Dog-friendly lodging | Dog-friendly hikes | Dog-friendly parks | Dog-friendly water

California’s Gold Country

Jan. 24, 1848, was one of the most significant dates in American history. That's when James Marshall turned up a gold nugget at Sutter's Mill near Coloma, setting off a gold rush that transformed the landscape and speeded up the march toward statehood.The gold rush continues today in the form of tourism in a region encompassing the seven counties plus the city of Folsom that we see above. Sacramento, which served as the main supply center for the Gold Rush, also counts itself a part of Gold Country. From a DogTrekker's point of view, there's lots of "gold" still to be discovered.

Please click on any of the counties below for information about dog-friendly hotels, restaurants, hiking, wineries and more

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Gold Country Stories

Just up Highway 50 from Sacramento, the city of Folsom is a superb dog-friendly destination with a handsomely renovated Old Town just a block or two from the Sacramento River. Cuddle up in dog-friendly lodging and spend a weekend exploring with your four-legged friend. Get your bearings on Sutter Street (the main drag), where you can soak up some local motion at a dog-friendly taproom or restaurant.
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Just 15 miles south of downtown Sacramento, the scenic Sacramento River Delta opens up, city life slows to a crawl and the Clarksburg American Viticultural Area offers all kind of dog-friendly, small-batch wine-tasting experiences, along with a few good places to eat. If you’re not from Sacramento, it’s probably all new to you, so take a leisurely drive of discovery and find out more.
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While parts of El Dorado County were impacted by the Caldor Fire in August and September, the Apple Hill Growers region north of Placerville (about 45 minutes from Sacramento on Highway 50) was spared. It’s 50-odd member farms, wineries and other establishments (almost all of them dog-friendly) kicked off the 2021 season in early September with regional events, individual grower events, kids’ activities and pumpkin patches galore.
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As the seasons change and the smoke from Northern California wildfires gives way to crystal-blue skies, opportunities for exploring Sacramento and the destinations in its “big back yard” expand. Make the state capital your home base and take off from there. Here is the best of dog-friendly Sacramento and neighboring communities:
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Anybody who has ever traveled with their canine companion knows that some accommodations are more dog-friendly than others. At Tenaya Lodge, you can fetch a trip you’ll both enjoy.
 
If you like adventuring with your dog and have always wanted to experience Yosemite National Park, then Tenaya Lodge is perfect.
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Yosemite is now open, as are the 50 new two-bedroom Tenaya Lodge Explorer Cabins that opened in 2019. Tenaya Lodge, a luxury establishment in Fish Camp, just two miles outside the park’s southern (Wawona, Highway 41) entrance, has long been a DogTrekker favorite. The dog-friendly Explorer Cabins are scattered over 27 forested acres walking distance from Tenaya Lodge, Jackalopes Bar & Grill and activities, including hiking. Book direct and save.
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Heads up: you will once again need reservations to visit Yosemite National Park this summer, whether its for day-tripping, camping or lodging. But no big deal, just keep checking on protocols and procedures so you don’t travel all that way just to be locked out.

At any rate, you don’t even need to enter the park to get an eyeful of scenery in Mariposa County, which is bisected by Highway 140 leading to the park’s El Portal entrance on the west and Highway 41 on the south.
 
Spring is the perfect time to visit with your pup, as temperatures are on the rise, waterfalls are gushing and wildflowers are starting to bloom. You’ll find dog-friendly lodging, dining, hikes and historic sites in small towns including Mariposa, Coulterville, Fish Camp, Midpines/El Portal and Catheys Valley.
 
You’ll find fun places to stay with your pup, too. Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite in Fish Camp, just two miles from the park's southern entrance, is a luxury resort with a lodge, cottages and 50 dog-friendly cabins. Go online to check out the property’s Fido Friendly Package.

