If you love exploring and history, you must experience this scenic drive and hike through the Eldorado National Forest. If you don't have a USGS topo map you best stay on the main forest service road, also known as Mosquito Road. However, with a topo in hand, stop by Slate Mountain where you'll see a great deal of the central valley from Stockton in the south to north of Sacramento. Continue on for the trip to Deer View, where once stood the legendary Hotel Bret Harte.
At Deer View you should be able to locate the foundation and remains of the old Hotel Bret Harte, which never had a paying customer. Envision the hotel as it once stood in the wilderness, surrounded by nature and total peace and quiet. (See the link below for actual photos of the once majestic structure.) Wild berries grow in the area as well as pears in old orchards, (now growing wild), still bearing delicious fruit, at the right time of year.
For more adventure, after Deer View head north and find Stumpy Meadow, a good size reservoir with excellent fishing. Check out this link for more historical information about the hotel: http://adamsamigos.net/mosquito/dvfacts.htm and check this link for a 1920s version of the drive from Placerville to Deer View: http://www.adamsamigos.net/mosquito/dvdrive.htm
Length of Byway or Route: Approximately 16 miles one way, including 1 mile off of the main forest service road, aka Mosquito Rd.
From Placerville travel north on Mosquito Road for about 14 miles. Mosquito Road is located off of US Highway 50. If traveling from the east take the Mosquito Rd. exit, if traveling from the west take the Broadway exit in Placerville, turn right go to the next stop sign and turn right on to Mosquito Rd. Stay on Mosquito Rd. for the entire road trip.
Here are some landmarks for you to know you're headed the right way. From the start at US 50 it will be about 5.75 miles to Mosquito Bridge, the oldest in-use suspension bridge in California, and it must be experienced. From the bridge it will be about 1.75 miles to one of the only county road signs you'll see, the Mosquito Cutoff Road sign. Stay to the right at this fork in the road. From there go one more mile to the intersection of Mosquito Rd. and Rock Creek Road. In front of you will be Dyer Lake. Turn right at this intersection. From your turn at Dyer Lake and a bit further up, on the right, will be Trout Lake. From the intersection of Mosquito and Rock Creek roads you will go approximately 3.6 miles and you will be at the turn off to the remains of the Slate Mountain Ranger Station, but stay on Mosquito Rd for another 1.7 miles. A service road will be on the right side, take this service road for about 1 mile to Deer View. Depending on road conditions at the time of your visit you may decide, (or have to), to hike in. Important reminder -there are NO services (gas, food, water) after leaving Placerville. Be prepared and ensure you have water. Other than no services being available the road is safe to drive. Pavement ends when you enter the National Forest. For the last mile, or so, on the service road to Deer View, a high clearance vehicle will be needed. The road is not maintained, narrow and rutted. Hiking, bicycles, quads or a motorcycle, can traverse the road. A creek will run across the road, approximately 500 feet from the Deer View clearing and may not be possible to traverse in any type of vehicle, due to silt depth, but can be on foot.
You can use the USFS road map of this area, click here.
However, this USGS topo map may be better: click here. This is the USGS Slate Mtn. quadrangle topo for this location and can also be downloaded from the USGS site for free.
NOTE: Once in the Eldorado National Forest, the road will be unpaved, and in some instances ungraded, usually due to weather. The Forest Service and El Dorado County do a good job of maintaining the road, but lumber trucks access it and have a tendency to cause rutting. Best to use a 4 wheel drive vehicle, pickup, or a vehicle with good ground clearance. Do not attempt after rain, or during the winter months. If you follow the driving directions noted above you will experience the oldest in use cable suspension bridge in California. Two small lakes Dyer and Trout will be seen on the route and the entrance to the National Forest is marked in two ways; a Forest Service sign and the end of road pavement. En route you will be going by Slate Mountain, a spectacular viewpoint at the old remains of the forest service lookout tower, but only accessible on foot at this time.
When in your vehicle it is possible to enjoy the area, but depending on an individual's disability it may not be practical to leave your vehicle due to steep terrain, and dirt paths and roads.
It's in the forest, so the area is definitely eco-friendly - but remember don't take anything and leave only footprints.
This is a National Forest area, keep pets safe and on a leash.