After The Rapids – Family Fun Near the South Fork American River

Posted July 27, 2023 by Reily Schultz

Planning a family vacation can be stressful, but you’ve made the first great decision – to go whitewater rafting on the South Fork of the American River with All-Outdoors! Spending time together outdoors is meaningful and memory-making. Away from life’s usual distractions, California Rafting Trips Are Good for the Family. Whichever of the Three Ways to Raft the South Fork American River you chose – the Tom Sawyer Float, Chili Bar, or Gorge run – you’ve made an excellent choice!

Now, let us help make the rest of the planning process easy for you by providing some tips on things to do before or after you hit the rapids. Keep reading for some of our favorite ways to transform your family’s rafting trip into a full weekend of adventure.

family friendly rafting california

Soak up Some Gold Rush History

Since you are rafting on the very same river where gold was discovered in 1848, starting the California Gold Rush, it’s only natural that you should visit the gold discovery site itself! Marshall Gold Discovery State Park is a great post-rafting option. You will have a chance to stroll through a recreated mining town, tour the Gold Discovery Museum, check out some Native American history and artifacts, see where gold was discovered, and pan for gold in the South Fork American River!

Have time to go into town? Head over to Gold Bug Mine in Placerville if you’re interested in some neat local history. This park has a mining museum, gold panning, and even a blacksmith shop! Here, you will get the rare experience of exploring an actual mining tunnel used in the gold rush.

Gold Bug Mine Historic Site, California

Hometown Favorites

Placerville’s Main Street is always a fan favorite as well. With dozens of fun shops, restaurants (and candy shops, but you don’t have to tell the kids), and Placerville’s iconic bell tower, you could easily fill an entire day perusing up and down the street and soaking up the local culture.

Go a few more minutes up the hill to Camino to check out Apple Hill. While this area is most popular during apple season (Autumn), the orchards are open year round with lots of goodies to sample and fruit to pick. There are over a dozen orchards to explore, each with their own charm. Some have berry picking, others have wine tasting for the adults, and some even have their own flock of swans!

Apple Hill near Placerville

American River Conservancy Nature Center

One of our partners in caring for our rivers, the American River Conservancy, has a free nature center and nature library right in the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park! You can pop in to see some critters, learn what their prints and fur look like, read up on local ecology, and participate in free community events. Be sure to check them out for a guided hike, bird watching expedition, or for opportunities to volunteer outside!

Get the post-trip wiggles out

You were able to wrangle the little ones and get them on the water?! You deserve some fun! If you’re looking for a space for the kiddos to stretch their legs either pre or post rafting trip you won’t have to go far. Lotus is home to a number of trails fit for little adventurers and adults alike. Besides our favorite hiking trails near the South Fork that we love to wander through after a day on the water, there are a couple others especially fitting for the younger crowd.

Henningsen Park, Lotus California

Henningsen Lotus Park

Henningsen Lotus Park is less than a block from our River Center with a large field, playground, and beach for releasing any pent up energy. This park has great river access, as well as a .5 mile trail that follows the same section of the South Fork American that you just rafted on!

Dave Moore Nature Area

Need a hike with a little something extra? There is one trail in Lotus that is particularly fit for curious adventurers. This nature area is lovingly known for its dinosaurs! You’ll have to check out the trail to see what we mean…The walking trail through the park is a short 1.5 mile loop with amazing river access. Bring a chair, hammock, or a cooler to set yourself up for a relaxing day post-rafting. The first half of the trail is flat and wide, making it easily accessible. The second half is rockier and more varied terrain.

Author Bio

Reily Schultz

Reily is a Gold Country native. She graduated from Willamette University with a degree in Studio Art and a minor in Gender Studies and Psychology. She joined the All-Outdoors family in the spring of 2022, working as a California Rafting Consultant and a member of the marketing team. Her favorite All-Outdoors itinerary is the multi-day Tuolumne rafting trip. Reily is an avid artist, outdoors-woman, and purr-fessional cat snuggler.


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