Tourism is one of the biggest and most crucial drivers of Northern California’s economy, and it isn’t just the Bay Area and Napa Valley that call to visitors.
Rural counties in California’s Capital Region are home to a diverse range of popular — and lesser-known — amenities and destinations. From muddy outdoor recreation to fine, high-dollar dining, here are some locals’ favorite spots:
The Johnny Cash Trail: Folsom’s longtime affiliation with musical legend Johnny Cash combines with one of the country’s most extensive Class-A trail systems in a series of artist installations that tell the story of Cash’s musical career, including the Johnny Cash Trail Overcrossing, a bridge that emulates the east gate of the iconic Folsom Prison.
Carpe Vino: Chefs Eric Alexander and Courtney McDonald grow roughly 20 percent of the ingredients used at this Auburn restaurant on their home farm; most of the remaining ingredients come from the surrounding farms. Twice, OpenTable voted Carpe Vino one of its top 100 restaurants in the country. “Just having personal friendships with the farmers over the years has made it such a unique experience,” says McDonald, “and they’re just around the corner from my house.”
Boeger Winery: With between 20–30 wines to taste in their tasting room and sweeping views of the hills that make El Dorado County one of the richest wine-growing regions in the state, Boeger Winery — replete with a working blacksmith’s shop — is a popular stop in its own for visitors on a trip to Apple Hill.
Placer County Ale Trail: Thirsty travellers can meet the masters at some of the region’s most popular local breweries, including Knee Deep, Goathouse and Out of Bounds.
Lake Tahoe Rim Trail: Tahoe is known for its world-class skiing and crystalline lake, and the Lake Tahoe Rim Trail offers some of the most incredible views of both; whether in snowshoes or hiking boots, says the North Tahoe Resort Association’s tourism director John “JT” Thompson. The scene from the surface of the lake isn’t too shabby either: “Even if it’s only 150 yards offshore, the views that you have of the mountains and the surrounding area are just breathtaking. It still gives me chills just talking about it,” he adds.
For more on the state of rural tourism in the “Gold Country,” check back next week for John Blomster’s February feature, “Country Roads.” Sign up for our newsletter, and we’ll email you when it’s available online.