El Dorado county contains many recognizable-at-a-glance sites, most notable among them Lake Tahoe. But the Highway 50 and historic Highway 49 corridors through this scenic slice of California hold many other cultural and recreational attractions.
In summer, Sacramento-area residents in search of a quick change of scenery head an hour up Highway 50 to Sly Park Recreation Area in Pollock Pines. This heavily wooded retreat surrounding turquoise-blue Jenkinson Lake is a magnet for boaters, equestrians, kayakers, paddle-boarders, campers, hikers and others calmed and cooled by the sight and feel of blue water and whispering pines on a hot day.
A shady hiking path follows the lake’s circumference, with one branch leading to a surprisingly dramatic waterfall. Dogs are allowed on trails, in picnic areas, at campsites and in your kayak, canoe or boat, although they are not supposed to enter the water. Don’t let that deter you: this is a great place for family outings.
If you prefer a place that Buddy can explore unclipped, try the classic hike from Highway 50 to the base of Horsetail Falls, the spectacular, 800-foot cataract visible from the highway at Twin Bridges. (Early mornings or cloudy days are best, as the exposed granite you’ll cross can heat up and burn Fido’s feet).
Or, in the same vicinity, turn off at Johnson’s Pass Road and head to Echo Lakes, southern gateway to the Desolation Wilderness. Leashes aren’t required away from developed areas, so you’re likely to see as many canines as people on the lower portion of the trail. To beat the rush, take a water taxi to the end of the lakes and the Desolation boundary for $12 per person each way.
As for memorable places to stay: The historic Cary House Hotel in downtown Placerville is a Victorian-themed hoot, and not just because it’s said to be haunted. The location on Main Street—a fabulous shopping destination—is ideal for DogTrekkers headed up to Tahoe or exploring the surrounding area.
If you’re up for a special-occasion splurge or know someone who is, Eden Vale Inn will exceed expectations. Rated by iLoveInns.com as one of the country’s Top 10 Most Romantic Inns, Eden Vale is more resort than B&B. There’s a pond for Fido to splash in, soaking tubs for you and your best human friend and even a gorgeous outdoor kitchen and dining area that guests are welcome to share.