There is exciting living history in the string of 19th century mining towns close to Sacramento, many of which still preserve their gold rush atmosphere.
Children will love playing bandits as they run through ghost towns, sifting for ‘gold’ or whitewater rafting on the Sacramento River.
Head to Murphy’s, one of the best preserved towns in the midst of the trail, where the bullet-holes which once reverberated through saloon doors in the wild old days, are still in tact.
At the heart of the region is Columbia, once, incredibly, the second largest town in California. Now it’s a state historic park where gold rush scenes are re-enacted and shops and restaurants remain faithful to the period. Park at the trailhead just north of Columbia and you can hike to Coyote Creek for a picnic or swim at Natural Bridges, a spectacular limestone formation.
White-water rafting on the Sacramento River is popular, and Shasta Lake, created by a dam built on the river, is a water playground in its own right. A great way to explore its furthest reaches or stunning coves is with a rental kayak or powerboat. Better yet, you can actually stay on the water in a houseboat.
Travel time: Flights from London to Sacramento take 12 hours and 48 minutes, alternatively, fly to San Francisco (10 hours 55 minutes) and drive the 1 hour and 30 minutes on to Sacramento.
How to get there: United Airlines flies from London Heathrow to Sacramento International, via San Francisco or Los Angeles; from £613 for an adult return. British Airways flies from London Heathrow to San Francisco; from £564 return, and Virgin Atlantic also flies from London Heathrow to San Francisco; from £563 return.
Best time to go: May to October are the best months, but bear in mind it does get very hot in the summer.