Mark Twain slept here. So did Western adventure writer Bret Harte. You’ll see their names plastered on businesses, schools and street signs all over Calaveras County, where dog-friendly communities like Angels Camp and Murphys don’t hesitate to play up their Gold Rush-era legacies.
Calaveras is just a bit too far from Sacramento and the Bay Area for a day trip, so your best bet for a visit is to find a dog-friendly vacation rental for a week or a long weekend of wine tasting and exploring marquee attractions like Columbia State Historic Park or Calaveras Big Trees State Park.
Our suggestion after that is to say goodbye to the highway and hello to the byway, Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway, that is. The 61-mile route traces Highway 4 from Calaveras Big Trees to the 8,730-foot summit of Ebbetts Pass, offering spectacular views of glacier-carved valleys, granite outcrops, basalt columns, volcanic peaks, mirror lakes and swiftly flowing streams. Above Bear Valley Mountain Resort (technically in Alpine County), the road shrinks to two lanes with no centerline and no shoulders as it snakes its way over the Sierra crest.
Jumping-off possibilities along the byway 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. But be sure to call ahead as the cabins fill up quickly in the summer. 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 a trailhead for the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, which stretches 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada and attracts thousands of long-distance backpackers and day-hikers each year. You don’t have to go far in either direction to get into some seriously dramatic scenery, but remember to bring water for your furry companion and give her a sip every time you give yourself one.