If you’re visiting Angels Camp, Murphys, Columbia †or other Gold Country destinations in the vicinity of the Highway 4 corridor, you owe it to yourself to explore the Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway at least as far as its 8,730-foot summit. Starting at Calaveras Big Trees State Park (no dogs are allowed on trails, but there's good viewing of giant sequoias to be had from the fire roads) near Arnold, the 61-mile scenic drive offers spectacular views of glacier-carved valleys, granite outcrops, basalt columns, volcanic peaks, mirror-like lakes and swiftly flowing streams. Above Bear Valley the road shrinks to two lanes with no center line and no shoulders as it snakes over the Sierra crest.
The Byway’s jumping-off possibilities are endless, but if you’re day-tripping in summer, we suggest a rest stop at Lake Alpine Resort, where you and your pooch can enjoy lunch on the restaurant patio (or spend the night in a dog-friendly cabin, if you’re lucky enough to snag a reservation). You’ll likely meet Elvis the “greeter dog,” who likes wandering from table to table, soliciting pats along the way. Save energy for a visit to picture-perfect Lake Alpine just across the road. If you’re up to it at this altitude, stretch your legs and lungs with a hike to Inspiration Point above the lake in the Stanislaus National Forest (ask at the resort for directions). Continuing to the Ebbetts Pass summit, you’ll see the trailhead for the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, which stretches 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada and attracts thousands of long-distance backpackers each year. You don’t have to go far in either direction to get into some seriously dramatic views, but remember to bring water for your furry companion.