If you’re on two wheels, we’re going to assume you are a little more adventurous and not scared off by a road trip with stops with names like Hell Hole, Ice House, Stumpy Meadows, or the infamous Old Hangtown. These backroads wind through the Sierra Nevada Foothills alongside lakes, rivers, and reservoirs, majestic pines, rolling hills, and ranches. The best time for this road trip is May through October.
Start in Placerville, known as “Old Hangtown” during the rough and rowdy days of the California gold rush. Placerville was the seat of law and order where criminals met with swift justice often at the end of a rope, hence the early name of Hangtown.
Head east on Hwy 50 toward South Lake Tahoe with a full tank of gas and pioneer spirit. Take in beautiful views of the American River Canyon.
2. Head up to Ice House Rd.
Head left on Ice House Road, which winds up and through the Crystal Basin past Ice House and Union Valley Reservoirs. Follow Ice House Road about 20 miles to Wentworth Springs Road.
3. Enter Desolation Wilderness
It’s here that you can take a worthwhile detour by continuing five miles to Loon Lake, which is the northwestern edge of Desolation Wilderness, lots of granite at an elevation of 6300 feet.
4. Hell Hole Reservoir
Go west on Wentworth Springs Road; then right on Eleven Pines (or Forest Hwy 2) to get to Hell Hole Reservoir.
5. Classic watering hole
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a bar that dates back to 1864 and looks it. It’s one of those places that feels like home for any family, four-wheeler, motorcyclist, or explorer. Stop in for a drink or snack. Bring a picnic and feel free to use one of the many BBQ grills and tables or play a round of horseshoes.
6. Stumpy Meadows Reservoir
Stumpy Meadows Reservoir — A perfect peaceful rest stop setting surrounded by forest with easy access to the water. Campers come here to while away warm summer days on the lake and enjoy the sights and sounds of the great outdoors. The campground provides easy access to both hiking and biking trails.
7. Historic Georgetown
Georgetown – The historic town of Georgetown was a hub of the productive gold mining region, and residents proclaimed the town the “pride of the mountains.” Today the quaint shops and eateries, art gallery, parks and pubs, and unique accommodations make it a great place to spend the day.
8. Rafting on the American River
Take a left on Marshall Grade for a bird’s view of the American River and Coloma. The area is not only known for its Gold Rush discovery site, but also as the west coast’s most popular whitewater location. Whitewater rafting is suitable for kids 7 to 75 and combines the river’s natural beauty, rich historical background, and exciting rapids into one excellent vacation experience.
9. Scenic Hwy 49
Follow Highway 49 north and west on Salmon Falls Road. This is a scenic drive that winds through the bountiful backroads of El Dorado County crosses over the American River and provides views of Folsom Lake.