit to the places where the adventure unfolded.

The tour begins in Old Sacramento, a city created by the Gold Rush, with its amazing California State Railroad Museum and a glittering gold exhibition at the Sacramento History Museum. Then make your way through the gold country of the Sierra Nevada foothills, where much of the precious metal was pried from the earth, to explore towns like Jackson and Sutter Creek. A visit to Chaw’se Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park examines the impact of the Gold Rush on the lives and land of Native Americans.

A tour highlight is Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, the site where James Marshall made his momentous discovery, as well as the Empire Mine, the state’s largest gold mine near the quaint town of Grass Valley, the group’s headquarters for two nights. Witness the significant environmental damage caused by hydraulic mining at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park and tour the nearby ghost town, originally named Humbug.

In the final full day, drive into the mountains to explore the Transcontinental Railroad, including a short hike at Donner Pass to the tunnels that Chinese workers blasted through solid granite, then visit the tragic site where the Donner Party met its demise in the winter of 1846. Continue to gorgeous Lake Tahoe, followed by a farewell dinner in Truckee. The tour concludes the following morning with a return drive to Sacramento.


  • Participants are responsible to make independent flight arrangements to Sacramento, California. Round-trip fares typically range from $300 to $500 from Washington-area airports.
  • Important note: Once the tour has reached its minimum registration, participants will be notified and encouraged to purchase airline tickets.


  • Program begins Saturday, Oct. 10 with dinner and ends Thursday, Oct. 15 with a mid-morning transfer to the Sacramento Airport or return to the hotel.
  • Cost includes 5 nights of accommodations, bus transportation, services of a study leader and Smithsonian representative, 12 meals (5 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 4 dinners), gratuities, taxes, and entrance fees. An airport shuttle is provided by the hotel.
  • Single-room supplement $425 (factored into the Single Room Member and Single Room Non-Member pricing).
  • Singles registering at the double-room rate are paired (on a nonsmoking basis) if possible, but must pay the single-room supplement otherwise.
  • Once registered, additional information will be sent via email.
  • For questions, call the tours office at 202-633-8647.
  • We suggest registrants consider personal trip insurance.

Detailed information for overnight tours
is mailed approximately FOUR WEEKS
prior to departure.