WHEN James William Marshall discovered the first nugget of gold at Sutter’s Mill, word of his discovery sparked the Californian Gold Rush of 1848. Today, remnants of this period can be found throughout the Golden State, and nowhere more so than along Route 49 running for 300 miles from Vinton to Oakhurst via Sacramento and connecting travellers to world-renowned sites like Yosemite National Park, Big Trees State Park and Lake Tahoe.

Any stretch of Route 49 is worth tackling, but to combine a snapshot of Californian history with some audacious outdoor pursuits, here’s the six-day itinerary I’d recommend...

Day 1: Start your journey in California’s state capital, Sacramento

Sacramento owes its origins to the Gold Rush - John Sutter Jr. and Samuel Brannan designed the town to cater to travelling gold hunters. Today it is a thriving city of 500,000 people and the state capital of California, but its Wild West history is alive and well in Old Sacramento.

Day 2: Folsom, the spiritual home of Johnny Cash

The next morning, we head for the historic town of Folsom and the start of Route 49. When news of the gold rush spread, Joseph Folsom commissioned a railway connecting Folsom to Sacramento. Thus, the town became a gateway for thousands of travellers heading to Gold Country.

Today, Folsom is a quiet suburb of Sacramento, but has plenty to offer intrepid travellers.

Folsom owes much of its popularity to Johnny Cash, whose hit single Folsom Prison Blues was based on the federal penitentiary in the centre of town. The town’s most recent installation, the Johnny Cash Trail, honours him in the form of a cycle route, which winds past famous sites such as the Folsom Dam and the Rainbow Bridge.

Day 3: Auburn, an outdoor adventure paradise

Our next stop is Auburn, a small town with big character, 25 minutes’ drive from Folsom.

While the town centre is whimsical and charming with a hipster feel, most of Auburn lies sprawled out across the sweeping green hills of the Placer County countryside. Here we find awe-inspiring sites such as the Foresthill Bridge, the tallest bridge in California and a staggering example of American engineering.

Day 4: Coloma County, where the Gold Rush began

No trip through Gold Country would be complete without a stop off at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma County where James William Marshall discovered the first nugget of gold.

Back then, people came from all over the world to find their fortune on the American River, but today’s visitors are after a different type of loot - trout.

We catch nothing, so we head to Mother Lode River Center (malode.com) for white water rafting through the rapids on the American River. Up to eight people over eight years old can ride, with prices starting at $109/£86 for a four-hour Express Trip. But be warned: We got absolutely drenched!

Day 5: See the Giant Sequoias in Calaveras County

Heading in the direction of Calaveras County, our first stop is Big Trees State Park, where we walk through 1.5 miles of California’s world-famous giant sequoias - the largest living things on Earth. Traversing the canopies of these mammoth trees is my personal highlight of the trip.

From here we head to Moaning Caverns, a system of limestone caves beneath the Sierra Nevada hills. When miners failed to strike gold in the early 1900s, they turned the caves into a tourist destination, installing a spiral staircase to the bottom of the 165ft cavern. Group tours leave every hour and cost $20/£16. Visit moaningcaverns.com.

Day 6: Angels Camp and the other half of Calaveras County

In the southern half of Calaveras County, California opens up into feral landscapes, wavy hills and wild greenery - it’s hard to take a bad photo anywhere around here.

We start the day with a tour of New Melones Lake. New Melones Lake Marina (newmeloneslakemarina.com) provide us with a 24ft Bennington sport pontoon (from $187/£148 per hour), which seats 12 and travels up to 40mph across this gigantic, man-made lake.

Our final stop is the quaint town of Angels Camp where Dave Bunnell (underearth.us) offers us a tour of Natural Bridges. This rock cavern is the perfect treat after a week on the road - the trickling water leads to an organically-carved cave that invites us to bathe beneath natural cascades.

For more information on the destination, go to www.visitcalifornia.co.uk

Hire a car through Avis (www.avis.co.uk)