Did you know that the smallest city in California lies just a little outside of the Bay Area? Amador City is the state’s smallest city by land area at 0.3 square miles with a population of 201. It’s located past Sacramento off of Old Highway 49 and takes about two hours to reach by car from San Francisco. Here’s everything you never knew about “California’s smallest hometown.”
Amador City by the books
The tiny Gold Rush town of Amador City is located in Amador County, CA, just a few miles from the city of Sutter Creek off the historic Highway 49. The city was first settled in 1853 and later incorporated in 1915.
At just 0.3 square miles (0.78km2), this is California’s smallest city by land area, and as of 2021 it has a population of just 201 residents. As such, it’s also the least populous incorporated city in California.
History of Amador City
Gold miner, rancher, and soldier José María Amador first began mining in 1848 at the gold outcroppings along the nearby creek. Before long, the “easy gold” was mined out of Little Amador Mine and Spring Hill Mine, and encampments grew into “South Amadore” where the creek meets French Gulch, establishing today’s Amador City.
By 1853 the land was settled under Amador’s name, largely thanks to the famous Keystone Mine which drew thousands of people during the California Gold Rush. At the height of the mine’s success, Amador City’s population got up to an estimated 4,000-6,000 people, and about $24 million in gold was mined there before it eventually closed in 1942.
Today you can still see some historic buildings dating back to Amador City’s Gold Rush heyday. The Amador Whitney Museum dates back to 1860 and is likely the city’s oldest building, having once held Wells Fargo Drayage Company. Make sure you take a look at the Amador Hotel too, because the main entrance façade dates back to 1855. Many other historic buildings were built following a destructive fire that burned through the town in June 1878.
Visiting Amador City
On a visit to Amador City it’s worth stepping into the Amador Whitney Museum for a glimpse into the past. Discover a carefully-preserved collection of historic furniture, clothing, maps, books, and tools, which presents a glimpse into the Gold Rush through the eyes of Amador City’s women. It’s open from 11am-3pm Friday-Sunday.
Despite the town’s tiny size, you can get a feel for Amador City culture with an afternoon of shopping for antiques, furniture, and gifts. On Main Street you’ll find Alley + Main, which specializes in furnishings and custom upholstery; Amador City Mercantile, which offers a selection of gifts and home accessories for dining and kitchen areas; and Made in Amador, which sells goods from local artisans.
When it comes to food and lodging, you can look into staying at the historic Imperial Hotel & Restaurant for comfortable patio dining and a cozy boutique hotel experience, or otherwise grab a filling meal at Small Town Food + Wine on Main Street. Amador City’s proximity to the Shenandoah wine region means you can go for wine tasting at Wine Tree Farm & Corinne Wines, Holgate Hill, Binz Wine, and End of Nowhere Wines.
The drive from San Francisco to Amador City takes just over 2 hours by passing through Sacramento via I-80 and then getting on Highway 16 (off 50 at Power Inn Road and Howe Ave). Eventually you’ll see Highway 49 to Sutter Creek which will take you 4 miles to Amador City. If you’re coming from elsewhere in the Bay Area, you can also look at going through Stockton. Get more directions here.