CALAVERAS BIG TREES STATE PARK
Calaveras became a State Park in 1931 to preserve the North Grove of giant sequoias. This grove includes the "Discovery Tree", the first Sierra redwood noted by Augustus T. Dowd in 1852. This area has been a major tourist attraction ever since, and is considered the longest continuously operated tourist facility in California.
Over the years, other parcels of mixed conifer forests have been added to the park.
The Park also houses two main campgrounds with a total of 129 campsites, six picnic areas and hundreds of miles of established trails.
Activities include cross-country skiing, evening ranger talks, numerous interpretive programs, environmental educational programs, junior ranger programs, hiking, mountain biking, bird watching and summer school activities for school children.Dogs: Dogs are welcome in the park on leash in developed areas like picnic sites, campgrounds, roads and fire roads (dirt). Dogs are not allowed on the designated trails, nor in the woods in general.
South Grove Trail
5 miles round trip with 400-foot elevation gainThe "Big Trees" in the park name is a tip-off: two groves of giant sequoia redwoods are the highlights of Calaveras Big Trees State Park.
The trees became world famous in the 1850s, thanks in part to some circus-style promoters, who chopped down "Discovery Tree" and took it on tour. Another set of proﬁteers stripped the bark off the "Mother of the Forest" and exhibited the "reassembled" tree in New York and in England?s famed Crystal Palace.
Fortunately, for the trees, anyway, most of the truly curious came to visit the Sierra redwoods rather than expecting the trees to "visit" them. Scientists, celebrities, and thousands of just plain fascinated folks made their way to Calaveras County, often staying in the Mammoth Grove Hotel built close to the big trees.
For a time, scientists believed the giant sequoias in North Grove were the only ones on earth. With the discovery of other, greater groves in the Yosemite-Sequoia National Park areas, the Calaveras Big Trees, as a tourist attraction anyway, declined somewhat in importance.
The biggest trees are truly big?250 to 300 feet high and 25 to 30 feet across. And they?re ancient?2,000 to 3,000 years old. The trees are relics from a warmer and wetter clime and time, the Mesozoic Era, some 180 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Once much more numerous, the big trees survive now only in 75 groves on the western slope of the High Sierra.
?A ﬂowering glade in the very heart of the woods, forming a ﬁne center for the student, and a delicious resting place for the weary,? is how the great naturalist John Muir described the forest of giant sequoia, ponderosa pine and incense cedar now protected by Calaveras Big Trees State Park.
The park has some great campgrounds and picnic areas, as well as an opportunity for trout ﬁshing and a dip in the Stanislaus River. Most visitors, however, come to see the big trees, particularly those found in North Grove. A gentle one mile trail meanders through the grove, leading to such grand sequoia specimens as Abraham Lincoln, Siamese Twins, Empire State and Father of the Forest.
Much, much less visited is the park?s more remote South Grove, which offers a chance for solitude among the giants. The grove is protected in a "Natural Preserve," the highest category of environmental protection offered by the state park system.
Interpretive pamphlets for both South Grove and North Grove trails are available for a small donation at their respective trailheads or at the park?s museum and visitor center.
Saddle Horses standing along the top of a fallen redwood tree at Calaveras big Trees State ParkSome human reactions to natural experiences are universal. The smile elicited by seeing a new born child; the fear roused by suddenly confronting a large predatory animal; or the absolute amazement and wonder evoked when first seeing a Sierra redwood tree. It is the immense size of these plants that both initially summons those emotions and is most often the strongest memory. Although, when we investigate the secrets of the intricate life history of these giants, the story that we reveal is even more awe inspiring than their gargantuan size.
Knowing with certainty how the first human to see a Sierra redwood tree reacted, is impossible. However, as we can envision the geologic processes that have shaped our earth in millennia past by observing the processes in operation today, so too can we imagine the initial human encounters with big trees by observing our own reactions.
It seems that the most common reaction to first seeing a Sierra redwood tree is to be momentarily struck silent. It is common to see a group of park visitors chatting amiably and rather loudly as they stroll down the trail into a redwood grove. The groups' first sight of a redwood may be an immense trunk. Glimpsed through the lush underbrush consisting of ferns, roses, giant trillium, and dogwood trees, the trunk of a Sierra redwood can easily be mistaken for several trees growing close together. As the hiking party becomes aware of the fact that the nearly thirty foot wide wall of timber they are approaching is actually one tree, they stop walking and sharply evoke one word sentences. "Wait!", "Stop!", "Look!", "Holy . . . " are utterances often heard near the first trees in the groves. Then silence.
Whether the person seeing the redwood was a Miwok in the 1400's, or a European immigrant in the 1850's or a couple from Des Moines this summer, the reaction is undoubtedly much the same. In those first moments after the initial encounter thoughts tend be of a spiritual, emotional, philosophic, or religious nature. Soon, speech is restored and more practical, thoughts return.
The park is northeast of Stockton, four miles northeast of Arnold on Highway 4.Latitude/Longitude: 38.2719 / -120.2867
From SF Bay Area : Take I-580 eastbound over Altamont Pass to I-205 toward Manteca, to US 99 North. Take the exit for State Hwy 4 Eastbound (Angel's Camp) to the Park Entrance. Hwy 4 makes a jog to the right in Angel's Camp along State Hwy 49, then jogs left just before leaving town. Calaveras Big Trees is about 35 minutes driving from Angel's Camp.
From Southern California : Take either I-5 or US 99 North. From I-5 you can cross to the other side of Stockton on State Hwy 4 to 99/4 South a few miles, then follow Hwy 4 towards and beyond Farmington to the Park. Hwy 4 makes a jog right in Angel's Camp, then jogs left just before leaving town. Calaveras Big Trees is about 35 minutes driving time from Angel's Camp.
From Sacramento : Take US 99 South to Stockton, turning off onto State Hwy 4 towards and beyond Farmington to the Park (through Angel's Camp). Driving time to the Park from Stockton is approx. 1 hour and 30 minutes. An alternate route is to take State Hwy 16 southeast to State Hwy 49 South through the goldrush towns to Angel's Camp, making a left turn on the far side of town on State Hwy 4 to the Park. Driving time from Angel's Camp is approximately 35 minutes.
From Nevada : Take US 395 to State Hwy 89 West to the terminus of State Hwy 4, up over Ebbett's Pass to the Park. The road is closed in Winter. It's very scenic, but so steep and tortuous that trailers and large motorhomes are ill-advised to use it.