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Day Trip: Mokelumne Hill

This little—very little—Calaveras County Gold Rush town beckons with history and haunts.

Mokelumne Hill is a small town in Calaveras County with a Gold Rush origin story. Like many of the surrounding areas, the town peaked around 1850, boasting a diverse population of about 15,000. Today, 700 people call Mokelumne Hill home.

The town covers just over 3 square miles. You can grab a free parking spot anywhere along Main Street and walk the attractions from there. It will likely take just an afternoon, but if you want to immerse yourself in the small-town life enjoyed by locals (and those from nearby communities), stay for the weekend—it’ll feel like home.

STAY Mokelumne Hill, fondly referred to as Moke Hill, comes alive on weekends, so plan your trip accordingly. Your home base should be Hotel Léger Restaurant and Saloon, the big, yellow centerpiece of downtown. Like most of the buildings in Moke Hill, it has a storied history and perhaps a few ghosts.

The 13 rooms are like relics of the past, filled with antique furnishings. Many people come here for the ghost stories, and staffers are happy to share their own encounters with the hotel’s main players. From George Léger and his mistress, who both died at the hotel, to a gaggle of playing children, the spirits at Hotel Léger are allegedly seen, heard and felt—often.

Hauntings aside, the charming hotel looks and feels historic, but it’s also one of the town’s main gathering spots for lunch and dinner Thursday through Sunday (when it’s open). The menu includes contemporary favorites: sandwiches and burgers plus entrées such as chicken marsala and lemon beurre blanc salmon. The saloon serves seasonal cocktail specials along with the classics.

Room at Hotel Léger

SHOP AND STROLL A smattering of shops populate downtown. We suggest starting with coffee and a light breakfast at Moke Hill Nuts & Candies. Inside, Moke A Java serves up steaming cups of specialty brew and pastries, while the store specializes in candy and nuts by the bag.

Next, go shopping. From a plant shop dubbed For Succ Sake to one of Calaveras County’s most beautiful art galleries (Petroglyphe Gallery), you can walk away with everything from fine art to a desk cactus for your home office.

Petroglyphe Gallery

While you’re out and about, stop by the library. Its front porch is packed with shelves of donated books available to purchase on the honor system (and for cheap). The librarians inside are a great source of information if you have questions about Moke Hill’s past. A colorful mosaic mural of a large tree decorates the side of the building. It was designed in memory of the real tree that had grown around an old shutter left propped against it. The shutter is still part of the vibrant wall, and the park—appropriately named Shutter Tree Park—is a gathering place for families with small children.

Shutter Tree Park


Renegade Winery hosts live music and serves a full menu, including weekend breakfast. Open Friday through Sunday, it’s on an expansive corner lot with a patio, a draw for locals and visitors to partake in small-lot wines and a collection of beers selected by the owner.

Mokelumne Hill Library

Down the road is Prosperity Ciderworks, which specializes in small-production runs of unfiltered, sulfate-free products. The final sips don’t taste like the overly sweet ciders you might typically find. These varieties are made largely from local fruit trees, many of which go back more than 100 years (think old vine wines) and get funky—in a good way. The end offerings are diverse and high in alcohol content, resembling an ABV more akin to an IPA than a traditional grocery-store cider.


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