Calaveras Big Trees | A California State Park

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What Is Special About Calaveras Big Trees Park?

Calaveras Big Trees State Park is a beautiful campground nestled in the shade of the mountain redwoods. It is also a historic site. Before we learned to appreciate these trees, and realize that they could not be replaced within our lifetimes, there was a huge logging industry in many of the groves of redwood trees statewide.

These giant trees do provide a very durable wood that is resistant to rot, so redwood is in high demand in the construction industry. Unfortunately, redwood trees grow extremely slowly, and the most massive trees that still exist are ancient. Some of the specimens that were cut down in the past were dated to one or two hundred years BCE. Now that we have finally wised up, many hundreds of acres have been protected for future generations to enjoy.

Calaveras Big Trees was an area used for some of this logging, but it was stopped and the area preserved before it could be clear cut and laid waste. Within the park are many fine specimens of these gigantic trees, and also a few sad reminders of the area's past.

The saddest of all are the trees that were cut down merely for the sensationalism they provided. Sections of the trees were in many cases shipped around the country in traveling exhibits. This was completely irresponsible use of the trees, for they had not even served a purpose in providing shelter or infrastructure.

The Big Stump

One of the sad reminders of long-ago logging and recreational practices
One of the sad reminders of long-ago logging and recreational practices | Source

What Is There To See?

The name of the park itself tells you all you need to know about the sights. Here is a preserved, historic area of giant redwood trees (sequoiadendron giganteum). There are many trails through various groves which not only provide awe-inspiring views of these massive trees, but also history lessons about what the uneducated folks in the past did.

One such sad memorial is the Big Stump, or Discovery Stump. This massive tree was chopped down, and its stump used as a dance floor, complete with a pavilion on top. I can only imagine how much bigger that tree would be today, if only they'd had the foresight to leave it be.

This link goes to a small photo of a downed redwood tree. It illustrates very well the absolutely massive size these trees can reach. In front of the log are approximately twenty horses, shoulder-to-shoulder; on top of it are another dozen or so, nose-to-tail. There is still tree showing on either end of the lines of horses!

Gigantic Trees!

Pedestrian walkway through a tree gives some hint of the size of these giants
Pedestrian walkway through a tree gives some hint of the size of these giants | Source

Campgrounds

The park features two main camping areas: the North Grove, where the campgrounds and Oak Hollow. The campgrounds are open from April to November, but parts of the North Grove are open in winter for snow play such as sledding, snow-shoeing, and general fun, such as snowball fights. During winter, some North Grove campgrounds may be open, depending on weather and roads. Note that this will be 'dry camping' only; all water is shut off, and campers must be self-contained.

The North Grove's campground is self-named; 4 miles further into the park is the Oak Hollow campground, which is a bit more rugged and hilly than the North Grove site.

If You're Going:

Hours of Operation:

Day Use: Sunrise to Sunset
Camping: All Hours, March through November

Park Office Telephone

209-795-2334

Visitor Center Telephone

209-795-3840

Camping Reservations:

During the spring and summer seasons (May 24th - Sept. 1st), reservations are made via http://www.reserveamerica.com, or call Reserve America at: 1-800-444-7275 . The park itself does not take reservations directly.



Water?

Yes, there is water nearby in the form of the Stanislaus River. It runs through the park boundaries, but not through any camping area. There are, however, a few hiking trails that will take you do the river, or you can drive a short way up the road from the park proper, to a very popular swimming hole. There is a highway bridge over the river above the swimming hole, and parking is available.

Be warned: this water is largely Sierra snow melt, and is very cold. Unless you are acclimated to such temperatures, or are a highly-active teenager generating your own heat, then ankle-deep-only wading will probably be your limit unless you own a wet suit.

There is a huge boulder upon which folks like to sit in the sun, or the adventurous use to jump into the water. It is pretty deep at that point, but as a safety warning, it is not really smart to jump from rocks into rivers if you cannot see to the bottom, which you cannot at this location.

There is no jumping, diving or other means of water-entry allowed from the bridge.

Jumping into rivers or other bodies of water where the bottom is not visible is not a safe thing to do.

California State Parks : A Complete Recreation Guide
California State Parks : A Complete Recreation Guide

A guide to all of California's State Parks

 

Calaveras County

This park is located in the High Sierra part of North-Central California. It is one of very few remaining areas where the giant Redwoods still survive. The nearest town, should you have forgotten anything, is Arnold, just 4 miles from the park entrance. It is not a huge town, but it is in ski country, so they are tourist-oriented, and boast a supermarket, motels, restaurants, banks, and even a micro-brewery restaurant, the Snowshoe Brewery.

Other Things To Do From Calaveras Big Trees

Using your campground at Big Trees as a home base, you can take in several other attractions in the general area, none more than an hour away.

Columbia, another State Park, preserved in Gold Rush days fashion, is about a 45-minute drive from Big Trees. You can tour a working replica of a gold-rush days town, including watching a blacksmith make horseshoes; or try your hand at panning for gold in a set-up sluice box.

