Roanoke Trail

3 ¾ miles from Georgetown. Steep 4 miles R.T.

TRAIL UPDATE: See comments section below for hiker-supplied trail conditions as of March 31, 2016

This trail is currently very difficult to access due to the rough nature of Bottle Hill Road.

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 2,200 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)

(Only 8 miles from Georgetown 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.

5 Responses to Roanoke Trail

  1. Ryan Enright says:

    Mr. Petersen, do you like to hike this trail from time to time? I’ve been obsessed with it recently and spent all of today trying to find it. (I commend the commenting hiker for even finding it and completing it.) Despite the knowledgeable trail descriptions from Get Off Your Gass and The American River Insider’s Guide, the trailhead eluded me. I spent eight hours hiking or driving around the area on the forest roads. I hiked four logging road access points, i.e. trailheads (ones I thought matched the description) to no avail. There are a number of flat, open areas used for target practice, which unfortunately doesn’t help the first attempt at finding the trail. I have to admit, this trailhead may be the hardest I’ve ever tried to find. A ranger at the Georgetown Ranger District (who is new, to be fair) has never hiked it and a matter-of-fact and attentive older ranger hasn’t hiked it in years. Is it going the way of the dinosaur? I have to agree with what you said, Mr. Petersen (in your Roan Oak trail description), the trail signs don’t last very long in Georgetown, in particular. And the forest service really doesn’t care about these trails, from talking to them.

    If someone were to hike this trail I would be most interested to join in. I live in Sacramento, not far away. Are there any other tips for finding this trailhead? The area around Bottle Hill Road and those country roads garbles the mind.

    Gratefully yours,



    • Phillip says:

      Ryan, I would enjoy a hike so let me know via this website. I’m in Roseville. Use these coordinates to mark the actual trailhead. 38°56’48.5″N 120°50’52.8″W

      Recommend using to use the FSTopo(2013) layer for that area. My trip was a bikepacking adventure but both Roanoak and Cock Robin trails are not good biking trails. I never got to ride the trails, but only pushed or carried the bike. I will not take my bike on them again! Forest Service has cock robin trailhead marked as Roanoak, but the AR Guide book says it is Cock Robin. Either way, using the above website and layer will get you there. I also use Avenza app to download topo maps and it works as a gps too.


      • Ryan Enright says:

        Phillip, sorry it has taken me so long to respond. It looks like my notifications weren’t set and I checked back here recently and saw your response. I would very much enjoy a hike with you. Thank you for the GPS coordinates for the trail – I followed the directions mentally and they look good. I was going in circles in the area close to the trailhead when I attempted to find the trail. There were too many trails that don’t go anywhere or link up with others that send you out on a different mission. You’re hardcore to have taken your bike down into that canyon. After doing the Otter Creek to Postmaster Mine Trail and part of what I believe is the Kelliher trail, I think I would be pushing my bike too! If you’re available to go, might I invite a friend of mine, another musician? He thought he might enjoy it too – he prefers hard hikes. I know this trail and others in GT are waiting to be beaten down again! Maybe we can do the Otter Creek and Paymaster Mine Trail another time. I’d like to revisit that trail. Send me a line when you get a moment! Ryan


  2. Phillip says:

    March 31, 2016 Update for Roanoak and Cockrobin trail: Forest service marker at cock robin point calls it Roan Oak but the original sign with number has been destroyed and only pieces left. The trail starts down easy but major tree blockage within 50 yards. Then the trail gets very steep and has not been used for at least 5 to 8 years. Found white flags (aged from being pink) but sometimes very hard to find trail bed. Very STEEP indeed!!!!! Tons of poison oak and overgrown. Ford’s bar has been cleared within last 2 years and very nice. Going up the other part of the trail: hard to find trail head but saw a rock on a rock that clued me in. This trail is overgrown and very numerous downed trees, some of the trail bed is eroding, but at least there were some switchbacks. Major size trees down requiring major effort to get through. Not recommended for casual hiking but is peaceful at the river.


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