As our local expert, Jody Franklin, admits, “Truthfully, I often decide on the hike depending on the eatery I would like to try.” Her diligent research has paid off. Read on for three can’t-miss half-day adventures.
American Canyon to Wendell T Robie Loop Hike + Lunch at Georgetown Distillery
Hike: 5 miles – moderate with an elevation change of 974 feet. The trailhead is off Highway 193 between Cool and Georgetown on Sweetwater Trail. There is only room for three cars at the trailhead but plenty of safe shoulder parking around.
It’s a popular trail but not crowded, with ample shade. It’s part of the Auburn State Recreation Area, so there are many connecting trails. To get to the waterfall, follow the path to the right down the hill when given the option. If you go straight, you can keep walking for miles. Horses and dogs on leash are welcome. Note that what goes down must come back up, and it is a climb back to the car. (It does ensure a guilt-free dog-friendly lunch at Georgetown Distillery after the hike!)
Georgetown Distillery: Open Friday – Monday, 10 am – 6 pm
The craft cocktails are unique and truly creative. The Rosemary Greyhound and the Honey and Lemon Martini are fantastic, and the recipes are on their website! In addition, they offer rotating drink specials, including their GTD Gin, homemade lemonade, and peach juice topped with Tajin – talk about refreshing!
Their food menu features spins on classics, like catfish fish and chips with house-cut chips and cast-iron penne pasta with a rich alfredo sauce with pork belly and a crispy panko topping. Don’t miss their tempting food specials, like a BLT with pork belly on a brioche bun and house-cut chips.
Shingle Springs/El Dorado
El Dorado Trail Hike from Shingle Springs to El Dorado + Poor Red’s
Hike: 5 miles from Shingle Springs to El Dorado. This section of the El Dorado Trail is unpaved and is popular with equestrians and mountain bikers. Park in the gravel parking lot at the Shingle Springs Depot (look for the building with Sam’s Cyclery) or across the street at Bradford Park at 4300 Motherlode Drive. Jump on the tracks and head east. It’s relatively level with beautiful rolling green hillsides, a small creek, and many oak trees. This section of trail is a little over five miles and follows the railroad tracks from Shingle Springs to the town of El Dorado.
The El Dorado County Historical Museum operates small excursion trains on the El Dorado Western Railroad on the first and third Sunday of the month from the El Dorado Station, at 6000 Oriental Street.
Poor Red’s: Open Wednesday – Sunday 11 am – 9 pm.
You don’t have to hike to appreciate a perfect lunch stop with outdoor, pet-friendly dining. This local icon with a colorful history was originally built as a Wells Fargo Stagecoach stop. It became the property of Poor Red in 1945 when he won the bar in a dice game! The roadhouse is now known for its BBQ and the world-famous cocktail they invented, the Golden Cadillac.
The portions are enormous, but if you make this a round trip, you can walk it off on the way back. However, if eleven miles of beautiful countryside is not what you signed up for, make sure you park another car at the El Dorado Station so you have a ride back.
Gam Saan Trail + Argonaut Café
This recommendation came from another local, ursus94502 on Instagram.
Hike: Park at Henningsen Lotus Park. The new 2.5-mile Gam Saan Trail connects Henningsen Lotus Park with Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park. The trail is home to a Chinese burial site believed to date back to the Gold Rush and a tribute to the Chinese miners of that period.
There are a few ways to enjoy the new trail. It joins the Monroe Ridge Trails (3-mile loop) and Monument Trail (2.3 miles), allowing you a few ways to get to Argonaut Café in Coloma. Choose to enjoy their gelato, scones, and delicious sandwiches as the halfway point to your hike, or do an out-and-back on the Gam Saan Trail and drive to Coloma for a well-deserved meal.
Argonaut Farm-to-Fork Café: Open Wednesday – Sunday 8 am – 4 pm
Depending on your appetite, you can indulge in a light snack with one of their homemade pastries (including gluten-free donuts!), a hearty meal with their pesto melt or chicken wrap, or a healthy pick-me-up like their Eureka Smoothie or fresh orange juice!