From Sacramento and the Bay Area, Highway 50 is the main artery leading to and from South Lake Tahoe. What many travelers don’t realize, however, is how many great recreation spots are situated along the way.
Just above Placerville, the road starts to get windy, and by the time it gets to Strawberry (home of the dog-friendly Strawberry Lodge), some tempting opportunities open up. That huge granite dome rearing 600 feet above the American River Canyon is Lover’s Leap, a popular climbing area and well worth a hike (the smaller precipice below is locally dubbed Puppy Love).
The trail to the top is a 45-minute huff-and-puff leaving from Camp Sacramento, a city-owned facility beloved by generations of families. Park in the lot near the river and archery range, walk uphill, through camp and past the main lodge to find the trailhead. Wildflower displays in July and August can be profuse, and the views from the top, taking in Horsetail Falls, Pyramid Peak, Ralston Peak and the American River Canyon, are nothing short of stellar.
While it’s possible to hike down to (or up from) Strawberry, it’s not recommended as this portion of trail is rutted, dusty and heavily used by mountain-bikers.
Another dog-friendly magnet beckons on this stretch of Highway 50. Horsetail Falls, visible from the highway, is a Tahoe-area landmark, and a hike along the streams that feed it is a summer “must do” for many Tahoe regulars. Park in the paid lot by the highway, hike to the Desolation Wilderness boundary, fill out a day-use permit and look for the Pyramid Loop Trail. It branches off from sometimes treacherous Pyramid Creek to follow a secondary stream with safe, granite-rimmed pools to splash in. (Warning: hiking in this area requires crossing acres of exposed granite that could burn your dog’s paws on a hot day.)
A word to the wise: The Lover’s Leap and Pyramid Loop options require just a couple of hours each, so if you’re headed up to Tahoe, you theoretically could explore both of them on the same day.