gold country
Murphys & Vallecito
Murphys - Murphys, founded by the Murphy brothers, Dan and John, started out as a tent camp. The gold camp was a pretty wild place in the 1850's, but now it's a pretty peaceful spot. The Murphys Hotel has been in operation since 1860.
Murphys Community Park - Want to just take it easy? Head over the to the Murphys Community Park, a shady area situated on a sparkling Sierra stream. While parents relax in the shade, or get a picnic ready, kids can wade, swim in the creek or bring your gold pan to pan for gold. Playground and swings for little ones too.
Mercer Caverns (Sheep Ranch Rd.) - Take a walking tour through the glories of Mercer Caverns, formations in all shapes and sizes. Each of the seven rooms has its own charm, especially the Gothic Chamber, and Angel's Wings (looks like a stone curtain) in the Cathedral Room. The tour takes about 45 min. and you can bring kids under 5, but the stairs are pretty narrow to carry a toddler.
Moaning Caverns (Parrotts Ferry Rd., Vallecito) - Moaning Caverns are so named because the sounds coming out of the cave entrance sounded like moans, and the name stuck. On the 45 min. tour, you descend on steep stairs through a narrow crevice, then down a 100 foot spiral staircase. At the bottom, find yourself in an amazing high chamber, taller than the Statue of Liberty. The cavern is lined with dripping stalactites and stalagmites, including the dramatic "chocolate waterfall."
Tip: This walking tour isn't suited to toddlers or infants. It's a schlep up and down the stairs (165ft.) and no baby backpacks are allowed.
Gem mining will be a big hit with everyone in your family. Buy a bag of "dirt" and sift the contents in flowing water to find moonstone, topaz, amethyst, raspberry quartz, citrine and garnets.
There are shaded picnic tables, climbing wall and ziplines too.

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