Located 2hrs 41min east of Sonora and just 12 miles east-southeast of Bridgeport (well worth a nights stay!) is Bodie, California's best preserved ghost town.
Bodie began as a mining camp following the discovery of gold in 1859 by a group of prospectors, including W.S. Bodey. It had a population of approximately 5000–7000 people and around 2,000 buildings. Over the years, Bodie's mines produced gold valued at nearly US$34 million.
As a bustling gold mining center, Bodie had the amenities of larger towns, including two banks, four volunteer fire companies, a brass band, a railroad, miners' and mechanics' unions, several daily newspapers, and a jail. At its peak, 65 saloons lined Main Street, which was a mile long. Murders, shootouts, barroom brawls, and stagecoach holdups were regular occurrences.
The town survived until the last gold mine closed in 1942. Today only a small part of the town survives, preserved in a state of "arrested decay." Interiors remain as they were left and stocked with goods. Designated as a National Historic Site and a State Historic Park in 1962, this once thriving mining camp is visited by tourists, howling winds and an occasional ghost.
North of Sonora, on Highway 49, lies Don Pedro Lake. It's between Sonora and Coulterville. A favorite place for boaters, fishermen, and water sports enthusiasts. The mailing address is:
DON PEDRO RECREATION AGENCY
31 Bonds Flat Road
La Grange, CA 95329
Want to take a trip back in time to the days of the Old West? This is the place to do it. It is one of the best-preserved Western towns in America, now a state historic park. The park is three miles north of Sonora, off Highway 49.
You can try your luck at panning for gold, shop at the Pioneer Emporium, or have a pastry at Devon's Delectables.
The Roundhouse is where locomtives and rolling stock were maintained. This is still a working facility--one of only two left in the entire US. A tour guide shows you around. The worst job in the entire place is working down into the concrete pit between the rails. The locomotive moves over you, and you have to scrape the underside clean. This is where we get the old expression "the pits".
Moaning Cavern has a huge chamber, 165 feet tall. That's tall enough to hold the Statue of Liberty. The water dripping down from the ceiling created an echo. There was only a small hole in the surface, and from up there it sounded like a moan. So Indians believed it to be the home of an evil spirit.
They warned their kids to stay away, but not all of them listened. When explorers made their way to the bottom, they found the bones of children who had failed to heed the warning. Some were over a thousand years old.
You can go down into the cavern by one of two means: climbing down the ladder or rapelling. By the latter method, you can't take a camera. In either case, it's not a good idea if you're scared of heights.
From downtown Angels Camp, turn left at the Highway 4 east sign. Travel approximately 10 minutes, then turn right on Parrotts Ferry Road at the Moaning Cavern sign. Go one mile, then turn right on Moaning Cave Road. Follow it to the end.
This is one of California's most beautiful caves. It's full of unusual rock formations and other curiousities. Located in the Gold Country near Sonora, it's definitely worth going out of your way to see. This was the first California cave to be opened to the public for tours, in 1850.
9565 Cave City Road
Mountain Ranch, CA Mountain Ranch, CA
Take Highway 4 east to Angels Camp, then Highway 49 north to San Andreas. Take a right turn on Mountain Ranch Road and go approximately 15 minutes (9 miles). Turn right on the 2nd Michel Road turnoff at the California Historical Landmark sign that says "California Caverns." Follow the signs for approximately 2 miles to our driveway on the left.
Railtown, as it's commonly known, is one of the best railroad museums anywhere. It's a working museum with steam locomotives. It offers narrated rail excursions and guided tours of the facility, including the roundhouse (one of two in the country). This is also where many movies and TV shows were filmed, including High Noon, Unforgiven, Back to the Future III, The Wild Wild West, and Petticoat Junction (the water tank in the show's credits is visible when you board the train). It's in the Sierra Nevada foothills, just off Highway 49.