Want to steer clear of summer crowds? Sierra County in the northern reaches of Gold County wins loyal fans among those who take time to explore its many treasures. Home to fewer than 4,000 souls, this slice of rural, laid-back Northern California feels as pristine and fresh as it did 50 years ago. Our suggestion: Make a loop trip along the 170-mile Yuba-Donner Scenic Byway, stopping for a day or two to explore the gorgeous Lakes Basin Recreation Area.
This lake-strewn area of granite outcrops and dense forest is laced with trails both gentle and strenuous. The moderate Lakes Basin Ridge Trail affords panoramic views of this high, rugged country, while the challenging Sierra Buttes Lookout Trail leads to a fire lookout with spectacular views. You probably won’t want to take Fido up the three courses of metal stairs—more than 200 in all—on the final ascent, but he’ll enjoy panting in the shade while you snap photos from the summit.
Many lodging establishments in the region welcome dogs as well as the fishermen who are their business mainstay. The Lure Resort and Riverside Inn in Downieville are favorites, as is Herrington’s Sierra Pines Resort in Sierra City, which boasts a trout pond where many a kiddo has caught his or her first fish.