Brimming with small-town charm, the duo of Northern California counties known as Yuba- Sutter embraces its own kind of superlatives. Located just north of Sacramento, the region boasts of having both the world’s smallest mountain range (the 2,000-foot-high Sutter Buttes) and the world’s largest u-pick pumpkin patch (which spans 90 acres). And here’s one more: The Yuba River watershed has historically produced more gold than any other river in the U.S.—and as a result, this pastoral region still glows with Gold Rush history.
No surprise, Yuba and Sutter counties first developed during the booming 1850s. Yuba County is home to towns such as Linda, Wheatland, and Oregon House, but its main hub is Marysville, dubbed “California’s Oldest Little City.” In downtown Marysville, the 19th-century building that houses the Silver Dollar Saloon was once a Gold Rush trading post and brothel. Sutter County has its own hub, Yuba City, in addition to towns such as Sutter and Live Oak. To soak up more Victorian-era ambience, stay the night in the 1874 Harkey House Bed & Breakfast Inn in Yuba City; for country vibes, kick back at the lakeside Frenchtown Inn in Oregon House.
Today, many of the Yuba-Sutter communities revolve around farming, which translates into plenty of good eating and sipping. Sunsweet is based in Yuba City—along with its fun, fruit-filled gift shop—but you could spend days browsing seasonal farm stands, starting with the local honey (and queen bees) at Strachan Apiaries in Yuba City. In Marysville, sample the fruits and veggies at Yoon Chao’s Strawberry Farm and Bock’s Fruit Stand. Move on to the local wineries that are part of the North Sierra Wine Trail, such as the premium reds at Lucero Vineyards; the aged biodynamic wines of Renaissance Vineyard & Winery in Oregon House; and the Zinfandels, Merlots, and even peach-imbued bubblies at Munger Family Vineyard at the base of the Sutter Buttes.
The farming and prospecting history has also fostered a thriving mix of cultures. The Gold Rush era brought many Chinese immigrants, and you can learn some of their stories at Marysville’s Bok Kai Temple and Museum. Yuba City, meanwhile, is known for its large Punjabi Sikh community, which began with an influx of farmers from northern India in the early 1900s. Each November, Yuba City celebrates that heritage with the Sikh Festival and Parade that attracts 100,000. Year round, you can taste the region’s diverse cuisine, from the Punjabi-inspired pies at Dhillon’s Pizza to the super-spicy Sichuan cuisine at Marysville’s China Moon and the Tunisian and Mediterranean fare Café Collage in Oregon House.
This is a great area for outdoor fun, too—whether that means, hiking, biking, birding, or playing in the water. Go to Bullards Bar Emerald Cove Marina if you want to rent a houseboat or go wakeboarding, while Collins Lake is ideal for those in pursuit of big bass or trophy trout. In Oregon House, Lake of the Springs features a 950-acre RV campground, boat rentals, and wild turkey sightings.
On land, explore the privately owned Sutter Buttes with guides from Middle Mountain Interpretative Hikes (October through May), or hike on your own along the five-mile loop at the Bobelaine Audubon Sanctuary, home to 190 species of birds. During winter, the Sutter National Wildlife Refuge gets its own feathered crowds, to the tune of 200,000 ducks and 100,000 geese. To get up close with owls or hawks, book a session at West Coast Falconry.