Sacto area Dopers: Wintertime in Placerville, California?

We’ve decided to spend Christmas out of town this year, and are contemplating going to Placerville. We’d be flying into Sacramento and renting a car, and staying for three days. We’re just looking for a quiet getaway from all the Christmas hoopla, and we don’t ski, which means any resort that revolves primarily around skiing would be out. Instead we anticipate taking short road trips in the region, like driving over to Tahoe, or whatever else may be in easy reach. Is this feasible or a good idea? Or should we consider going someplace else? Remember too, that this will be over the Christmas holiday–we want someplace quiet, but not absolutely dead.

I was in Placerville once, at the age of 10, and remember it as a fairly rustic small town with a lot of history. It looks like it would be a good place to go for a few days, especially considering that we’ll have a car and not be bound to the immediate vicinity.

I’m not from Sacto area, but I grew up in the Bay Area.

If you’re looking for “quiet” over Christmas, then I would NOT recommend Placerville. Placerville itself would probably be pretty nice. It’s the “drive somewhere” part that could be nasty. Highway 50 from Sacto to Tahoe will be crowded with ski vacationers over Christmas (this I know from experience). So that drive to Tahoe could be pretty slow. AND if it happens to snow, they don’t clear highway 50 like they do I-80. So you could get stuck (this I also know from experience). It once took me 5 hours to get from South Shore to Placerville (should normally be only about 2 hours).

If you don’t want to ski, then I would recommend some other gold rush town: Sonora is nice, Jackson is nice, Columbia, etc… There will be some ski traffic through these towns as well. But the resorts along those highways (4, 88) are no where near as popular as the Tahoe resorts, so the traffic should be considerably less. The elevation of these places, like Placerville, is low enough not to worry about getting stuck in traffic. But you’ll also be close enough to drive to some snow if you want to play (tubing, sledding).

Hope this helps

What’s the geography of the area like? IIRC it’s somewhat forested, with a good sized river (by SoCal standards), running through it. Is it still? Has suburban sprawl spoiled things?

I’ll tell you a nice place in Northern California to get away from Christmas hoopla:


Mr Neville and I went there for that very purpose last year just before Christmas. The wineries weren’t crowded (though some were closed or closed early on the 24th). I think there might even have been parking spaces available on the town square. There wasn’t a lot of traffic- as soon as we split off from all the freeways headed towards the mountains, the roads were fairly empty.

The wineries and other businesses were open on the 23rd, and some but by no means all were closed on the 24th. We certainly had no problem finding enough wineries of interest to go to that day. We left on Christmas, but my understanding was that things were going to be open again as usual on the 26th.

We’re planning to go there again this year at Christmastime if possible.

And, if you get bored, Sonoma is about a 45-minute drive from the Bay Area (1 hour from San Francisco, though I don’t recommend trying to drive in San Francisco). It would be farther from San Francisco airport- I’d recommend Oakland if you wanted to do this. Sacramento wouldn’t be out of the question, though- it’s about 1 hour 15 minutes from Sacramento to Sonoma, and you’d be going against the traffic headed for Tahoe, so it probably wouldn’t be too bad.

There almost certainly won’t be any snow (in Sonoma or the Bay Area), though it might rain. Bear in mind that it’s not that uncommon for highways in the Sierras to be closed due to snow, or to require you to have snow chains, at that time of year.

I’d go with cormac and suggest going a bit south if you want quiet. Downtown Placerville is still quaint & historic, but the surrounding sprawl is impressive. If you stay in Jackson (actually, I’d recommend Sutter Creek) we can have a mini-dopefest & I’ll buy you a drink!

Placerville is at about 2000’ elevation in the Sierra foothills … low enough that snow in town there is rare. No river through town; the American is maybe 5-10 miles to the north in a deep canyon.

**cormac **is also right that the ski traffic in Placerville can be horrendous … the town is a major bottleneck on hwy 50, the main route (only, really) between Sacaramento and Tahoe. In my experience, though, the traffic nightmares are only Friday and Sunday aftenoon/evenings. Of course, Christmas vacation will totally screw with which days that actually happens on. But all the ski traffic is heading up the mountain or back down … if your interest is going north or south to explore the mother lode, you’ll be just fine.

Hwy 88 from Jackson will get you to Tahoe by the scenic route with vastly less traffic.

We have some excellent small family wineries here all along the foothills … the best ones are in Shenandoah Valley and southern El Dorado County – you can get there easily from Placerville or Sutter Creek/Jackson.

So you may need to do a bit of fine tuning of your plans depending on your definition of “quiet but not dead” and which days you’re actually here, but I think you can find what you’re looking for.

As cormac and twoflower have pointed out; South is the way to go.

I vote for Jamestown.
Real gold country, Beans and bacon from a goldpan is still a way of life in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties.
Sonora, Columbia, Angels Camp just up the road, day trip to Yosemite, (the valley is even more beautiful in winter).
Local wines from Angels Camp, Dogtown, Murphys, (Ironstone and Stevenot), Columbia, Sonora, (Sonora Port most underrated port in Ca.)
Local brewery Snowshoe in Arnold and Standard. St. Stans out of Modesto.

Christmas you will probably not see snow below 3,000’ in el. Of the above towns only Arnold is above that, Murphys is about 2800’ All the roads will be drivable, you can get to places in the snow that the skiers don’t habitate.

There is even a nightlife in Sonora.