Moaning Caverns is also nearby, (it's actually on the way to Columbia), where you can climb down 180 spiral stairs to the bottom, or take the option to rappel down--keeping in mind you must climb all those stairs to return topside.

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County
The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

Samuel Clemens' (a.k.a. Mark Twain) story about the celebrated jumping frog.

 

In Jamestown, an old town that has been "gussied up," but not overly so, is the historic 1897 Railway Museum. The official name is Railtown 1897 State Historic Park. Jamestown is located about 3 miles down Route 108 from Sonora. If money is no object for you, there is the option to play train engineer for a day; but it is very expensive: $500 for one, or $750 for two.

( Check out the websites at the links given in the sidebar, and call before you go, to be sure that these parks have not become victims of California's budget chopping block.)

Calaveras County is also home to the famous Jumping Frog of Calaveras County story by Mark Twain.

My daughters and I had the times of our lives when we visited this area, and I have no doubt the fun remains--all you have to do is go for it.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park and Other Area Attractions

show route and directions
A marker1170 California 4, Arnold, CA 95223 -
1170 Highway 4, Stanislaus National Forest, Arnold, CA 95223, USA
[get directions]

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

B marker18115 5th Ave., Jamestown, CA 95327 -
18115 5th Avenue, Jamestown, CA 95327, USA
[get directions]

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park

C marker5350 Moaning Cave Rd., Vallecito, CA 95251 -
5350 Moaning Cave Road, Vallecito, CA 95251, USA
[get directions]

Moaning Caverns

D marker11255 Jackson St., Columbia, CA 95310 -
11255 Jackson Street, Columbia, CA 95310, USA
[get directions]

Columbia State Historic Park

E marker2050 Hwy 4, Arnold, CA -
2050 California 4, Arnold, CA 95223, USA
[get directions]

Snowshoe Brewery; a nice little restaurant and micro-brewery in Arnold, not far from the park

© 2012 DzyMsLizzy

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Comments 12 comments

Karanda profile image

Karanda 4 years ago from Australia

My husband visited the Calaveras Park 20 years ago and still talks about those giant Redwoods. We have nothing to compare in Australia. Nice Hub DzyMsLizzy!


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 4 years ago from Oakley, CA Author

Hello, Karanda--

Thanks much for stopping by--I'm glad you enjoyed the article. Gosh--I think it must be near onto 20 years since I was there, myself. I've been in the area about 3 years ago, but not into the park itself.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

A brilliant hub and one for me to bookmark into my Armchair Travelling slot.

Thanks for sharing because I loved it and here's to so many more hubs to share on here.

Take care;

Eddy.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

Goodness, I don't think I've been here yet... though I might have been to the park when I was much younger and just don't remember it (they all seem to blend together after a while @_@).

Sounds like a lovely place! I'll have to get over there soon! I love the smell of redwood forests.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 4 years ago from Oakley, CA Author

@ Eiddwen--Ah, yes--armchair travel--about all that is left to me these days--I understand perfectly. I'm so glad that you enjoyed the article, and I thank you for taking the time to stop by and comment.

@ Simone--Oh, you must go! It is a wonderful park. I know what you mean about the all 'blending together,' but even so, each one has its own personality.

Thanks so much for commenting!


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

Thanks for describing Calaveras Big Trees State Park. I absolutely love places like that! Good thing that areas like that have been set aside so that those old trees can enthrall people hundreds of years from now as well. If I am ever visiting that part of California, I'll be sure and check it out in person. Thanks! Useful, interesting and up votes and will share with others.


Xenonlit profile image

Xenonlit 4 years ago

This is a nice, thorough travel article that entices me to go to Calaveras Big Trees Park. Thanks for such a positive and savvy expose of why the timber interests can log responsibly, but must leave some treasures alone!


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 4 years ago from Oakley, CA Author

@ Peggy W-- I'm so glad you enjoyed the article. I, too, am glad for these preserves honoring nature, and I hope you do get to come see the Big Trees. Thanks very much for the votes and the share!

@ Xenonlit-- Thank you so much--I'm glad I was able to interest you in seeing this park.


badegg profile image

badegg 4 years ago from Southern Appalachians

Even though I live near Atlanta now, I used to burn up my childhood summers at Calaveras. It is a wondrous and beautiful place. Many happy memories!


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 4 years ago from Oakley, CA Author

Hello, badegg--

Thanks very much for stopping by and sharing your memories. Much appreciated.


azrestoexp profile image

azrestoexp 3 years ago

Never heard of the park. Enjoyed the hub very much. Would love to visit sometime. Very informative. Voted up.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 3 years ago from Oakley, CA Author

Hello, azrestoexp,

Glad I was able to provide information on a park you'd like to visit. It's always fun to share my favorite places with folks who've never seen them before. Thanks much for stopping by and the vote.

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