Gold Country Driving Adventures

Come and explore our beautiful scenic country roads and stop along the way in this historic California Gold Rush area. Eat great food, drink local wines and brews, shop in quaint country stores as you meander through the California Foothills. Travel along the Adventure Loop which offers endless recreational opportunities to experience nature’s wonders first hand. Play along the way if you wish, at awe-inspiring natural resources open to the public for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

Cool to Georgetown/Garden Valley/Greenwood Returning to Cool

Auburn-Californiawelcome-to-cool-frame-300x177From Highway 80 exit at Auburn and takeHistoric Highway 49 towards Cool/Placerville. Highway 49 crosses over the beautiful American River Bridge towards Cool/Placerville. As you cross over the American River you will enter into El Dorado County. Look for the Mt. Quarries Bridge as well as the Forest Hill Bridge which is said to be the tallest bridge in California.The Forest Hill bridge was filmed in the movie XXX with Vin Diesel who drove a car off of the bridge in the movie. Continue along scenic Highway 49 until you come into the country town of Cool.* Stop and take your photo at the Cool Welcome Sign next to the Cool Fire Station – how Cool is the name!


Historic Note:
Cool, located at the intersection of Highways 49 and 193, was a perfect ‘jumping off’ place for pioneer settlers and miners. Here they would find supplies for the mining towns and teamsters who arrived on foot, by horseback, or by horse-drawn wagons and stage coaches. Some say the town got its name during the days of the Gold Rush when the popular preacher Aaron Cool would ride the area and give his sermons. Or, perhaps the town was named after the numerous limestone caves which provided miners welcome relief from the summer heat.

 While in Cool, try the American River Pizza restaurant. The restaurant is a great family restaurant and serves far more than pizza. If you are not ready to eat, perhaps you will want to first hike or bike in the Auburn State Recreational Area starting behind the Cool Fire Station. There is a parking area for cars and horse trailers behind the Cool Fire Station.


Check out the nearby Cool Florist and Gifts. You can stop for gasoline or visit the Cool Feed Store. At the blinking red light (yes, the signal really is a blinking red light), turn left and travel up Highway 193 towards Georgetown. In the Cool Village, at the corner of Highways 49 and 193, you will find Wells Fargo Bank, and Holiday Market in Cool. Look for the Pilot Hill Grange on your left, the first grange in California.

Continue up the country Highway 193 and pass historical Penobscot Ranch on your right. Penobscot is a site from the Gold Rush Days and was said to be the best place to stay during this historic period and also a stage coach stop. Later, the ranch became a children’s camp. Today, Penobscot Ranch is a working cattle ranch and private residence. You will see the Tin Man ranch across the road.

012008 2Continue on Highway 193 until you find the Georgetown Cemetery just before you reach Georgetown. You can walk around the cemetery and find dates going way back to the Gold Rush days. Eat at Terry’s Pizzeria and Grill if you want a pizza or a sandwich. Continue into the town of Georgetown where you will find quaint shops and restaurants. Stay overnight in the historic American River Inn which has a gift shop. Overnight lodging is also available at the Rock Creek Inn on Highway 193 near Georgetown.

Check out local art at Art on the Divide in Georgetown where you will find local artists with an eye for excellence (summer hours are Thursday – Sunday 10am-6pm). Notice anything unusual about Main Street? This is one of the few towns where it’s legal to park right in the center of the street! While on Main Street, check out Frog Pond Antiques and Gifts a great antique store with not only antiques but also new items including Guatamalan Palms and other hats, Fiesta Ware, Woolrich and western attire, plus women’s accessories.

Stop by the Frog Pond Antiques for a Georgetown Historical Walking Tour Guide.frog pond frog6Take your photo in front of the Georgetown Fire Station mural. At the end of Main Street, you can will find a working 10 Stamp Mill. Gasoline is available in Georgetown at the corner of Highway 193 and Main Street.


Historic Note:

001Georgetown is located east of Cool on Highway 193. Georgetown’s rich gold diggings were discovered in 1849 when more than $20,000 of gold was uncovered within 6 weeks. First known as George’s Town, the town began as a base camp for miners seeking their fortune in the 1849 California Gold Rush. Tents, shacks and canvas structures lined the camp creek. Georgetown boomed until 1852 when the tent city was totally burned down by fire. But the fire did not shut down the camp, a nearby site was chosen and Georgetown was simply moved to its present location. Unique in the California Mother Lode, Main Street was made extra wide to prevent any future fire from jumping from one side to the other. This distinctive fire prevention tactic still exists today and you can still park in the center of Main Street. Many of the new buildings were made of brick and stone and fitted with fireproof iron doors (look and you will find buildings from this period). Georgetown quickly rose to prominence as one of the richer camps in the region and came to be known as the “Pride of the Mountains”.

From Main Street in Georgetown, cross over Highway 193 to Lower Main Street. Turn left onto Marshall Road. Turn left onto Black Oak Mine. Quickly turn right into a little shopping center with lots of good food. Try Rafferty’s Candy! A quaint, family owned candy store whose owners make their candy themselves. Or, if your fancy is more towards cookies, go into Chunks of Heaven. Or visit Rome Valley Vineyards – call ahead for an appointment – 530-295-9260. Rome Valley Vineyards is a special site for a very special wedding. There is a lovely park for picnics and BBQ’s with a children’s play area and splash park in Garden Valley. There is also a gas station/market in Garden Valley.


Historic Note:
Garden Valley, located on the Marshall Road grade between Highway 49 and 193, was originally called Johntown in honor of the sailor who discovered gold at the site. The name was later changed in recognition that marketing vegetables was more lucrative than gold mining. An old stone store and Grange Hall remain from the early days. A variety of shopping and restaurants and gas station are open year-round.

20150327_134855Next, find Greenwood Road which will bring you back to Highway 193. Turn left from Greenwood Road onto Highway 193 and this will take you back to Cool. After a day of exploring the foothill countryside, you might want to stop at Cool Beerwerks in the Cool Village, a locally owned brewery which also serves food to adults as well as kids of all ages.

Then you are back on your way home onto Highway 49 through Auburn to Highway 80. Or, off for more adventure in El Dorado County, turn left onto Highway 49 and continue into Coloma, where gold was first discovered in California which started the Gold Rush in 1848.

Note: Many of the shops and facilities mentioned above, are locally owned and operated by the owner. While you are there, ask if the owner is available and let them know you are taking an Adventure Loop tour.

*Instead of turning onto Highway 193, you can instead continue straight ahead on Highway 49.  You will pass the Bayley House, a great venue for barn weddings. Continue on Highway 49 and you will arrive at Everhart Cellars & Hart2Hart Vineyards where they have wine tasting, a gift shop, wedding and event venue, beautiful picnic grounds, a luxury vacation home rental, and award-winning premium estate wines.  You will pass Cronan Ranch Park and Dave Moore Park with river access which are open to the public.  You will also pass through the river rafting community.  Take a left onto Marshall Road and you are on your way to Garden Valley and Georgetown, arriving in Cool at the intersections of Highways 913 and 49.  Or, you can turn left onto Greenwood Road rather than go to Georgetown and then left onto Highway 193.