Top 17 Things to Do in Columbia

Columbia is a beautifully preserved Gold Rush town that offers visitors a delightful trip back in time. With a fascinating history and an abundance of outdoor activities, this charming town is perfect for history buffs and adventure seekers alike. So, let’s dive into the top 17 things to do in Columbia, California, and see what exciting experiences await you.

1. Explore Columbia State Historic Park

Columbia State Historic Park
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Step back in time as you stroll through Columbia State Historic Park. This living museum offers a unique opportunity to experience life during the California Gold Rush era. You’ll find meticulously preserved historic buildings, complete with costumed interpreters. These interpreters will regale you with tales from the past. 

Try your luck at gold panning, just like the miners of the 1850s. You may even find a shiny nugget to take home as a souvenir. Hop on a horse-drawn stagecoach for a bumpy but entertaining ride through the town. Wander through the park and discover old-time shops, saloons, and even a working blacksmith’s shop. The best part is it’s located in the town center.

2. Enjoy a Show at Sierra Repertory Theatre

Sierra Repertory Theatre
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Located just 15 minutes and 7 miles from Columbia, the Sierra Repertory Theatre in Sonora is a must-visit for theater enthusiasts. With a diverse program of plays, musicals, and special events, there’s always something entertaining happening at this intimate venue. Enjoy a show featuring talented local actors and professional-quality productions. Keep an eye out for one-time events and workshops that cater to various interests.

3. Explore Matelot Gulch Mining Co.

Matelot Gulch Mining Co.
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Learn about the region’s mining history at Matelot Gulch Mining Co., located within the Columbia State Historic Park. You’ll discover various gold mining techniques and even have the chance to try mining. 

Discover the methods used by miners during the Gold Rush, including panning, sluicing, and hard rock mining. With expert guidance, test your skills and see if you can strike it rich.

4. Treat Your Sweet Tooth at Nelson’s Columbia Candy Kitchen

Nelson’s Columbia Candy Kitchen
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Satisfy your sweet tooth with a visit to Nelson’s Columbia Candy Kitchen, a delightful old-fashioned candy store. Watch as the skilled confectioners craft delicious treats before your eyes. Don’t forget to pick up some goodies to take home. 

Indulge in homemade fudge, caramel apples, and other mouthwatering confections. Observe the fascinating process of creating candies using traditional methods and equipment.

5. Tour the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park
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A 15-minute and 7-mile drive from Columbia will take you to Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown. Here, you can explore the history of California’s railroads and marvel at the impressive collection of steam locomotives. 

Climb aboard a historic train for a scenic journey through the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills. Tour the roundhouse and workshops to learn about the restoration and preservation of these magnificent machines.

6. Hike the Natural Bridges Trail

Natural Bridges Trail
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For outdoor enthusiasts, the Natural Bridges Trail is a must-do activity. Located about 10 minutes and 6 miles from Columbia, this moderate 2-mile round-trip hike leads you to a series of stunning limestone caverns formed by the creek’s water. Swim in the cool creek or relax and enjoy the picturesque surroundings.

7. Go Caving in the Mercer Caverns

Mercer Caverns
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Venture underground at Mercer Caverns, just under half an hour’s drive from Columbia. Explore the breathtaking formations of stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstones on a guided tour. Learn about the cavern’s history and the fascinating geological processes that created this subterranean wonder.

8. Explore the Moaning Cavern Adventure Park

Moaning Cavern Adventure Park
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For thrill-seekers, Moaning Cavern Adventure Park is the perfect destination. Located about 16 minutes and 9 miles from Columbia, this park offers an exciting range of activities for all ages. Zipline through the trees on a heart-pounding adventure, taking in the beautiful views of the surrounding landscape. Descend into the depths of Moaning Cavern, the largest public vertical chamber in California, on a guided tour showcasing its incredible formations and unique features.