Images provided courtesy of Tenaya Lodge.
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Heads up: you will once again need reservations to visit Yosemite National Park this summer, whether its for day-tripping, camping or lodging. But no big deal, just keep checking on protocols and procedures so you don’t travel all that way just to be locked out.

At any rate, you don’t even need to enter the park to get a eyeful of scenery in Mariposa County, which is bisected by highway 140 leading to the park’s El Portal entrance.
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The English proverb ‘let sleeping dogs lie” might have been the right advice back in the 13th century, but certainly doesn’t apply when your pup wakes up in a beautifully appointed room at Yosemite’s Tenaya Lodge or in the privacy of one of 50 two-bedroom dog-friendly Explorer Cabins, surrounded by wide open spaces.
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Yosemite National Park is a small (but mighty) part of Mariposa County.  The rest of the Yosemite Mariposa realm is all-in with doggo-loving culture.  From historic Gold Country towns to the surrounding national forest lands, furry comrades are abundantly welcomed. Dog-friendly lodging, hikes, water activities and more will fill your days with vacation rewards.

Revved-up dogs can go APD (all-paw-drive) in the Sierra National Forest, featuring five designated wilderness areas within its expansive boundary.
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You’ll find dog-lovers and dog-friendly Yosemite lodging options throughout the region. To review them all, visit the lodging page on Yosemite.com, choose the general type of accommodation you prefer – hotels and motels, bed and breakfasts, cabin rentals or camping. Then use the Advanced Filter to show pet-friendly options inside and outside of the park. You can also use the feature to choose what area you would like to stay, from Yosemite Valley to Wawona and Fish Camp to Mariposa.
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“Is Yosemite dog-friendly?” That’s one of the questions most asked by DogTrekker readers. The answer depends on how “Yosemite” is defined. We at DogTrekker define it not only as inside the park, but dog-passionate Mariposa County, affectionately known as the "Mother of Counties" because it initially encompassed one-fifth of the state of California, Including Yosemite National Park.
 
Inside the park, leashed dogs are allowed on most fully paved roads, sidewalks and bicycle paths, unless there is a sign that specifically forbids them.
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Sacramento’s restaurant scene, if not in full bloom, is at least budding again. No, you can’t yet eat indoors, but heated dining tents and patios have sprung up all over town, and with stay-at-home orders lifted and the weather generally mild, people (some accompanied by their dogs) are eating out again—socially distanced, of course. Here’s a sampling of some of our favorites. Pay them a visit with your pup and help save SAC restaurants!
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You love your dog. That’s a sure thing. But anyone who has traveled with their canine companion knows that some accommodations are more dog-friendly than others.

