Calaveras Big Trees State Park, northeast of Stockton, is the place to go to see California’s giant, majestic sequoia trees. Calaveras was organized as a state park in 1931, primarily to protect and preserve the North Grove of sequoias, and soon the park became one of the state’s most visited locations. Now, the North and South groves are preserved and healthy, and trails give hikers, bicyclists, joggers, and cross country skiers the opportunity to recreate among one of nature’s most striking offerings.
Day trips to Calaveras Big Trees State Park are a popular way to enjoy its beauty. Six well-maintained picnic areas provide scenic spots to eat, relax, and give the dogs a walk. More than two hundred miles of established trails offer a variety of options for exercise in all seasons. While you’re here, you may take advantage of daily ranger talks or one of the many interpretive programs the staff puts on. Children will love participating in the junior ranger programs and the summer school activities. Many of the trails can be completed in just a few hours, and a walk along the Stanislaus River is a wonderful way to spend a morning. For day use, the park is open year-round, from sunrise to sunset.
Day visitors to the camp may want to start their adventures at Calaveras Big Trees S.P. with a leisurely stroll around the 1.5 mile long North Grove trail. This grove features the “Discovery Tree,” the first giant sequoia, or redwood, noted in 1852 by a hunter named Dowd. When news of this behemoth of a tree got out, tourists started flocking to see the redwoods, which average between 250 and 300 feet tall, and they’ve been coming ever since. This trail is marked to highlight some of the most notable trees in the grove, including the Abraham Lincoln tree and the Siamese Twins. The area also boasts beautiful stands of Sugar pines, white cedar, and Ponderosa pines. Along the trail in spring and summer, strollers will enjoy the beautiful blooms of the famous Mountain Dogwood trees, as well as the comings and goings of more than 40 seasonal wildflower species. The park’s hardwoods begin to turn in August, and by mid-September they put on a colorful show that is not to be missed by anyone near enough to drop by for a refreshing walk among the glorious beauty.
If you have time for a longer visit, you’ll find excellent camping facilities in two campgrounds with a total of 129 sites. A longer stay will give you the chance to explore more of the trails, including the South Range trails that offer more challenging hikes of 3.5 or 5 miles. The South Grove is populated by more than 1,000 giant sequoias, and the remoteness of the trail offers the freedom to truly get away from it all and be renewed in body and spirit. A spur half way around the loop takes adventurers to the place where Calaveras’ granddaddy of them all grows, the breathtaking Agassiz Tree which towers over granite outcroppings a full 325 feet in the air. Feel free to wander off any of the trails to explore the country more closely. It would be wise to bring a compass when doing this, marking your journey so you know the way back to the established trails.
Here are a few more details to help plan your trip to Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Bring your dogs, but understand that they are only allowed in designated public areas, and not on the marked trails, and they must be kept on the leash. In terms of what to wear, expect warm temperatures from May to September, with highs in the 70’s and low 80’s. Bring some foul weather gear to be ready for the occasional afternoon rain storm that brings refreshment to this slice of paradise! Finally, winter snows force the road beyond the North Grove to be closed from roughly mid-November to April. Come any time, even in winter. The cross country skiing is wondrous!
Calaveras Big Trees State Park is located on Highway 4 in Camp Connell, California, northeast of Arnold. The park is open year round from sunrise to sunset. The park offers developed parking areas, and an entry fee of $8 per vehicle is required. For more details when planning your visit, call the park office at 209-795-2334.