Highway 4 in Calaveras and Alpine counties is one of our favorite routes for a summer road trip, offering way too many attractions and diversions for a mere weekend. A better bet: settle in for a week at a pet-friendly vacation rental. They’re plentiful around Angel’s Camp, Murphys and Arnold, and you’ll find dog-welcoming hotels, B&Bs and other lodging in the area, too.
With base camp established, you’ll have no problem locating restaurants, wineries, lakes and trails where both you and your pet are welcome.
Start your explorations in the hip and happenin’ foothills town of Murphys, where Main Street boasts almost two dozen wine-tasting venues, many of them dog-friendly. Then join other DogTrekkers on the patio at Alchemy Market & Café, a local hot spot for lunch and dinner; or at Grounds, a favorite with the breakfast crowd, to name just two possibilities.
When you’re ready for a hike, continue uphill to the family vacation mecca of Arnold and tackle the Arnold Rim Trail, a 17.5-mile path that eventually will double in length. Trail highlights include San Antonio Falls, Cougar Rock and Top of the World, with easiest access from White Pines Lake, near the Sierra Nevada Logging Museum (download a map at arnoldrimtrail.org). Dogs under immediate voice control are welcome to join you off-leash, but if your pup is inclined to chase horses, bikes or other dogs, please keep the two of you clipped together.
Back on the pavement, Highway 4 becomes the Ebbett’s Pass National Scenic Byway, and scenic it is. The 61-mile drive offers spectacular views of glacier-carved valleys, granite outcrops, basalt columns, volcanic peaks, mirror-like lakes and swiftly flowing streams. Above Bear Valley and over the Alpine County line, the road shrinks to two lanes with no centerline and no shoulders as it snakes over the Sierra crest.
Jumping-off possibilities are endless, but 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, if you’re lucky enough to snag a reservation). Picture-perfect Lake Alpine is just across the road. Continuing to the Ebbetts Pass summit at 8,730 feet elevation, you’ll see the trailhead for the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, which stretches 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada and attracts thousands of long-distance backpackers each year.