This loop hits the main highlights of the park. Head along the river to the Gold Discovery Site and the Settler's Mill Replica and monument. From there you'll ascend the ridge where you'll have a couple of nice viewpoints and reach the James Marshell Monument at the top. Once you head back down you can stop in the museum and learn a bit more about the site.
From the parking area, start out on the Gold Discovery Trail
, which takes you out toward the river and past the old Sutter's Mill. When the trail ends, wind through the parking lot and. (carefully) cross the main road. From there, take Monroe Ridge Trail
. It starts with a few switchbacks and a set of stairs with an overlook. As you as ascend the ridge, the grade eases a bit and you can enjoy a more leasuirly hike along the crest. There are a couple of viewpoints as you make your way south and round to the upper lot.
From the upper lot and picnic area, take a spin by the James Marshell Monument. Take a moment to soak in the history. James Marshell found gold flakes in this area in January 1848, sparking the Gold Rush.
From the monument, you'll return using the Monument Trail
. The trail is clear and wide. Once you reach the bottom of the hill, there is the option to explore the area using the Gold Discovery Museum Trail
and going into the museum. Once you're done, you'll need to hop the road a second time to return to the starting parking area.