Positioned as it is on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada between Sacramento and California’s eastern border, Placer County draws visitors from all over the world to its urban centers, charming small towns, and dramatic mountain vistas. And it’s no surprise why this area is such a popular destination. There’s something for everyone, from millennial thrill-seekers to families with little adventurers to baby boomers and retirees interested in savoring the area at a slower pace.
Regardless of the activity level that suits you and your traveling companions, it’s hard not to fall in love with Placer County’s friendly communities, stunning landscapes, and numerous attractions. Take a peek at these three weekend itineraries listed below to handpick the one that best suits what you want out of your visit.
1. For The Thrill-Seekers
If adrenaline is your addiction, there’s no better place in California to pack active, outdoor adventures into your weekend plans. The Auburn area is one of the best whitewater destinations in the state, offering class IV rapids on the Middle Fork of the American River. When you book a trip with any of the local guiding companies, you can expect a wild ride through the Tahoe National Forest.
After a day on the river, whet your whistle by drinking a beer at Crooked Lane or Moonraker in Auburn, two of the many breweries that the area’s thriving craft beer scene has to offer. For a small town, Auburn has a surprisingly fun nightlife for folks who like laid back breweries, food trucks, and friendly locals.
Another go-to area for adventure is Donner Summit toward the eastern end of the county. At about 8,000 feet in elevation, it’s one of the highest points in Placer County and a popular destination for rock climbers, hikers, and winter sports enthusiasts. Stop for dinner on your way home at the Rustic Table in Emigrant Gap, which offers hearty American food in a rustic atmosphere—just what you’ll feel like after an active day outdoors.
2. For Little Adventurers and the Young at Heart
If you have little ones in tow, spend your weekend exploring the western end of the county, which includes Roseville, Rocklin, and Lincoln. Being closer to the Sacramento region, this part of the county is more developed and offers tons of organized activities as well as parks, museums, and sports complexes for the whole family to enjoy.
One of the top attractions is the Rocklin Quarry Park, an old quarry that was repurposed as an outdoor adventure park with ropes courses, via ferrata (a narrow walkway alongside a rock wall), rock climbing, paddle boats, a boulder maze, a kids section, and a mini-zip line section.
Another family-friendly highlight in this area is the Maidu Museum and Historic Site in Roseville, where visitors can learn about the people who inhabited this area for thousands of years and how they lived off the land. Exhibits include ancient petroglyphs, traditional practices such as basket weaving and acorn processing, native plants and animals, and a contemporary art gallery full of Californian Indigenous artwork.
High-energy activities in Roseville include iFly Indoor Skydiving, where you can experience the thrill of skydiving without having to jump out of a plane, and Wake Island Waterpark, the largest floating playground of its kind in the U.S. Other family-friendly destinations in this area include playing a round at Top Golf and going to a Lincoln Potters baseball game if you visit in the summer.
3. For a Mellow Time
Like any top vacation destination, Placer County also offers a chance to slow down and unwind at a mellower pace, providing real relaxation and escape from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life. It’s also part of the fertile farm-to-fork region surrounding Sacramento, and the culinary delights of the area are sure to delight a demographic that enjoys savoring the area’s wine, craft beer, and food.
Start your weekend off with breakfast at the Flower Farm in Loomis, where you can take a stroll through the farm’s vegetable garden, citrus orchard, and green lawns before or after your meal. From there, rent kayaks or paddleboards on Folsom or Rollins Lake to take in the area’s natural scenery and temperate weather. For those interested in hiking, Hidden Falls Regional Park is the place to go, with more than 30 miles of trails to explore. You can find routes tailored to any fitness level, and you’ll want to take advantage of the two observation decks for views of the 30-foot waterfall and the surrounding Sacramento Valley.
For lunch, visit another gem of Loomis, the High Hand Nursery & Cafe. You’ll fall in love with its rural charm and locally sourced menu items. When you’re done with lunch, stroll through the shops to find the perfect Placer County souvenir made by local artisans.
Round out the afternoon with a visit to Blue Line Arts in Roseville, a gallery space run by a local nonprofit to showcase the work of local artists and musicians. Visitors can take an art class (they have separate ones for kids and adults), peruse the artwork, take a guided tour, and attend an event such as the semi-regular performances from the Auburn Symphony.
Placer County features more than a dozen wineries, breweries, and distilleries to explore. Spend an afternoon at a wine tasting at one of the area vineyards, such as Casque Wines, next to the Flower Farm Café in Loomis, or PaZa Vineyard and Winery in Auburn. For dinner, head to Rocklin and treat yourself to a meal at The Chef’s Table, which features creative American fare made with local ingredients.
No matter what kind of trip you plan, it’s not a bad idea to finish off your vacation spending some time at The Spa at Thunder Valley. Located in Lincoln, the spa and resort are filled with relaxing options to round out your trip.
Written by Jill Sanford for Matcha in partnership with Visit Placer County.
Featured image provided by Placer County, Erik Bergen.