Every fall, for years and years, we have been driving through Placerville on our way to Apple Hill and I had no idea that Gold Bug Mine existed. We love family adventures that teach us about California history and the gold rush, and I was blown away that there was a real gold mine that you can tour this close to our house that we had never checked out!
Old Hangtown’s Gold Bug Park & Mine sits with in the 62 acre Gold Bug Park in Placerville, California. The gold mine, stamp mill, blacksmith’s shop, and museum provide a unique look into Northern California’s Gold Rush history and the hard rock mining efforts that yielded gold from the 1860s to the 1940s when the mine closed. It is not known how much gold was removed because no records were kept.
The main attraction of Gold Bug Park is the Gold Bug Mine, a 352 foot horizontal drift on the east side of the hard rock mine. Visitors are invited to don a hard hat and take an audio tour of the mine, learning about the California Gold Rush and what is was like to be a gold miner in the mid 1800s.
On February 1, 1985, the park was approved for listing in the National Register of Historic Places and also as a State Point of Interest on the California registry.
Visiting Old Hangtown’s Gold Bug Park & Mine
We arrived about 15 minutes before the mine opened, so we first explored the area around the mine and hike up to the entrance to the Priest Mine. When the museum opened, we headed inside to browse the artifacts and purchase our tickets for the self-guided audio tour, a hardhat, and admission to the museum, the Hendy Stamp Mill, and the blacksmith shop.
We put on our hard hats, and as we stepped onto the wooden floors inside the historic gold mine, cold air from deep inside the mountain poured over our faces and chilled our skin.
We listened as a gold miner talked about his life and the tools used to mine for gold, and walked deeper into the mine until reaching the end. The only bummer was that the audio tour sets are only for those over 10 years old, so Carter didn’t get one. He was a little upset to be missing out, so I had to repeat everything I was hearing for him.
Next, we hiked up to the blacksmith’s shop to see real blacksmiths at work and the Hendy Stamp Mill to see how gold is separated from quartz. We also got to hear stories from a living history volunteer about Black Bart robbing Wells Fargo Stage Coaches carrying gold.
After that we were starving! So we grabbed our ice chest and supplies from the truck and enjoyed a fantastic family picnic in the Liberty Pavillion before spending some time gem panning in the ice cold water. And yes, it was ice cold, even on a hot day. My fingers were freezing, but we were determined to find some treasures, and after about 30 minutes, we did!
Activities at Gold Bug Park & Mine
Pairing the many family-friendly activities at Old Hangtown’s Gold Bug Park & Mine with a picnic makes for a perfect half day family adventure.
While visiting the park, be sure to check out the following activities:
- Gold Bug Mine, the namesake of the park, gives you the opportunity to venture deep inside the wooden floored, mountain mine on a self-guided audio tour. Those over 5’2″ in height are required to wear a hardhat, and only those 10 years and older are given audio sets.
- The Miner’s Blacksmith Shop, located behind the Hendy Stamp Mill, features blacksmiths at work forging items that are sold at the park gift shop.
- Priest Mine was dug into the hillside by hand in the 1850s and while you can hike up to the entrance (which is pretty cool), the mine tunnel may only be entered on a private tour.
- The Joshua Hendy Stamp Mill, sitting in its original location, is enclosed in a stamp mill building that houses a working model of the historic stamp mill so you can see and hear it in action. There is also a mineral display, historic photographs, and mining equipment, and if you’re lucky, you’ll meet a character from the old west who will entertain you with stories of dramatic stage coach robberies by the infamous villain Black Bart.
- Hattie’s Museum is a small but mighty museum detailing the rich history of the California Gold Rush and showcasing a small collection of mining equipment typically used in hard rock mining.
- Hattie’s Gift Shop has a variety of gold rush related souvenirs and gifts, books about the region, and small containers to put your gems in if you decide to do some gem panning.
- Picnic Areas are scattered throughout Gold Bug Park for you to use, and the covered Liberty Pavilion is available for group events.
Know Before You Go
- Old Hangtown’s Gold Bug Park & Mine sits within the 62 acre Gold Bug Park located 1 mile north of Highway 50 off Bedford Avenue at 2635 Gold Bug Lane, Placerville, California 95667.
- While Gold Bug Park is open daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Old Hangtown’s Gold Bug Park & Mine has different hours. It is open daily from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm from April to October, and from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm from November to March.
- Gold Bug Park is owned and operated by the City of Placerville, the only municipality in the state of California to own a gold mine.
- Parking is free and there is no entrance fee or day use fee for the park, picnic areas, and trails.
- Admission to Gold Bug Mine ($7.00/adult, $4.00/youth, free/2 and under) includes a self-guided audio tour, a hardhat, and admission to the museum, Hendy Stamp Mill and blacksmith shop.
- Pack a picnic lunch and after your mine tour, grab a picnic table under the shady trees or in the covered Liberty Pavilion for a peaceful picnic along the creek.
- Gem panning in the small mining flume is available during the warmer months. Pans can be rented inside Hattie’s Gift Shop for $2.00/hour. Unlike other gem panning experiences, like the ones at Moaning Caverns and California Caverns, Gold Bug Park’s gem panning isn’t seeded and the water is dark and cloudy. It takes much more work to pan for gems at this location, but there are rewards… that is if your hands don’t freeze first!
- Even on hot days, you’re going to want a sweater, sweatshirt, or warm layer! Inside the 352 foot mine tunnel, it gets very cold.
- Gold Bug Mine is outfitted with a wooden floor, making this mine tour fully accessible.