There’s No Need to Leave Fido Behind!
It goes without saying that we sure do love our dogs here in Northern California. They are truly members of our family, so we very much understand why it only makes sense to bring them along for the family vacation or even that one-day getaway. Let’s put it this way, “dog-friendly” is not just a policy here, but rather a way of life … and none more so than in dog-friendly Lake County, which is home to award-winning wineries, a vibrant arts scenes, diverse live music, and plenty of on-the-water activities.
All Wine, No Whine at These Lake County Wineries
While water activities are of course a big attraction in Lake County, more than 30 wineries, most with dog-friendly picnic areas and tasting rooms, call out to visitors in one of the fastest-growing wine regions in the country. While best known for its Sauvignon Blancs, Lake County’s Petite Sirahs and big reds are gaining well-deserved cachet. The Lake County wine-growing region blanketing the eastern portion of the county is divided into seven AVAs (American Viticultural Areas), or appellations, each with its own sense of place.
You and your dog will get a warm welcome at Six Sigma Ranch and Winery, Steele Wines and Thorn Hill Vineyards, to name just a few of the many estates where you can taste with Lucky by your side. And how can a DogTrekker resist a place called Smiling Dogs Ranch, which has a tasting room (one of four) on Main Street in downtown Kelseyville, on the south end of the lake? (Answer: you can’t!)
Up Highway 53 headed toward Clearlake Oaks, about an hour from Napa Valley, you’ll find a unique experience called “Bed & Barrel” at Stonehouse Cellars. Your dog can be with you when you visit and sample the result of how the winemakers apply the best organic and biodynamic practices on decades old Cabernet Sauvignon vines. When finished tasting, you and your pup can head to the century old Stonehouse for the night and wake up to a morning breakfast prepared to order with local ingredients and seasonal treats.
Heading south, Chacewater Winery and Olive Mill, renowned for its award-winning Sauvignon Blancs, has a tasting room where you can also buy locally produced oils and soaps. At Beaver Creek Vineyards, you can learn about certified organic and biodynamic winemaking and sample the difference at the tasting bar. To enjoy a little history with your award-winning Petite Sirah, head to Langtry Estate & Vineyard near Middletown, in the south county’s Guenoc AVA. This vast estate, named for British actress Lillie Langtry, who purchased it in the 1880s, encourages relaxation in a picnic area framing views of rolling vineyards and a reservoir tucked into the hills.
A novel option: the Red Hills Terroir Trail, a private 1.25-mile path through vineyards and countryside connecting the dog-friendly Vigilance and Gregory Graham wineries in the Lower Lake area (open only during tasting room hours).
Want to sample several Lake County wines under one roof? Pop into the Lake Country Wine Studio in Upper Lake, a specialty wine-tasting room and retail shop that welcomes four-legged guests so long as their owners are considerate of folks who might be uncomfortable or allergic.
Dog-Friendly Adventures on Lakes and Land
Clear Lake, that big puddle in the middle of Lake County, is a popular vacation destination for families, but it’s hardly the only body of water in the vicinity. Blue Lakes (Upper and Lower), just five miles away, are a pair of clear, spring-fed bodies of water ideal for swimming and fishing. Only human-powered craft or those with electric motors are allowed (speed limit is 5 mph), but you can rent an electric “yacht” or pontoon boat from the Lodge at Blue Lakes and pile the family (dogs included) on board for a great day of cruising about.
Lodge visitors also can purchase a day-use pass and enjoy waterfront privileges. The charge is $12 per person and $12 per dog, with a minimum two-hour boat, kayak or sports-tube rental required.
Clear Lake State Park near Kelseyville is the place to go if you’re visiting the area just for the day. While most trails are not dog-friendly (pay attention to signage), campsites are, and dogs are welcome to splash at non-designated beaches like the one between sites 57 and 58 in the Kelsey Creek C. Keep your pups on a leash to be legal, and don’t forget the pickup bags. Want to rent a boat that allows four-legged passengers? Head to Disney’s Water Sports, a full-service marina offering dog-friendly ski boats, pontoon boats and other types of watercraft.
When it comes to hiking in Lake County, the Konocti Regional Trails system is a network of community pathways, land and water trails on a variety of public lands. Dozens of trails, back roads and splash spots designated as dog-friendly are identified on this handy map.
For moderate hikes, try one of the trails in the Indian Valley Wildlife Area around Indian Valley Reservoir, a popular fishing spot. Highland Springs Recreation Area, a 3,200-acre preserve just outside Lakeport, has a disc (Frisbee®) golf course as well as hiking and equestrian trails. Middletown Trailside Nature Preserve County Park welcomes leashed pets on designated trails, too. In fall and winter, Cache Creek Natural Area, a patchwork of public lands west of Clear Lake, is a great place for wildlife watching. You’re likely to spot bald eagles roosting or soaring and some of California’s last wild tule elk roaming in the rough.
You’ll Lake These Dog-Friendly Waterfront Properties
If being on or near the water is a priority on your Lake County vacation, you’ll find options aplenty among the many family-owned and operated cabin resorts situated along the Clear Lake and Blue Lakes shores. Blue Fish Cove Resort on Clear Lake, for example, has pet-friendly cabins with lake views, full kitchens and private BBQ grills, along with amenities including a boat launch, fishing pier, beach, game room and grassy lawn perfect for a (leashed) romp.
Nearby, pet-friendly Indian Beach Resort has 10 waterfront cabins, boat rentals, a convenience store, fishing pier and beach. Edgewater Resort on Soda Bay is primarily an RV facility, but has pet-friendly furnished cabins as well, while Clear Lake Cottages & Marina features pet-friendly cottages (some with kitchens) along with boat docking and launching facilities.
In Upper Lake, the Narrows Lodge Resort is a lakefront retreat with pet-friendly cabins (some with kitchenettes) and motel rooms, along with RV and tent sites. Vista del Lago Lake House and Cottages also has pet-friendly cottages as well as the requisite waterfront fishing and lounging facilities. And then there’s the vintage-themed Linger Longer, whose pet-friendly housekeeping cabins evoke the 1950s with names like Bogie & Bacall, Marilyn, Ricky & Lucy, the Cleavers, the Honeymooners and the Mertzes.
In nearby Blue Lakes, where the maximum speed limit on the crystalline water is a tranquil 5 mph, the upscale and pet-friendly Lodge at Blue Lakes, dating to the 1870s and meticulously renovated, offers pet-friendly lodging and the biggest fleet of boat rentals in the county, including everything from kayaks and stand-up paddleboards to electric pontoon boats.