Fairplay Region is about 20 minutes drive southeast from Placerville. This area has become popular for wine tasting, with about a dozen or so wineries in the region (most of which lie on Fairplay Rd - which most of the bike rides bypass). Although wine tasting by bicycle is possible, I wouldn't recommend it. Unlike Napa wineries (which most lie in flat terrain), there are some decent hills to cover here, and the wine will just slow you down. Also because of the popularity of wine tasting, the traffic can become more heavy on weekend afternoons - though still very light if compared to Napa. Periodically there are "festivals", the Fairplay Festival and Passport Weekend are the two that come to mind, and it's best to avoid this region during this time - or at least get your bicycling done before noon. The dates vary (usually Passport is the end of March, beginning of April - and the Fairplay Festival is end of May, beginning of June), you can check the El Dorado Wine Association web site for more information.
All rides here begin at Pioneer Park. The park is open from 8:00 am to Sunset, and parking is free. The park also has running water and bathrooms. The rides start immediately across the street from Pioneer Park on Perry Creek Rd. This avoids having to do uphill on the busier section of Fairplay Rd. From Perry Creek, the rides diverge - the gentler rides head towards Fairplay Rd, and the longer rides climb up Slug Gulch Rd. The latter offers a very stiff 2.8 mile climb which many cyclist will find a worthy challenge. Make sure you bring plenty of water - especially if on a warm Summer day. All these rides are in rural country, so there are no stores along the way.
To get to Pioneer Park from Placerville, take Highway 49 south to Diamond Springs. Turn Left on Pleasant Valley Rd, and continue down this road for about 5 miles to the first stop sign you see. This is Bucks Bar Rd, and you need to turn Right on this road. The road winds around a bit, drops to the North Fork of the Cosumnes River, climbs back out, and after a few miles (and one stop sign along the way) comes to Mt. Aukum Rd (also known as E16). Turn Right here, and this will take you down to Fairplay Rd (top of next hill). Turn Left here, and Pioneer Park is about 200 yards down the way on the right hand side.
Time to Ride: Best time to tour this area is late Spring through Fall. Lower elevation rides (any that don't go up Slug Gulch) can be done year round, with the exception of during very cold winter storms which may bring snow to the region.
Traffic Notes: As mentioned above, Fairplay Rd can have moderate traffic on weekend afternoons. Perry Creek usually has lighter traffic than Fairplay, and Slug Gulch is almost always light traffic (though narrow - so be careful of cars coming in the opposite direction).
As a general rule of thumb, rides tend to average about 10-14 miles per hour. Climbing overall is approximately 100 feet/mile (so a 20 mile ride has about 2000 feet total climbing). Slug Gulch has very stiff climbing - with some sections well over 10% grade (there are a few breaks in-between). Make sure you are comfortable with hill climbing before attempting to bicycle this road.
Rides in this area include:
Perry Creek / Fairplay Rd Loop - 6.8 miles. If you are short on time, or not used to long rides with lots of hills, then this ride is a good way to see the Fairplay area. There are two short stiff hills - one of which is just after you start, and the other near Fairplay itself (near mile 4 on the ride). You can also do a small detour up Slug Gulch as far as you'd like, then return back down.
Perry Creek / Dorado Canyon Loop - 12 or 14 miles. This ride further extends the Perry Creek / Fairplay Road Loop but avoids the difficult Slug Gulch Climb. In this case, the first 4 miles are the same, but when reaching Fairplay, you turn Left (instead of Right). This will take you on a climb to Omo Ranch Road. From here you descend to Dorado Canyon - a small private road with very little traffic that cuts back to Fairplay Rd near where you started. You can either take this road, or extend it slightly further by returning by way of E16 / Mt. Aukum Rd (which adds another 2 miles). Both routes are good.
Slug Gulch / Fairplay Rd Loop - 18 miles. This ride gives you a combination of a tour through the Fairplay winery region (both in the beginning and end of the loop) and includes the infamous Slug Gulch climb (one of the more difficult climbs in El Dorado County). The Slug Gulch climb offers only a few few breaks, but the reward is an extremely beautiful road with great local views once past the switchbacks. After climbing on Slug Gulch, the route starts it's return back on Omo Ranch and then Fairplay Rd, the latter has a brief climb before descending back to the starting point.
Slug Gulch / Dorado Canyon Loop - 20 or 22 miles. This ride is one of the longer loops in the region. It also takes you on the quiet Perry Creek Rd, and climbs up Slug Gulch. Great riding awaits you after the switchbacks (actually I like the switchbacks too). The route then descends down on Omo Ranch Rd, and continues further than previous rides by passing Fairplay Rd. A few miles further down, you are presented with an option on the remainder of the ride... Dorado Canyon Road (quiet private road) or E16 / Mt Aukum Rd (two additional miles). Both are good routes.
Fairplay - Fiddletown Loop - 20 or 24 miles. This is a wonderful ride through the lower foothills, taking you past vineyards, ranches and some interesting old buildings in Fiddletown (actually a 100 yard detour from the ride). This is more of a moderate ride (not as steep as any rides here that include Slug Gulch), and can easily be extended to longer rides by going further out on Omo Ranch Rd and Fairplay Rd before returning to the start. Both options shown on this map are very scenic and enjoyable.
Slug Gulch / Hwy 88 / Shake Ridge Loop - 48 miles. An all day ride with wonderful climbs up Omo Ranch Rd (tends to be very quiet). Good views along the way. Total climbing is 4,700 feet - so this is a strong ride. This route does go onto Highway 88 for almost 3 miles (fast traffic) - so extreme caution is advised here. Fortunately, it's mostly downhill, and this section goes by very fast. Shake Ridge and Fiddletown Rd continue your descent back down into the Foothills. At the town of Fiddletown the route exits (also a second alternative route is available here), takes you to E16, which then returns you back to the start. There are few supplies along the way (mile 26 and mile 42 have groceries), so go prepared with plenty of water and food.