If you enjoy adventuring with your dog and have always wanted to experience Yosemite National Park, then Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite is for you.
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Winner of the 2015 Sunset Travel Awards for Best Resort for Pets, Tenaya Lodge knows how to take care of your dog! Their Fido Friendly Pet Package includes lodging and the one-time $100 pet fee for up to two dogs.
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Mariposa County's towns all make great walks for you and Fido. In Mariposa, the shop-lined streets, Art Park and Mariposa Creek Walk make for a nice way to explore the quaint mountain community and several restaurants boast outdoor seating areas that are pet-friendly. In the historic town of Coulterville, take your pup on a walk through time in a place that just might fool you into thinking it's a western film set. Check out other Mariposa County towns.
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The San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta is a boater’s paradise that in places feels like anther world. But you don’t need a boat to explore this rich agricultural region marked with old-time lift bridges, small towns and miles of levees that in the id-1800s transformed a once trackless wetland into 55 agricultural islands that still produce food for Northern California (pears and wine grapes are the main crops). Numerous winery tasting rooms have cropped up over the past decade on both sides of the river, all of them dog-friendly.
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Mark your holiday calendar because Santa and his water sleigh are making their way to Tomales Bay! Jolly Old Saint Nick is making his 9th annual visit to Nick's Cove on Sunday, December 8, from 3-5PM.
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In the last few weeks, as fires have raged across California, and all too many of us have had to leave our homes on short notice -- or been unable to get home following an evacuation order that left our critters stranded and in harm's way -- we're very grateful to all the first responders and the many volunteers who went to heroic lengths to keep everyone safe. In particular, we appreciate the hard work, dedication, and planning in anticipation of the next disaster, as lessons of the past came into play.
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This beautiful, rolling county southeast of Sacramento is highly regarded both for its wines and historic towns like Sutter Creek and Plymouth that beg lingering. Six dog-friendly wineries on the Amador County Wine Trail are situated in or near Plymouth, in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley wine region.
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DogTrekker’s Calaveras County Wine Trail sports 24 listings and growing, with many wineries and tasting rooms situated in or near the hip and happening town of Murphys on Highway 4. Stroll down Main Street, and you’ll be amazed to find more than 20 opportunities to wine-taste with your pup by your side!
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We can’t begin to count the ways you and your pup will be enchanted and entertained in the heart of Gold Country, but we can start you off on the Tuolumne County Wine and Craft Beer Trail, where we highlight five dog-friendly establishments, one of which is actually a lush, 160-acre preserve producing hard- and spirits.
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Stretching from Roseville to Lake Tahoe, Placer County is an up and coming wine region as well as a recreation magnet. Most of the 20 dog-friendly wineries and tasting rooms on the Placer County Wine Trail are north of Interstate 80 around Lincoln, Loomis and Auburn.
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Are you one of those folks who enjoys taking selfies with your dog wherever you roam? Add some fun to your quest by participating in the Placer Wine Trail Photo Hunt, a contest taking place through December. The deal: Visit a member winery, find the “treasure” (it might be an artwork, an artifact or a physical feature of the property), take a selfie, post it on Instagram and be entered to win a $100 gift card.
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Yosemite National Park is open, including the valley, Highway 41 through Madera County, Fish Camp, Mariposa Grove and Glacier Point. The weather is cooling off for crisp fall evenings, and Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, just minutes from the newly re-opened Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, has tons of great fall activities to get you and your favorite four-legged friend outside.
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Fall is a great time for a scenic drive, and California’s National Scenic Byways and Scenic Highways provide guaranteed enjoyment for the eyes plus limitless opportunities for hiking with your dog in gorgeous country. Study maps and guides before you go—and, as wildfire season continues, be sure to check out air quality predictions, as well. Here are three scenic routes that are sure to rearrange your senses and set tails a-waggin'.
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Cabin resorts—some rustic, some luxurious—have been hosting High Sierra vacationers for a century, and many are so popular in summer they can only be booked in blocks of a week or more. Come September, however, reservations open up, minimum-stay requirements are reduced and opportunity beckons. We’re partial to those in the uncrowded Lakes Basin Recreation Area straddling Sierra and Plumas counties about 50 miles northwest of Truckee.
