The day use fee at Hopewell Lake is $5 per vehicle and the campground has various sites for $16 per night. Free parking and dispersed campsites can be found along Forest Road 91B
. There's a lot of potential in this area to link up various bikepacking routes or day rides and get some serious mileage. The Tour Divide comes through here during June.
This is a rocky and in places steep road dropping into Placer Creek from Hopewell Lake, crossing Forest Road 91B1
near the middle. From the parking lot at the lake, ride up the first switchback to the gate where the trail begins.
The energy buzzes with history as you pass some old Forest Service signs and equipment left from the late 1800s when the area was a booming mining district. Ride along the rolling hills above a vast, green meadow to where the trail enters the forest, through some privately held old mines and a mill worth a glance, then a steepening descent towards Placer Creek where remnants of the mining operations are slowly being taken back by nature.
For a geology enthusiast this is a fascinating area to see as ancient schistose outcrops line the canyon, interspersed among meadows and slopes covered with aspen and mixed conifer forest. After about a mile, you'll reach the valley floor (known as the lower flats), cross the stream, and cruise through some open meadows and wetlands to a junction with Forest Road 91B1
. Turn right onto this road for a short ways and look for a doubletrack heading south from the west side of the meadow. Follow this doubletrack into the forest, it has a short uphill to a saddle between to high points the descends a couple hundred feet before ending at a flat bench where Placer Creek flows into the Rio Vallecito.
The lower section of this trail has some spectacular natural characteristics, east of the trail the creek flows through a deep-cut channel with towering granite walls hanging above the narrow canyon, and across from the bottom of the trail an interesting granite outcrop demands attention. The Gold Prospectors Association of America holds a 280 acre placer claim here, if you become a GPAA member you can test your luck and pan for gold on the claim.