Sierra Nevada Adventures Single Day Rides

Gold Discovery Ride


Here’s your opportunity to EXPLORE the remote corners of the historic El Dorado County to the Gold Discovery site that started the California Gold Rush. You will explore curvy back roads, single-lane goat roads, and remote OFF-ROAD routes through the El Dorado Forest on this exciting ADVENTURE. 

Your dual sport adventure ride begins by exploring through oak-studded foothills on curvy back roads that were once traveled by thousands of pioneers in search of gold with hopes of striking it rich. This historic pioneer route opened in 1847, which ran from Sutter’s Fort to Folsom then beyond to Sutter's sawmill at Coloma. 

After exploring a series of fun back roads your adventure travels California’s shortest state highway (SR 153)which extends only 0.5 miles in the historic town of Coloma in the heart of California's Gold Country. This short highway travels to the monument marking the grave of James Marshall, whose finding of gold along the American River, January 24, 1848, sparked the California Gold Rush.
From the Gold Discovery Site, your adventure crosses the American River and climbs up and out of the canyon on a historic dirt wagon route. This historic route was once the main wagon route to the Gold Rush town of Growlersburg, which is the northeastern-most town in the California Mother Lode.

After reaching the ridge above Coloma Valley, your adventure travels a narrow twisty route high above the American River Canyon. This scenic route ventures away from civilization and explore deep into the remote El Dorado forest. As you continue deeper into this wooded wonderland you will lose sight of anything beyond the forest and remain focused on your adventure...

Gold Discovery:

On the morning of January 24, 1848, James Marshall was examining the channel below the mill when he noticed some shiny flecks in the channel bed. As later recounted by Marshall:

“I picked up one or two pieces and examined them attentively; and having some general knowledge of minerals, I could not call to mind more than two which in any way resembled this, sulphuret of iron, very bright and brittle; and gold, bright, yet malleable. I then tried it between two rocks, and found that it could be beaten into a different shape, but not broken. I then collected four or five pieces and went up to Mr. Scott (who was working at the carpenter's bench making the mill wheel) with the pieces in my hand and said, "I have found it."

"What is it?" inquired Scott.

"Gold," I answered.

"Oh! no," replied Scott, "That can't be."

I said,--"I know it to be nothing else."

The metal was confirmed to be gold after members of Marshall's crew performed tests on the metal—boiling it in a lye solution and hammering it to test its malleability. Marshall, still primarily concerned with the completion of the sawmill, permitted his crew to search for gold during their free time.

By the time Marshall returned to Sutter's Fort, four days later, the war had ended and California was about to become an American possession. Marshall shared his discovery with Sutter, who performed further tests on the gold and told Marshall that it was "of the finest quality, of at least 23 karats [96% pure] Gold."

Gold Rush:

News of the discovery soon reached around the world. The immediate impact for Marshall was negative. His sawmill failed when all the able-bodied men in the area abandoned everything to search for gold. Before long, arriving hordes of prospectors forced him off his land. Marshall soon left the area as the Gold Rush took over Coloma Valley.

Return of Marshall:

James Marshall returned to Coloma in 1857 and found some success in the 1860s with a vineyard he started. That venture ended in failure towards the end of the decade, due mostly to higher taxes and increased competition. He returned to prospecting in the hopes of finding success.

He became a partner in a gold mine near Kelsey, California but the mine yielded nothing and left Marshall practically bankrupt. The California State Legislature awarded him a two-year pension in 1872 in recognition of his role in an important era in California history. It was renewed in 1874 and 1876 but lapsed in 1878. Marshall, penniless, eventually ended up in a small cabin.

James Marshall died in Kelsey on August 10, 1885. In 1886, the members of the Native Sons of the Golden West, Placerville Parlor #9 felt that the "Discoverer of Gold" deserved a monument to mark his final resting place. In May 1890, five years after Marshall's death, Placerville Parlor #9 of the Native Sons of the Golden West successfully advocated the idea of a monument to the State Legislature, which appropriated a total of $9,000 for the construction of a monument and tomb which can be seen today, the first such monument erected in California. A statue of Marshall stands on top of the monument, pointing to the spot where he made his discovery in 1848. 

The cabin of James Marshall:

This historic cabin was constructed by James Marshall and occupied by him from 1856 to 1870.



Single-Day Ride (20 rider max)

This dual-sport adventure ride is designed for medium (650cc+) to large (1200cc+) adventure bikes.
Off-road terrain is rated “mild to moderate” with lots of gold rush history & adventure.
Ride distance approx.: 200 miles round trip (75 miles dirt roads)
*Gas stop (125-mile range required)


MEETING TIME: 8:45 am (ride starts at 9:00 am) 

*Ride returns to Folsom CA (approx. 5 pm)

MEETING LOCATION: Starbucks in Folsom

*Starbucks 195 Placerville Road Folsom CA 95630


MEALS: (Meals Not included)

*Bring water, snacks, and lunch



-Hampton Inn and Suites Folsom, CA 155 Placerville Rd, Folsom, CA 95630 (916) 235-7744

*If you plan on truck/trailering your bike, there's parking available at Hampton Inn & Suites

Note: additional hotels available in Folsom CA


More details are listed under "Book this Ride"


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