Distance: 24-mile loop
Elevation gain: 3780 ft
There is an endless amount of rideable road north of Placerville, but most of it is just-OK, generic green-wall riding. This route has some real drama. It’s a short, serious climbing route, the bulk of it on a small, energetic back road. You plunge down to the bottom of the American River canyon, cross the river, climb steeply back out the other side, roll up and down along the side of the canyon, do a fast drop on a moderately traveled mountain highway back down to the same river, and end with a challenging 1000-ft climb. Along the way you get some nice woods, some nice canyon vistas, and a lot of nice solitude. Mapmyride says it’s 3780 feet of gain in 24 miles of riding (which means 12 miles of climbing), and I think that’s conservative, so you’ll work.
(To see an interactive version of the map/elevation profile, click on the ride name, upper left, wait for the new map to load, then click on the “full screen” icon, upper right.)
Begin in downtown Placerville. It’s a town well worth some checking-out time. Don’t miss the hardware store, one of the oldest in the West and a bit of living history guaranteed to delight tool fetishists and non-fetishists alike. Ride east out of town on the main street and when you’re almost out of town take the L turn under the highway onto Mosquito Road. Climb steadily and moderately for 2.5 miles, until you’re at the lip of the South Fork American River Canyon. From here to Hwy 193 there should be next to no traffic. Plunge 4 miles down through thick, pretty Sierra Nevada foothill woods to the river. The pitch is often too steep to be ideal descending, but it’s still exciting. The last 100 yards are very steep and can be wet and treacherous.
Cross the river on a charming little bridge and begin the grinding climb up the other side. It’s very steep for 1/2 a mile, then just steep for another 2 miles. You’ll feel some pride when you get to the summit at mile 9.0. At the intersection with the unexpected cluster of mountain estate homes (the only sign of human presence on the off-highway miles), take the unmissable hard L onto Rock Creek Rd. and follow it as it rolls sweetly along the sidehill. Enjoy the striking vistas of the river canyon.
When you deadend at highway 193 (Georgetown Rd.), go L and delight in the all-too-short but smooth, fast, sweeping descent back down into the canyon. Cross the bridge and do a moderately challenging 2.5-mile climb back to town. You’re on the shoulder here, the traffic will be noticeable, and the pitch is unvaried, but you’re in pretty, dense forest so the scenery is good. On the outskirts of town you’ll merge with Hwy 49 (Coloma Rd.) but you won’t notice.
The route can be ridden in the other direction, but it will involve you in a 40-mph descent right off the bat, which I’d rather not do.
Adding Miles: The larger roads north of Placerville are merely good riding and all pretty much the same green-wall stuff. But just a stone’s throw north of our intersection with Hwy 193 lies a warren of small to very small roads, all very isolated and worth riding: Shoo Fly Rd., Transverse Creek Rd., Bear Creek Rd., Spanish Flat Rd., Meadow Brook Rd., Balderston Rd., and the amazingly narrow Darling Ridge Rd. They’re all inter-connected—feel free to wander. T
Mt. Murphy Rd., bisecting our route, is largely dirt.
Georgetown is a cute little village with a nice old general store and hotel, and Garden Valley has a wonderful plant nursery
If you’re looking for something mellow, ride the loop through Apple Hill (so-called because every fifty feet of road there’s an apple farm). Begin at the intersection of Union Ridge Road and Carson Rd. Go Hassler Rd > North Canyon Rd. > L on Larson > L on Cable > R on Mace, then R onto Carson and take Carson back to your car. Carson is bigger, flatter, faster, and more trafficked than all those back roads, so stick to it if you’re really looking to avoid up and down. This is not a ride to attempt during apple harvest, when the area is mobbed with tourists.
Where our route intersects Hwy 183 , you’re a mere 3 miles south on 183 from where our Prospectors Road to Bayne Road route turns onto Bayne. So it’s easy to do both routes as a single ride, a rough figure eight, thus turning two moderate rides into one big one.
For those that want to ride this route and more in the area check out motherlodecentury.com . The event supports riders as they explore the great roads of the Gold Country.
The ML century looks like a great intro to all the best riding north of Placerville. Riders, check out the century website for a list of other worthy riding in the area in addition to the century route itself. Very thoughtful, MLC.
Great route and directions! If I do this again…and I probably will…I will do it CW.
This morning I did a figure-8 ride that includes your loop: From Coloma, climb Prospectors Road (great climb—not a single car), continue up Marshall Road (a little too much traffic at first but it largely disappears after the turnoff to Greenwood (Garden Valley–jr)—then it’s a winding climb through a tunnel of trees) to Georgetown, then Hwy 193 towards Placerville to connect to the Bestrides loop. Climb back up Hwy 193, turn left on Bayne back to Coloma for total of 54 miles and 7,000 feet of climbing. More time than I’d like on 193 but it wasn’t too bad mid-morning on a weekday.
Prospectors Rd is a backroad paralleling Marshall and should therefore be carless. To get to it you have to exit Coloma on Marshall, then soon take Prospectors to the L. Both Prospectors and most of Bayne are uncovered by Street View, so you know they’re small. The first leg of Bayne is covered, and it looks tiny and delicious.