So often our best memories of a place are from some unexpected discovery we made while visiting. Did you come to Calaveras County for a quiet mountain getaway and discover a robust music and arts scene? Perhaps you came for the Big Trees and discovered a top-notch wine industry. Traveling is full of happy coincidences that cement our fond memories of an experience, and most of us have a favorite Calaveras County story. As we head into warmer weather and you think about hitting the road, here are three of our favorite ideas to make memories.
The Stanislaus River Canyon is said to be the route taken by early explorers traveling over the Sierra Nevada mountains to and from this region. Highway 4 follows it all the way from Angels Camp to Bear Valley, creating many opportunities to explore the swimming holes and campgrounds along its shores. It’s a favorite springtime whitewater playground for kayakers and rafters, as well as full of secret spots for the anglers who call this area home. This river inspired a generation of conservation and adventure pioneers, too – one of the world’s most established rafting and adventure companies is based right here, and if you act fast, you can experience a trip down the Stan with OARS. From the granite waterslides at Stanislaus River Campground in the high country to the high-speed thrills on New Melones Lake, the Stan has been fueling our imagination and Calaveras’ economy for many years.
The bear he chased into the woods that day in 1852 got away – but what Augustus T. Dowd found instead still stands as a reminder of the enduring magic of the natural world. The giant sequoias in Big Trees State Park average 2500 years old and are among the planets largest and oldest living things. We talk about the park a lot here, and it won last year’s Innovations in Tourism award – but it’s all a bunch of chatter that goes silent the minute you actually stand among and touch the ancient beings. Now, you can linger longer by booking a night in one of the park’s rustic cabins. As part of their effort to appeal to more adventurous and budget minded travelers, Big Trees now offers nightly rentals in four furnished, cabins near its North Grove. Each has two bedrooms, kitchen, living room and private bath. There are also plenty of campsites next to the North Grove, but book early because they fill up.
The Historic Towns
Back in the 1850s, the gold rush created boom towns that have seen their fortunes rise and fall over the 16 decades since. Now? Let’s just say times are good, thanks in part to the lucky vines and grape seeds brought by the first Europeans to settle here. Today’s bustling wine industry goes hand in hand with a foodie’s penchant for farm to table cuisine and locally crafted edibles. Pair that with a selection of laid back boutiques, charming bed and breafasts and historic hotels, and all that’s missing on Main Street is you! Book a room in Mokelumne Hill or Murphys and explore the region’s towns with some good friends and no schedule. You never know what might happen.