Summertime and the livin’ is easy…as long as you’re on a lake. Heading up to Gold Country, you’ll find lots of places to dip your paws no matter which road you take. Here are some of our favorite splash spots in the Sierra foothills.
Driving east on Highway 50, the landscape starts to roll at Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, whose 31 square miles encompasses two bodies of water—giant Folsom Lake and the smaller Lake Natoma, a popular venue for non-motorized watercraft recreation. While dogs aren’t allowed on the swimming beaches at either, it’s not difficult to find a private splash spot (and a spot in the shade) along 80 miles of trails and almost as many miles of shoreline. On the way home, stop in historic Old Town Folsom and watch the world go by from a sidewalk table at Dos Coyotes, Karen’s Bakery Café, Sutter Street Grill, Fat Rabbit or other establishments with outdoor seating.
About 40 minutes “up the hill” from Folsom, Jenkinson Lake is the 650-acre, turquoise-blue centerpiece of Sly Park Recreation Area in Pollock Pines, El Dorado County. Bring all the camping or picnic fixin’s you’ll need, as once you’re here, you’re here. The lake boasts an eight-mile trail around its shoreline and is very popular with Central Valley families escaping the summer heat. A shady spur path leads to a surprisingly dramatic waterfall. Dogs are not supposed to enter the water, but they’re welcome everywhere else.
In Nevada County, off Highway 80 via the Soda Springs exit, our favorite, semi-secret splash spot is beautiful Long Lake, a place of absolute, crystal blue perfection! No dog restrictions here, but you’ll need a high-clearance vehicle to navigate the rutted dirt road leading to the trailhead. (Isn’t that what SUVs are for?)
Cruising Highway 49 (the “Golden Chain Highway”) through Mariposa County? Make a swim-and-picnic detour at adjoining lakes McClure and McSwain, long, narrow bodies of water operated by the Merced Irrigation District and tucked into the rugged hills.
In Madera County, Bass Lake, a recreation destination near Oakhurst, is home to three dog-friendly resorts—The Pines, The Forks and Miller’s Landing. Five miles away, Queen’s Inn by the River is a delightfully dog-welcoming establishment with an adjacent winery and beer garden. Rent a pontoon boat at Miller’s marina for a lazy day exploring the lake with Fido at your side.
In Tuolumne County, not far from history-rich Angels Camp, New Melones Lake on the Stanislaus River is popular for boating, camping and hiking, with ranger-led visitor programs provided year-round. Dogs are welcome so long as they’re attached to their owners by leash.