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The Ferguson fire in Yosemite National Park that shut off the scenic Yosemite Valley for three weeks was fully contained on Aug. 19, and all entry roads through Tuolumne County (Highway 120), Mariposa County (Highway 140) and Madera County (Highway 41) are now open. Early fall is a great time to visit this iconic California attraction—and yes, there’s plenty for you and your dog to do together. #yosemitenow
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Calaveras County became known in 1800s for its rich gold deposits—and for a certain jumping frog memorialized in a short story by Mark Twain. Today, it’s a destination for Gold Rush tourists, campers, skiers, hikers and adventure seekers, many of whom wouldn’t think of heading into “them ‘thar hills” without their dogs. Angel’s Camp on Highway 49 and Murphys ?on nearby Highway 4 are the principal destinations in these parts.
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Follow Highway 49 south through Amador County for yet another take on Gold Country. You’ll find lodging at historic, dog-friendly establishments like Hanford House in Sutter Creek, the Imperial Hotel in Amador City and the St. George Hotel in the historic hamlet of Volcano, as well as contemporary Days Inn and Best Western properties. You’ll want to make a weekend of it, as the No. 1 attractions, wine and food, demand lingering.
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Named for the mythical city of gold, El Dorado County epitomizes California Gold Country. Its county seat, Placerville, is named for the alluvial deposits in the American River where many a miner struck it rich. The town of Placerville also makes for an interesting visit with its dog-welcoming restaurants, shops and a historic and dog-friendly hotel, Cary House, right in the middle of the action. Read more about El Dorado County in last week’s Highway 50 Gold Country issue.
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Hundreds of square miles of national forests and other public lands make Placer County a DogTrekker hotspot. Highway 49 runs south from Auburn, the county seat, to access 35,000-acre Auburn State Recreation Area hugging two forks of the American River. Hidden Falls Regional Park is delightful in fall even if the falls aren’t running, while at Cronan Ranch Regional Trails Park, you can hike to the river and watch the whitewater rafters go by.
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Historic Highway 49 in the north starts in the Sierra County town of Vinton and winds south through a mountainous region where the rivers still run free. Even during the summer high season, this county of fewer than 4,000 souls is off the beaten track for most visitors. In fall, it can feel like your own private realm. Set up basecamp in Downieville, a Gold-Rush town on the Yuba River, and prepare to be charmed.
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Once you reach Pollock Pines on Highway 50, you’re deep into Gold Country. And on a hot summer day, nothing could be more appealing than a dip in a turquoise-blue lake and a hike around it with your four-legged friend. Jenkinson Lake is the centerpiece of 650-acre Sly Park Recreation Area, and it’s gorgeous.
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September and October in El Dorado County means apples—lots and lots of apples and all the good things, from cider to pie, that go with them. But any time is a good time to visit some of the 50-plus family-owned farms, ranches and wineries operated by Apple Hill Growers.
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The El Dorado County seat was named for the alluvial deposits that drew prospectors here during the Gold Rush. It’s nickname, “Hangtown,” relates to the lawlessness of the times. Today, however, it’s one of the most picturesque, bustling and dog-friendly of Gold Country towns.
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History, a vibrant dining scene and outdoor recreation options galore beckon in this gateway to California Gold Country. Folsom’s nucleus is its handsomely revitalized Old Town district, centered on Sutter Street and great for an anytime stroll or sit-down with your four-legged friend.
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Highway 50 buzzes right through Rancho Cordova between Sacramento and Folsom, so unless you pull off to explore, you won’t know what you’re missing. Start, perhaps with an overnight stay at a dog-friendly hotel and get a complimentary Sierra Foothills Wine Tasting Passport good for two people at eight regional wineries that welcome dogs.
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Sacramento is hot, hot, hot—and we’re not talking summer weather. The restaurant and craft brewery scene here has exploded of late, and thanks to a (usually) mild climate, outdoor dining is ubiquitous, and almost every restaurant and brewery patio in town is dog-friendly.
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If you’re coming from Southern California, the Highway 41 corridor from Fresno up to Yosemite’s (South) Entrance, past Fish Camp, is probably the way you’ll go. The road begins its serious climb in Oakhurst, where Queen’s Inn by the River boasts an adjacent winery and  beer garden serving up almost 100 wines and craft beers on Wednesday through Sunday afternoons. Also in Oakhurst are Vulture’s View Inn, a B&B popular with DogTrekkers, and the dreamy (and dog-friendly) Chateau Du Sureau, a five-star, castle-like estate hotel.
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Like other parts of Gold Country, Tuolumne County is rich in history, rugged scenery and recreational opportunities. You can get some of both and soak up some local color too at First Friday Jamestown Art Walk-Wine-Dine & Music events, continuing through October, or 2nd Saturday Art Nights held year-round in historic downtown Sonora. Either town makes a great base for jumping off into a weekend of hiking, history and off-the-beaten path exploring.
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