It is said that tourism in California began here, Calaveras Big Trees State Park. It makes sense as California became the 31st state in the union in 1850.
1850-1870 saw the growth of the Railroad into California bringing in the first waves of tourists with California's first railroad, the Sacramento Valley Railroad.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park
In 1852, a hunter in the gold mining camp of Murphys California, Agustus T. Dowd, was in unfamiliar territory chasing after a wounded grizzly. He stumbled across something that completely caught him by surprise! He ran across a tree the size of which he had never seen before, a giant sequoia tree placed in the middle of a mixed conifer forest.
Dowd was so enamored that he forgot about the hunt and spent the day exploring the grove of giant sequoia trees, the largest trees in the world by volume. Dowd told locals of what he had found and at first, people laughed him off but Dowd managed to get a group of men to follow him to the grove and showed them his discovery.
Almost immediately, visitors began traveling to Calaveras County to the hottest tourist attraction; Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Dowd had introduced the rest of the world these incredible trees and it created a worldwide fascination.
As you can imagine, a hotel was built shortly after the discovery to meet the demands of tourism and was a place for gatherings and famous people. The hotel eventually burnt in 1943. The State of California purchased the North grove in 1931 creating Calaveras Big Trees State Park.
Calaveras Big Trees Visitor Center
The park entrance is easily located off of California Highway 4 in Arnold, California. The visitor center and parking area is right off the highway and makes for a great first stop for first-time visitors.
Park staff and volunteers are eager to help you plan your trip, find a hiking trail, and lead you to a campsite. The visitor center also has a bookstore and museum.
Visitor Center Operating Hours
- May, Seven days a week 10 AM- 5 PM
- Memorial Day Weekend 5/24, 5/25, 5/26, and 5/27 10 AM-6 PM
- June to August, Sun-Thur 10 AM-5 PM, Friday & Saturday 10 AM-6 PM
There are two trails not to miss in Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Both will leave you wanting to see more of this magnificent part of the world.
Calaveras North Grove Trail
A 1.5-mile easy loop trail, less than 100 feet of elevation gain
The Calaveras North Grove Trail is by far the park's most popular trail and is located right next to the park's visitor center.
Here you are going to see several of the most popular named trees in the park as well as several other verities of trees and dogwood in the understory is spectacular in the spring when it blooms, and again in the fall when the leaves start turning colors.
Calaveras South Groves Trail
A 3.5-mile moderate loop only trail, 460' elevation gain. Allow 1.5 to 3 Hrs.
5 mile moderate Loop trail plus the side trail that takes you up to the upper grove and the Agassiz Tree, 560' elevation gain, allow 2.5-4.5 hrs. to complete.
The Calaveras South Grove Trail contains a pristine stand of 1000 Sequoia trees! That's 10 times the sequoias found on the North Grove Trail. What makes this even more special is that most groves in the area have been disturbed by settlers in the late 1800s but the South Grove gives you the opportunity to explore an ancient Sequoia forest ecosystem!
There are 120 campsites between the North Grove Campground and Oak Hollow Campground in Calaveras Big Trees State Park.
Throughout the summer the park offers campfire programs along with additional interpretive programs.
You may make camping reservations by calling (800) 444-7275 (TTY 800-274-7275).
To make online reservations, visit our website at www.parks.ca.gov
The North Grove Campground is located near the visitor center and the North Grove Trail. The Oak Hollow Campground is located near the South Grove and does close in the winter when it starts to snow.
Trailer: 30 Feet
Camper/Motorhome: 30 Feet
Campsites and restrooms with showers at the North Grove Campground are accessible. One campsite and the restroom with showers at the Oak Hollow Campground.
The park has 4 cabins for rent. Each cabin has two bedrooms, running water, electricity, and semi-furnished.
One thing to remember is the park does not provide any linens or towels for the cabins.
There are several picnic areas located in the park. including the North Fork Stanislaus River and Beaver Creek.
Visiting the park in the Winter
Many parts of the park are closed in the winter including the campgrounds, visitor center, and the Parkway to the South Grove will close for the season around mid-November and remain closed until late April, but the North Grove area remains accessible.
Park visitors will find a warming hut at the end of the main parking lot that is open on weekends from November to March. Complimentary hot chocolate, cider, and coffee are served around a large open fire pit (Donations accepted).
Make sure to bring your snowshoes in the winter and snowshoe amongst the Giant Sequoias. If you don't have any snowshoes, you can find some to rent in Arnold.
Travel Tips for Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Park Address - 1170 East Highway 4, Arnold, CA 95223
Park Phone Number - (209) 795-2334
Pets - Dogs allowed only in campgrounds and on fire roads.
Interested in seeing more big trees? Check out these great parks for Giant Sequoia and Redwood Trees.
General Grant Tree- Kings Canyon National Park -Worlds Second Largest Tree by volume!
Things to do in Sequoia National Park -Visit the General Sherman Tree- The Worlds Largest Tree by volume!
Things to do in Redwood National Park -Visit the amazing Redwood Trees in Ladybird Johnson Grove or take the 17-mile scenic Bald Hills Road Drive.
Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Muir Woods National Monument -Amazing Redwood Trees just north of San Francisco and Oakland!
Interested in Railroading in the area? Visit Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown, California.
Nearby California State Parks
• Columbia State Historic Park - 11255 Jackson Street, Columbia
• Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park - 14881 Pine Grove-Volcano Road. Pine Grove
• Railtown 1897 State Historic Park on 5th Avenue, off Hwy. 108, Jamestown