Roanoke Trail / Cock Robin Trail

Roanoke Trail

3 ¾ miles from Georgetown. Steep 4 miles round trip.                             MAP

Trail Alert: This trail is currently very difficult to access due to the rough nature of Bottle Hill Road. The trail is easy to follow once you find it!

When early settlers in Georgetown wanted to visit their sister town of Foresthill this trail was the way to get there. The trail is mentioned in The Journal of Steven Wing by Phyllis Gernes as the route Mr. Wing hiked to attend a dance in Foresthill. The trail today goes from the site of Bottle Hill down to the site of Ford’s Bar. In olden days a stage road brought the stage to Ford’s Bar from Todd’s Valley.

Directions: Take Church St. east out of town where it becomes Mameluke Rd. Follow this steep road down and cross the Canyon Creek bridge. Go approx. ½ mile and turn R on an unmarked main road (Bottle Hill Road). Follow this for 1 ½ miles to a open and flat area popular for target shooting. The trail begins on the L as a logging spur road.

The trail circles a plantation of Ponderosa Pine on the road for about ½ mile. When you come to a creek crossing look for a trail going R. Sometimes the beginning is overgrown with Scotch broom. The trail parallels the creek as it drops down to pass the entrance to the Roanoke Mine.

This historical mine is one of the most extensive in the G.T. area and if you are willing to wade the flooded entrance the mine goes through solid rock for a hundred yards before entering a less stable section of rotting timbers and collapsed ceilings.

Try to imagine the torture of David Fraser who spent 10 days lost in the mine during the Christmas holidays of 1888 after his candle failed and his matches got wet. He was finally rescued by friends who said he had lost his mind from the ordeal.

Beyond the mine the trail gets steeper and steeper using switchbacks to carve its way down to Ford’s Bar and the confluence of Otter Creek with the Middle Fork of the American River. You’ve dropped 2200 feet in 2 miles.

If you want more exercise at this point and don’t think that the hike back up will be enough—cross Otter Creek and walk a bit upstream along the left bank watching for an obscure trail climbing up on the left. You’ve located:

Cock Robin Trail (first place award for steepness)                                      MAP

(Only 8 miles from G.T. on the Roanoke Trail, otherwise 21 miles by road through Volcanoville to its top end.)

This is a really fun but steep climb up an impossible rock spine that wastes little ground climbing up towards the Volcanoville Ridge.[1] Hold your breath if you can at some awesome river overlooks along the way that appear to be straight down from the trailside.

I’ve been told that this old trail was used by horses and mules during the gold rush but I don’t believe it. It has USFS blazes along its way indicating it as an official forest service trail. The trail approaches 45 degrees of inclination up towards the top.

As the trail levels out at the top, look for the unusual manzanita that grows there. The rare “El Dorado Manzanita” can be recognized by its shaggy bark and small leaves. It grows mixed in with its more common smooth-barked manzanita cousins.

Additional Directions: If you don’t feel up to this hike as an extension of the Roanoke trail, you can drive to its upper end. Go 8.3 miles out Wentworth Springs Rd. to turn L on Volcanoville Rd. Go another 7 miles to turn L on Paymaster Mine Rd. Go about 6 miles out on this high clearance road (4WD if wet) until it ends at the Cock Robin Point trailhead. There are a few side roads but stay on the main route on top of the ridge.

[1] Evan Jones, (Co-author with Bob Griffis of Take A Hike) told me that miners had better things to do than build switchbacks.

Click HERE to view the Take A Hike! version of this hike.

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