A Weekend in Angels Camp, California

A small town in the Sierra foothills features Gold Rush era artifacts, and a frog-jumping contest.

walkers on the main drag of Angels Camp California, picture
Also called Frogtown, Angels Camp shows its Gold Rush character on Main Street.
David Zaitz

It has been 157 years since Mark Twain published “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” a rollicking tale set in Angels Camp that launched his career and gave this gold country town a place in literary history. Amphibians are just one of many reasons to visit.

The Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee, held in mid-May, features a carnival, rodeo, livestock, and, of course, the annual frog jump. Come and see if Rosie the Ribeter’s record of 21 feet 5 ¾ inches, established in 1986, will stand.

At the Calaveras Visitor Center, grab a map for a self-guided walking tour. Highlights include Hardscrabble Street, a thoroughfare so steep that denizens lined it with wooden steps (known as the Chicken Ladder) for easier climbing.

Sprawling Angels Camp Museum has exhibits of Gold Rush–era mining equipment, shotguns, and headache powders. But the star attraction is the hangar full of restored buggies, including a sporty phaeton and a glamorous surrey with, yes, a fringe on top.

Browse Nellie Lou’s Antiques for an eclectic assortment of treasures, such as framed needlework, jadeite glassware, and Johnny Mathis albums.

Thousands of rocks, fossils, and shells line the cabinets of Stories in Stones, where you’ll find mastodon jaws from Bolivia, petrified wood from Wyoming, and chunks of quartz from right here in Calaveras County.

The area at New Melones Lake, about five miles south of town, is laced with hiking trails amid ponderosa pines and oaks.


This article was first published in April 2015 and last updated in March 2022.