"Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." -- John Muir, environmentalist
There might not be gold left in the hills of Auburn, California, but drive through this historic California town at sunset on a warm summer evening and the golden light glinting from its historic county courthouse hints at its rich past and bright future. Auburn is a city comfortable with its place in California history -- it has a strong sense of place, a thriving community, and might be just the place for your next rental home.
Gateway to Gold Country
Auburn has been around longer than the state of California -- it was a boomtown, founded by a group on its way to the Coloma gold fields just up the road. By 1865, it claimed a place in history as the terminus of the first leg of the Transcontinental Railroad. Rich in both gold rush and indigenous people's history, Auburn is a living embodiment of the western spirit and the California dream.
With about 13,300 residents (as of the 2010 U.S. Census) in a roughly seven-square-mile area, Auburn strikes the right balance between peaceful foothill living and just the right amount of neighborly support. At an elevation of about 1,200 feet, Auburn gets some snow when the snow level dips sufficiently. It's a relatively easy drive along Interstate 80 to Donner Lake and Lake Tahoe and further on to Reno. Downhill, you'll find the Sacramento Valley, including major retail centers in Roseville and the state capitol in Sacramento. Amtrak and commuter bus lines serve the city, as do Sacramento and Reno International airports and the smaller Auburn Municipal Airport.
Moving to Auburn
Though you'll be in the hills, it's not all log cabins and mining shacks. Auburn offers a mix of townhomes, 1 and 2 bedroom apartments, and rental homes of every kind. There's not necessarily a lot of new build inventory, but you'll find communities with nice amenities all with easy access to the best the region has to offer.
Obviously, you'll want to come prepared with the usual arsenal of renters' docs like proof of income, credit history, references, deposit money -- so you can seal the deal as soon as you find your dream place. Oh, and you're in a forest that gets really hot sometimes -- the area has been subject to fires, so renters insurance is a great idea if you decide to plant roots and rent an apartment in Auburn. The greater Auburn area spills over city lines, here are some of the areas in and around Auburn you might want to consider:
North Auburn: This area is residential and suburban. You'll find traditional housing options in a community setting. This is foothill / mountainous living, so a car is usually necessary all around the Auburn area. This is the area to choose if you want to be close to your big box shopping needs -- all of the essentials are here and easily accessible from major roads
City Center: The heart of Auburn and home to Old Town Auburn, the City Center will offer some housing options with high historic value. Living close to the good stuff requires a bit of a premium, but it will be worth it to be able to walk to Auburn Ale House, Tio Pepe's Mexican Restaurant, or down to catch the farmers market on Saturdays.
Southern Auburn Area: Much like its neighbor in the north, this area is suburban with plenty of big trees and higher-elevation clean air. You'll find rental homes aplenty here. It lacks the retail center you find in the north, but that also means it lacks the traffic -- a great quiet choice still with easy access to the attractions in Old Town Auburn.
Living in Auburn
As you might have guessed, Auburn residents enjoy their natural surroundings quite a bit. So do the tourists who come to town to test their mettle in the "Endurance Capital of the World" at events like the fabled Western States Endurance Run and a host of other ultra-marathon type events (think 50-mile runs).
Of course, you're not required to wear your running shoes all of the time. The mountain air will encourage you to slow down and savor local life at the weekly farmers market, regular art walks, and maybe delve into local history with a historical walking tour. You'll find most of the action in Old Town Auburn -- the historic heart of Auburn. Summer brings "Movies Under The Stars" and one of the most Americana filled Independence Day celebrations you'll find anywhere.
History buffs will appreciate living close to the Gold Country Museum. Don't be surprised if you have the urge to grab a pie plate and hit the local rivers after a visit, just in case the 49ers missed anything. There's also the Placer County Historical Museum, lest you think it's only about the gold history here.
When you've spent too long indoors at the museums, flee to the many local city parks -- you'll appreciate their splash pools during the hot summer months. There's also the Auburn State Recreation Area, which covers 40 miles of the North and Middle Forks of the American River which flows from Tahoe all the way down to Sacramento. You'll find hiking, boating, fishing, camping, and yes, gold panning.