Tahoe day tripping: Whitewater rafting and wine tasting in El Dorado County
Though it’s difficult to give up a summer day in Lake Tahoe, there are many spots within a short drive of the basin worth checking out, including in the nearby foothills of El Dorado County.
So skip the crowds clamoring to get a spot at the beach for these last few weeks of summer and try something new: a day of whitewater rafting and wine tasting in the small towns of El Dorado County. We promise it’s worth the roughly hour and a half drive from the South Shore.
A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT
Kick off the day with a whitewater rafting trip down the South Fork of the American River in Lotus. All Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting is one of several companies offering guided trips down the 9-mile upper section of the river filled with Class III rapids like the Meatgrinder, Racehorse Bend and Troublemaker.
The trip lasts for several hours and meanders through rolling hills and sections of calmer water where you can swim. Though exhilarating — and sure to get you soaked — the experience is doable for beginners and children 8 years and up.
FARM TO FORK
The Argonaut Farm to Fork Café, a short drive down the road in Coloma, serves up thoughtfully made sandwiches, salads and soups for lunch inside its historic building at Marshall Gold Discovery State Park. The café uses organic greens, tomatoes, edible flowers and fruits from Bee Love Farms, one of the oldest pioneer farms in California. The housemade gelato and pies can’t be missed.
PANNING FOR GOLD
After lunch, take a short walk through Marshall Gold Discovery State Park to the spot along the American River where the first nugget was discovered in 1848, ultimately kicking off the California Gold Rush.
Park visitors can participate in tours around the property and even take a gold panning lesson.
WINE NEAR THE VINE
In the afternoon, head to David Girard Vineyards to sample a selection of wine inspired by the Rhone Valley of Southern France. First planted in 1998, owner David Girard has cultivated a beautiful 85-acre vineyard in Placerville that’s the perfect setting to enjoy everything from a classic French-style Rosé to the sultry Mourvèdre with aromas of plum flower and blood orange.
Gold Hill Vineyard and Brewery was not only one of the first vineyards to return to Placerville in the 1980s after Prohibition and decades of pear farming, it was also the first to open a brewery in the region in the early 2000s.
The brewery produces classic beer in traditional styles — you won’t find sours or flavored beers here — like the 49’er Red Ale, Boomtown IPA and Gold Trail Pale Ale. Grab a taster tray and enjoy it at the tasting room’s deck overlooking the acres of rolling hills covered in grapes.