Wednesday, May 23, 2012


The American River Inn
Living in the Sacramento area, one is spoiled by the year-round nature of and the sheer number of miles of excellent roadways to explore.  We get up in the morning, down a cup or two of coffee, then saddle up for a four to six to eight hour mini-vacation.  The Pacific Coast is two hours away; Tahoe, two hours; the Gold Country, walking distance.  Alas, not every rider is so fortunate.  For those from further afield, the American River Inn offers the perfect home base for exploration.

The American River Inn is an historic hotel located in old Growlersberg – now known as Georgetown – California.  Proprietress Betty greeted me warmly, as if I were some wayward relative away too long.  She introduced me to Dolly, an ample but spunky black Cocker and only then asked if she might be able to help me with something.  “Folks are coming from throughout the west coast for a little celebration,” I explained, “and we need a place to house up.” 

The American River Inn
“Look around,” she suggested with a confidant smile, encouraging me to trundle up the stairs.  The innkeepers have carefully transformed this fourteen-room hostelry with period antique furnishings and fixtures.  The American River offers suites, as well as rooms with private and shared bath accommodations.  A pull-chain John Douglass invited my scrutiny.

American River Inn
A full, hearty and delectable breakfast – apple pancakes one day, ham and delightful egg puffs the next – is served in a quaint parlor. 

Wine is sipped on the veranda evenings around 5:30.  And a late evening nightcap including a bring-your-own cigar is not discouraged.

Georgetown, CA
Just out the front door, the main street boasts two or three watering holes, a very nice cooperative art gallery, a couple of antique outlets and a friendly and comprehensive general store.  The family owned Mexican Restaurant down the street and around the corner is nicely down home.  Clampers have placed plaques in front of each historic building to remind us of their heritage.

Walking distance from the hostelry is a cooperatively maintained nature preserve, well positioned for a morning stroll before saddling up for motorized adventure.

Georgetown is situated on the divide between the north and south forks of the American.  About eight miles down the hill, James Marshall changed the course of history.  Thirty miles east puts one in the Granite Basin Recreation Area home to dozens of lakes and miles of nicely maintained Forest Service Routes. 

Entering Granite Basin
Sixteen miles south to Placerville and US 50, Echo Summit and the Tahoe Basin is only 90 minutes off.   Nineteen miles north, Auburn straddles I-80.  In between, the area is webbed with paved and graveled roads leading from the depths of the American to the crest of the Sierra.

Stumpy Meadows
Wentworth Springs Road heads east from Georgetown past Stumpy Meadows Reservoir, a nice fishing lake with accessible picnic spots…

… skirting Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a place I’ve yet to experience, lacking a big V-Twin Cruiser…

… and up to Ice House Road.

Loon Lake
Left on Ice House takes us to Loon Lake where the construction superintendent’s cabin is available for rent…

Wentworth Springs
… or through a cluster of privately held historic cabins (no trespassing please) at Wentworth Springs…

Rubicon Trail
… and up to the Rubicon Jeep Trail which crosses just above the Desolation Wilderness area before descending into the Tahoe Basin.

There is plenty of still and cascading water, glaciated high mountains, fragrant pine forest, exquisite pavement and peaceful footpaths.

American River Inn
Easily, one could off-load the panniers and spend several days enjoying glorious loops exploring some of the California’s most historic sites and some of its grandest scenery.  If so doing, the American River Inn is an ideal home base.

Routes not to miss in this area:

State Route 49 from Auburn to Placerville though Coloma, the site of Marshall’s gold discovery.

State Route 193 from Cool to Georgetown to Placerville – check out the historic schoolhouse and cemetery at Greenwood.

Marshall Road from Lotus to Georgetown through Garden Valley – a ride with nice elevation gain, that tunnels through woodlands and breaks into panoramic views.

Wentworth Springs
Wentworth Springs Road sweeping upward to the Granite Basin Recreation Area – use caution – three times – three times! – in our two-night stay emergency personnel were dispatched to scrape up some poor hot-rodder who thought he could outsmart a decreasing radius turn.  Medi-vac isn’t cheap.

Loon Lake
Ice House Road – pack a picnic and stop at all the reservoirs: Loon Lake, Union Valley, Ice House; then enjoy the descent into the South Fork and Highway 50.  Better yet, start at highway 50 and ascend into the Granite Basin.



The Historic American River Inn:

DeLorme’s California Atlas and Gazetteer (2008 or newer) pages 58, 59, 60, 65 and 66.  Comprehensive collection of topo maps for the entire state.  I carry a copy on board anywhere I go.

Gudde’s California Place Names – always a good place to find out why something might be named what it is.  Additionally, this book can help you appear to be smarter than your fourth grader.

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. Coincidence: A Facebook buddy was browsing the Church of the Open Road and kindly offered this bit of additional history:

    I was browsing your Road site and noticed your pix and comments about Wentworth Springs, Loon Lake, and the American Hotel in Georgetown. My wife Susan’s mother, who passed on three years ago at age 92, was the owner of the American Hotel for many years, her family settled in Georgetown before the Gold Rush and were pioneers and miners of the area. Margaret told us of picnicking at Wentworth Springs and Loon Lake. Susan said she is surprised that the Wentworth buildings you pictured are still standing. Nice of you to include this info on your great site.

  2. I replied that the houses in old Wentworth Springs are still standing although there are plenty of No Trespassing Signs. The fence being decrepit, I must admit in the interests of full disclosure, I hopped across and took a few pictures of this pleasant place.

  3. What a great article. Makes me want to hop on the bike and head out for a long weekend. Unfortunately this is a little longer trip than a weekend getaway from Ohio. :-/

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