Ask around – iconic Lake Tahoe might get all the glory, but local outdoor enthusiasts know that El Dorado County is the region’s hidden gem of outdoor fun. With almost half of the county comprised of national forest and the Sierra Nevada mountain range, El Dorado stands on its own merits with trails, rivers, and lakes galore. From the jaw-dropping backpacking in Desolation Wilderness to the eastern portion of the Pacific Crest Trail to its 611 miles of fishable waterways, including the mighty American River.
It’s a lot to take in, which is why we pulled together an outdoor adventurer’s guide to California’s most rugged county. Check out our 9 favorite reasons to visit El Dorado County:
Follow this trail and discover 11 local breweries, each with their own uniquely-made craft beers. The beer, inspired by the region’s history, flavors, and natural beauty, ranges from pilsners to hoppy IPAs to Belgian-style ales. Pro tip: We love Highway 50 brewery for its great location, beautiful outdoor patio and awesome selection on tap.
The rivers up here are unlike anything you’ve ever seen—which is why it’s best to roll with a guide. You can book a rafting trip on over 12 different rivers in California with Raft California. Rivers include the South Fork American, Middle Fork American, North Fork American, North Yuba, Truckee, Tuolumne, and Kaweah, and there’s something for all ages and group size.
Even better? You can camp on-site with Hipcamp. Raft California has two options: a private campsite with exclusive use of their large covered kitchen area, and multiple riverside canvas tents. The tents are great for anyone looking for a more lux camping experience—they’re positioned on wooden platforms, with amazing decks overlooking the river.
Soak in 64,000 acres of protected land located just West of Lake Tahoe. Take on a leg of the 11-mile long Pacific Crest Trail or the 165-mile long Tahoe Rim Trail, or day-trip to one of the many glacially-formed lakes and streams. Find trail and permit information here.
Meet the newest trail system in El Dorado County. On this 29-mile long system of trails in the Sierra foothills, you’ll find abandoned rails of the Southern Pacific Railroad Line, which are great for hiking, biking, and even horseback-riding. Access the trail from the western end of the county through Placerville.
Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association (TAMBA) is volunteer-driven non-profit organization based in El Dorado county that builds, maintains, and advocates for multi-use trails in Tahoe. You can volunteer with them to help maintain trails or check out some amazing biking trails here.
There are five produce-packed markets you can visit in El Dorado county. Each market is filled with freshly picked produce like ripe stone fruit, berries, and apples, grown and sold by farmers in the region. Find out when the next one’s happening here or on Wednesday nights you can meet the local farmers at the Main Street Farmers Market.
Calling all foodies. On September 14, taste all kinds of food made by local chefs and restaurants from neighboring growers at Tahoe’s only Farm-to-Fork Festival. Best of all? You can pair your nibbles with local wine and craft beer, with the beautiful backdrop of South Lake Tahoe. Find all the details you will need to know for the event here.
Get ready to bust out your best Lederhosen and dirndl skirts for Placerville’s annual Oktoberfest on October 19th. Stay at a nearby Hipcamps and enjoy live Bavarian music, tastings from local craft breweries and wineries, and—our favorite—real-life Weiner Dog races.
Why choose between fun times and hanging with your pup? El Dorado County is king when it comes to dog-friendly venues. Check out their long list of wineries and ranches where you can bring your pup along for some wine-tasting.
Some of the best and longest-standing Hipcamps in the country are located in El Dorado. Here are some of our favorites:
Silver Fork Ranch: the Ranch is tucked away in a small town called Kyburz and is right on the route to Lake Tahoe along Highway 50. You will find an amazing watering hole just a mile from the Ranch and we promise it is completely worth a quick detour.
Animal Lovers Paradise: home to HartSong Ranch Animal Sanctuary, a 100% volunteer run non-profit organization. If you are eager to meet the animals, you can take a scheduled tour of the 60+ rescue animals living on the property. Beautiful live music from these hosts might even drift to your campsite.
Camp Nauvoo: with river access, glampsites galore, a lodge stocked with game tables and every game imaginable, and 86 acres of Tahoe like scenery to explore, you will have more than enough to keep you busy on this property. All this makes it a great place for families wanting a safe environment for their kids, but also several group sites for those that want to hang out together.
Colombia Flat: Home to a 75 year old walnut orchard with nuts available in season. That paired with a cozy night in a Vintage Shepard’s Wagon, you are in for a perfect restorative adventure that is perfect for a solo traveler or if you have a plus one.
Foothill Ridge: Fresh produce seems to be the name of the game in El Dorado County. Come pick fresh strawberries, greens, apples and more all within walking distance of your private and beautiful campsite. If that didn’t have you heading to book your stay you will also be able to enjoy the sunrise and sunset from this spot with a huge canyon overlook a couple hundred feet away from your tent.
Harris Tree Farm: This 160-year old farm has been in the family for seven generations so needless to say they know what they are doing over there. Waking up to fresh coffee, donuts and pie – you cannot go wrong here. You can also pick fruit and vegetables available in season or attend one of the jam making classes in July, August and September $30 per person. If you are looking to scratch your adventure itch, there is no shortage of trails, mountain lakes, and historic towns nearby.
Irish Creek: One of the longest standing Hipcamps on our platform. Irish Creek Ranch is a stunning 60 acre property with rolling hills with a beautiful seasonal pond to camp on. Not to mention, there are plenty of horse trails nearby as well as access to the American River, a great option for a hot Summer day.
Madrone Tree Hill: 50 acres of family owned property in the beautiful town of Apple Hill, and yes that does mean there are also plenty of Apples to be had here if you are here in the Fall. Also, if you are one for water features, this is the place for you. This scenic property is not only home to a Christmas tree farm the provides a gorgeous canopy to camp beneath, but also has two streams running through it. If you find yourself in need of something sweet just take a quick stroll to the apple farm across the street who also happens to make the best donuts in Apple Hill.