Dexter hiking Horsetail Falls. Photo Credit: @lmcarbonell
Of the two primary ways to get to Lake Tahoe from Sacramento (Interstate 80 or Highway 50), 50 is by far the more scenic—especially this year, with the American River raging at the side of the road east of Placerville. Need a rest stop? You’ll have to pay a day-use fee to park and pause in the CalTrans lot at Twin Bridges (86 miles and about an hour and a half from Sacramento), but it’s worth it to take a short walk to Pyramid Creek and the base of 800-foot-high Horsetail Falls, perhaps the most spectacular cascade in Northern California and at its peak this month.
Keep an eye out for the easy-to-miss parking area—it will be on your left, on a sweeping curve just past the hamlet of Strawberry.
Continue on the winding road for about a half-hour, past the panoramic viewpoints and down to lake level. Once you reach the “Y” (intersection of Highway 50 and Highway 89) in South Lake Tahoe, you have two choices: Turn right to access a miles-long strip of commercial establishments including restaurants, hotels and the dog-friendly Heavenly Village (Azul Latin Kitchen, California Burger Co., Fire + Ice and Basecamp Pizza are canine-welcoming establishments here); or merge left onto Highway 89 for a scenic drive up the west shore of the lake.
Choose the right-hand (Highway 50) fork, and you’ll find lots to keep you and your pup busy on both sides of the state line. For beach action, you can visit South Lake Tahoe’s only “water dog park” at Regan Memorial City Beach, or cross over into Nevada and drive about two miles past Stateline casinos to access the turnoff for Nevada Beach, the longest, broadest beach at Tahoe and the only place we know of with a sandy strand where dogs can run, play and fetch without tethers ($7 day-use fee, or park on the road for free and walk in). Several miles of hike-and-bike trails provide additional activity options in the vicinity.
While there’s lots of dog-friendly lodging in South Shore, one of our favorite spots is on Highway 50, on the southeast (Nevada) side of the lake. Zephyr Cove Resort has dog-friendly cabins (with kitchens), a restaurant, a lively beach scene (sorry, no dogs on the swimming beach) and a rocky but serviceable off-leash stretch of shoreline, as well.
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Photo Credit: @lmcarbonell