Exploring El Dorado County – Sacramento’s Big Backyard

By Kelly Conroy

Kelly Rathburn Conroy
Kelly Conroy

As a kid, I had a huge backyard. My parents never hesitated to push us out the back door with the directive, “Go play outside.” I spent whole weekends and entire summers playing, exploring, and exercising my imagination in that backyard. As a kid, it held all the possibilities for adventure I needed.

Now, with my ‘adulting’ efforts in full swing and a significantly smaller East Sacramento backyard, I find myself searching for outdoor experiences that don’t require a dip into my savings account or my vacation time.

Thankfully, it only takes a quick hop across the county line to find my grown up version of a big backyard – El Dorado County.

Stretching from El Dorado Hills to the Nevada state line, El Dorado County includes Sly Park, Strawberry, and South Lake Tahoe. It holds huge swaths of wilderness (think Desolation Wilderness), acres and acres of National Forest, and the fall time favorite – Apple Hill.

In a day trip from Sacramento, you can geek out on California Gold Rush history, go wine tasting, or haul yourself up a mountainside. El Dorado County contains every possibility for adventure my grown up, Sacramento city dwelling self needs.

Looking for a day trip or a weekend getaway? Take a quick drive up Highway 50 and GO PLAY outside. Here are two ideas for a quick El Dorado getaway:

Hiking_Auburn SRA

1) Take a Day Trip to Cool

Take the scenic route from the El Dorado Hills Blvd. exit up Salmon Falls Road and wind your way past the arms of Folsom Lake. Pick up Highway 49 until you hit the tiny town of Cool.

Stop in town to fuel up on coffee and baked goods or burgers and booze and enjoy the sincere friendliness of everyone around you (seriously, people in Cool are really nice). Then, head out to the Auburn State Recreation Area for over 100 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails.

Wrap up your day with a glass of wine at Everhart Cellars and you can be home in enough time to cook dinner.

Lake Tahoe Sunset

2) Escape for a Weekend Getaway in South Lake Tahoe

Rent a room or an entire lakefront cabin at Camp Richardson and set up for a weekend of outdoor adventure any time of year.

Grab breakfast at the famous Ernie’s Coffee Shop and try German food at Himmel Haus, or dine by the fireplace at Blue Angel Cafe for lunch or dinner.

Ernies Coffee Shop

In the winter, you can spend a day on the slopes (or shopping) at Heavenly Ski Resort or opt for flatter ground with cross country ski rentals and trails around Camp Richardson. In the summer, you can paddle, swim, or boat your heart out on Lake Tahoe itself.

Regardless of the season, hiking is always on the South Lake Tahoe itinerary. Whether it’s in snowshoes or hiking boots, head out on a trail to capture views of alpine lakes, climb up mountain peaks, and get some much needed nature time. Check out this article on Six Great Hikes in Tahoe South to plan your trek.

Pro tip: Before heading back to Sacramento on Sunday, stop for lunch in Meyers (Gateway Café or Verde are excellent options). Morning traffic can be brutal after a big weekend in the mountains, but if you leave around 2:00 or 3:00pm, most of the cars have already left and your drive will be much more enjoyable.

2016-03-14_0001Learn more about El Dorado County and plan your next big backyard adventure with the El Dorado County Visitors Authority.

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1 Comment

  1. Darul Sullivan says

    Kelly scratched the outside of one huge, ginormous envelop called El Dorado County. Highway 50 is fun and beautiful, but as Kelly mentioned Cool as a good place to spend sometime, she didn’t have space to mention all the great areas of El Dorado: Pleasant valley, Grizzly Flats, Georgetown, Mt. Aukum, Omo Ranch and of the Fair Play Wine Country and it’s environs with an abundance of outdoor activities to keep your adventurous juices flowing. Make a weekend in El Dorado by spending a night or two at one the many beautiful B&Bs. Fair Play has a pretty nice B&B on Perry Creek Rd.

    Good writing Kelly. I like your style.

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