9. Go Hiking and Picnicking at the Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Calaveras Big Trees State Park
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Experience the awe-inspiring beauty of giant sequoia trees at Calaveras Big Trees State Park, just a forty-minute and 28-mile drive from Columbia. Wander through the peaceful groves and marvel at these ancient giants, some of which are more than 2,000 years old. The park offers several hiking trails and picnic areas where you can relax and soak in the serene atmosphere.

10. Go Rafting in the Stanislaus River 

Stanislaus River
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Immerse yourself in the great outdoors with a whitewater rafting adventure on the Stanislaus River, about an hour and a half or 44 miles away from Columbia. Experience the thrill of navigating rapids as you take in the breathtaking scenery and spot wildlife along the way. Guided tours are available for all skill levels, ensuring a fun and safe experience for everyone.

11. Go Hiking in the Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park

Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park
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Discover the rich Native American history of the region at the Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park, approximately an hour and a half drive from Columbia. See the massive collection of bedrock mortars and learn about the customs and traditions of the Miwok people. Visit the park’s museum to view artifacts and exhibits, and stroll along the nature trails to appreciate the area’s natural beauty.

12. Sample Some Wine at the Twisted Oak Winery

Twisted Oak Winery
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No visit to California would be complete without a wine-tasting experience. Twisted Oak Winery, about 20 minutes and 12 miles from Columbia, offers a delightful selection of local wines accompanied by stunning views of the vineyards and rolling hills. Sample their award-winning wines, and don’t forget to take a bottle or two home with you.

13. Try Horseback Riding at the Aspen Meadows Pack Station

Aspen Meadows Pack Station
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For a memorable outdoor experience, head to Aspen Meadows Pack Station, just over an hour and 40 miles from Columbia. Offering guided horseback rides through the scenic Stanislaus National Forest, you’ll traverse beautiful meadows, lush forests, and pristine creeks. It’s a fantastic way to explore the stunning natural beauty surrounding Columbia.

14. Explore the Charming Town of Murphy’s

Town of Murphy’s
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Located about a 20-minute and 13-mile drive from Columbia, the charming town of Murphy’s is another delightful destination in the Gold Country. Stroll along the historic Main Street lined with boutique shops, art galleries, and wine-tasting rooms. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the local restaurants and cafes that serve delicious farm-to-table cuisine.

15. Explore Angels Camp Museum and Carriage House

Angels Camp Museum
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A 22-minute and 14-mile drive from Columbia will take you to Angels Camp, home to the Angels Camp Museum and Carriage House. This fascinating museum features exhibits on the region’s history, including Gold Rush artifacts, Native American history, and a collection of over 30 antique carriages. You’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the area’s rich heritage during your visit.

16. Go Hiking at the Dragoon Gulch Trail

Dragoon Gulch Trail
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Located about 15 minutes and 5 miles from Columbia in the nearby town of Sonora, Dragoon Gulch Trail offers a peaceful and scenic hiking experience. The trail takes you through oak woodlands and offers stunning views of the city and surrounding landscape. With multiple trail options suitable for all skill levels, it’s an ideal location for a rejuvenating nature walk.

17. Take a  Day Trip to Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park
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While a bit further away, about an hour-and-fifteen-minute or 53 miles drive from Columbia, the world-famous Yosemite National Park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers. With its towering granite cliffs, thundering waterfalls, and lush meadows, the park offers a breathtaking experience. 

Spend a day exploring iconic sights like Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, and Half Dome, or take a leisurely walk in Mariposa Grove to marvel at giant sequoias. A visit to Yosemite will be a memorable highlight of your trip to the Columbia area.

Hey, if you stick around the area make sure to check out these other towns:


Columbia is a treasure trove of history, outdoor adventure, and natural beauty. With so much to see and do, it’s easy to understand why this Gold Rush town is a favorite among tourists and locals alike. 

Whether you’re panning for gold, exploring underground caverns, or simply relaxing with a glass of local wine, Columbia offers a unique and unforgettable experience for everyone. So, pack your bags and set out on your own adventure in this charming town, and be sure to check off these top 17 things to do in Columbia, California.

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