Murphys: Queen of the Sierra

A Gold Country town that's perfect on St. Patrick's and every day.

IRISH HERITAGE: While California has several neighborhoods and businesses that boast old ties to Ireland, there are fewer towns and cities that have a strong Celtic spirit as their centerpiece. But beautiful Murphys in Calaveras County is definitely one. The Gold Country burg was founded by brothers John and Daniel Murphy when they set up shop in the area in 1848 (kind of a busy year 'round those parts). A gold-mining operation was launched, and soon the camp was growing. But it didn't grow too large, hitting about 3000 people in the early 1850s. A fun fact? That's about the population today, which means that Murphys still looks very much like it did over a century-and-a-half ago. Well, there probably weren't the number of wine tasting rooms back in the 1850s that there are today. We kid, of course; mining gold was the town's early mission while catering to Gold Country visitors looking for a nice glass of pinot on a Saturday afternoon is a big part of Murphys' easy-breezy modern vibe. It's big into wine, in short, meaning a visit is well worth it for vino lovers, fans of California Gold Rush history, and anyone who does want to see a perfectly pert little burg that's maintained a bit of its Irish heritage.

VISITING MURPHYS: Lots of villages up against the Sierra might trot out the word "nestled," but Murphys and its quaint main thoroughfare really are. Just a half hour drive up from the town is Calaveras Big Trees State Park, which means, yep, sequoias. Visiting these mega beauties and engaging in a few wine tastings around Murphys is pretty much a quintessential type of Gold Country day. Oh, and those tasting usually involve regional wines; the area has over two dozen wineries.

And, yep, the town observes St. Patrick's Day via Irish Day, which is on March 16 this year. But go whenever -- fall is fab -- and enjoy a quiet town with a golden history.

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