Almost every public campground in California is dog-friendly, but that doesn’t mean your dog is welcome to hike… Read more.
If you're looking for an easy and very pretty hike accessible from a main thoroughfare, look no farther than the Lake Margaret Trail on the north side of Highway 88 midway between Silver Lake and the Carson Pass summit.
The route from the parking lot to the lake is about 2.3 miles, making for a round trip of about five miles. There's not much elevation gain, and no sustained steep sections on this trail, but there are many granite slabs to cross, so watch for the piled-rock "ducks" to point you in the right direction through the rough areas. You'll cross Caples Creek several times before reaching the namesake lake. In October, the aspens lining its banks shimmer golden. Pack a picnic and enjoy lunch looking out over the granite-bound water of Lake Margaret. Be prepared to shiver if you jump in; the water is cold even on the hottest days of summer.
Lake Margaret is in the Eldorado National Forest, where rules concerning dogs are fairly lax. Keep your pup on a leash or under firm voice control and away from other hikers. If your dog likes to roam, this might not be the hike for you, as you could lose him quickly in the thick cover.
Many families with small children frequent this trail; it's a great place to introduce young ones to the wild—and to acclimate yourself to the 7,800-foot altitude before attempting more strenuous excursions.
The trailhead is on the north side of Highway 88 between Kirkwood Inn and Caples Lake. Watch carefully for the sign and parking area.