Hike and camp where dinosaurs once roamed. This park is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, with its diverse natural attractions. Located in Calaveras County, CA in the High Sierra Region, you’ll find this beautiful, one-of-a-kind park northeast of Stockton, about 4 miles from Arnold on Highway 4. Calaveras Big Trees State Park is located in the mid-elevation level of the western Sierra Nevada mountain range. It is a mixed conifer forest where giant sequoia trees dominate the landscape.
STUNNING NATURAL BEAUTY
Set against the backdrop of the august Sierra Nevada range, Calaveras Big Trees State Park features two massive groves of some of the oldest living redwood trees in California. The trees may date as far back as the prehistoric Mesozoic Era, when dinosaurs would have been walking the earth. These magnificent trees can reach heights of 325′ and can measure 33′ in diameter. The giant sequoia trees dwarf other trees and people in a forest of ponderosa pines, sugar pines, incense cedars, white firs, and Pacific dogwoods. You’ll enjoy the white blossoms on the dogwoods in the spring.
In addition to the majestic sequoias, you’ll see a wide variety of colorful wildflowers in the spring, including lily, Hartweg’s iris, crimson columbine, wild hyacinth, and more. Experienced hikers are sure to enjoy the Lava Bluffs Trail, which leads you through varied forest environments and across the volcanic Merhten Formation and lava bluffs. You’ll marvel at the beauty created by ancient volcanoes 30 million years ago, which have since disappeared.
Want to go fishing or take a dip after a long hike? White Pines Lake is a great spot to take a cool, refreshing swim, and you’ll encounter a wide variety fish at the North Fork of Stanislaus River as well as Beaver Creek.
UNIQUE FEATURES OF THE PARK
Calaveras Big Trees State Park received state park status in 1931 to preserve the family and tourist-friendly North Grove of giant sequoias. “Discovery Tree,” the first Sierra redwood observed by hunter Augustus T. Dowd in 1852, has been a major tourist attraction since then. These huge sequoia trees became well-known around the country during the 1850’s, when some circus-style showmen chopped down Discovery Tree and took it on a tour. The Discovery Tree stump and fallen tree are a main attraction at the park.
More special sights to watch for include the tunnel cut through the Pioneer Cabin Tree and the largest tree in the park, Agassiz Tree. You’ll also find fallen trees that have formed natural “archways” in different locations in the park.
As mentioned earlier, experienced hikers will appreciate the Lava Bluffs Trail, which takes you through diverse terrain and across a volcanic formation. There are several steep sections here and some areas where footing may be challenging along this 2.5 mile loop trail. You’ll need about two hours to complete this hike.
The park’s South Grove is more secluded and visited less by tourists, often allowing more privacy in exploring. The South Grove has somewhat more strenuous hikes ranging from 2-8 miles.
The South Grove Trail will have you cross Beaver Creek on a footbridge, and brings you to a junction with Bradley Trail. Bradley Trail takes you through an area of the forest that was logged in the early 1950s.
AMMENITIES AND ACTIVITIES
There is sure to be an activity for just about everyone to enjoy at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. In the warmer months, enjoy hiking, swimming, mountain biking, fishing, bird watching, evening ranger programs, environmental education programs, and activities for school children. You may even walk your dog, but keep him leashed and observe the park’s rules.
In the winter, you’ll have spectacular scenery for cross country skiing.
This park has two main campgrounds with a total of 129 campsites, 6 picnic areas, and several miles of established trails. There is a very modern Visitor Center, picnic tables, Comfort Station, ADA access, ample parking, restrooms, flush toilets, hot coin-operated showers, and bear lockers available for storing your food. You can find out even more about all the park has to offer by visiting www.parks.ca.gov and clicking on “High Sierra,” then “Calaveras Big Trees,” or by calling the Visitor Center at (209)795-3840.