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Sierra picnic areas & restaurants
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209 Living

Many Bay Area folks head for the Sierra foothills in search of a picnic area to spend a one day trip to find the perfect respite at the end of their week.  Some will make an arbitrary stop at the Burgess Family Jack Tone Fruit Stand at Highway 120 where they can stock up on fruits and vegetables and also find countless homemade pies to add to their menu.

Clinton Burgess is just the guy to guide them to the perfect spots from Columbia State Park to Yosemite Valley and to Pinecrest Lake, all within a relatively close proximity to the Central Valley.  The Clintons have established their business well with the local gentry as well as becoming the natural stop for Bay Area travelers especially in the fall months. 

Pinecrest Lake is probably the most popular picnic area in the lower Sierra foothills just 40 minutes west of Sonora.  Group picnic sites are located within sight of the lake offering easy access to fishing and boating, hiking trails and beach area access.

Two campgrounds within the Pinecrest area offer some 300 campsites.  Offerings include a boat ramp, kayaking, marina, swimming and a large parking area as well as a general store and a food storage locker.

Dogs are welcomed on trails in the Sand Pond Picnic Area and Interpretive Trail located in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area and within view of the majestic Sierra Buttes.  San Pond is a popular Tahoe National Forest day-use area near the much larger upper and lower Sandine Lakes.

The initial part of the route moves north from I-80 and follows Highway 49 through Grass Valley and Nevada City.  From there it takes a  near 45 mile trek to Downieville, said to be one of the most charming history history-filled town in the Mother Lode where the swift North Yuba River becomes the scenic centerpiece for its pet-friendly lodging at places including Streamside Cabins, the Lure Resort, the Riverside Inn and the Downieville Loft.

In the fall, it can feel like your own private realm where you can put your dogs into your vehicle and take off on a 170 mile loop trip along the Yuba-Donner Scenic Byway to explore the rugged, less visited part of the Gold Country.

Restaurants on a Mother Lode adventure might start with “The Peppery Bar and Grill” in Sonora that opened back in 1994.  It is a place for a fun dining experience where diners will find a menu that is fresh and different. The use of peppers stems from the enjoyment of spiced entrees and a menu that was comes alive with flavor.  Located at 13494 More Way in Sonora, it also offers 15 draft beers.

Other restaurants on the way up the hill in the Mother Lode include Camps Restaurant, China House of Twain Heart, Gus’s Steakhouse, Hot Shotz Sports Bar and Grill, Jamestown Hotel Restaurant & Saloon, The Seven Sisters and Pinoccohio’s.

A beautiful place to visit in the fall is the McKinley Grove of Giant Sequoias in where foliage of the dogwood trees turns red. It offers picnic tables, toilets and drinking water and is open for day use from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Travelers can take Highway 168 from Clovis towards Prather and continue to Shaver Lake, turning right on the Dinkey Creek Road just before reaching Shaver Lake.  Turn right at the McKinley Gove Road for six miles on the McKinley Grove Road to those popular picnic areas.

Sierra Knolls Vineyard and Winery in Auburn boasts a quaint and comfortable tasting room setting with peaceful picnic areas and beautiful grounds.  It is the perfect spot to slow down, relax and enjoy a drink in the sunshine.  WA wood fire oven lest guests enjoy delicious wood fired pizza as they relax on the lawn with a glass of wine, great food, live music and amazing wine choices. 

And perfectly groomed grounds await their guests at the Renwood Winery in Plymouth specializing in Amador County Zinfindel since 1993. 

To contact Glenn Kahl, email