Calaveras Backroads and Byways – Some of Our Best Little Secrets

One of the joys of traveling in the Calaveras foothills is exploring the county’s many backroads.

The Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway is our most well-known tour over the spectacular high Sierras, which follows State Highway 4 from Angels Camp to Markleeville.  But there are several short backroad day trips within the county that you might not know about – because we’ve hidden them.  Some wind along steep river canyons, some amble through lush vineyards, others take you to secret historic places and out of the way swimming holes.   Whether you’re looking for a scenic cruise in your classic car, a curve hugging rubber test for your motorcycle or a fun cycling challenge, we’ve compiled a handful of ideas for your backroad adventures.

Car Cruises

Wine and History Loop 

The Costa Store – Historic Landmark in Calaveritas

Pay a visit to the fascinating Angels Camp Museum then head out of town on Dogtown Road, toward Calaveritas.  You’ll tour through rolling oak and ranch lands, also passing by Dalton Vineyards before coming to the historic hamlet of Calaveritas.  Continue on Calaveritas Road to San Andreas, stop in at Calaveras County Historical Museum, then loop back southward on Pool Station Road.  That giant industrial space on your right is the former Calaveras Cement Plant, one of the county’s most important industries in the twentieth century.  Sit back for more ranches and a glimpse over Clondaire Vineyards, clinging to the hillsides with views of the Sierras.  Highway 4 brings you back through Angels Camp up to Vallecito.  Take a quick detour here to Red Hill Road, (right turn from Highway 4) where you will find Twisted Oak Winery, a great spot to end the day with a beautiful tour of their caves and working winery, then watch the sun set, overlooking the surrounding hills.

BONUS – See the giant gold nugget and beautiful grounds at Ironstone Vineyards, home of the Concourse D’Elegance.   It’s just up Six Mile Road on a newly paved, small two-lane road, so we’d recommend coming through Murphys on the paved road to Ironstone.

Wide Open Spaces

New Melones by Michi Watanabe
New Melones in spring | Michiyo Watanabe

Highway 4:  From Angels Camp, head west on Highway 4 to Hunt Road, which takes you over a ridge and drops into the Salt Springs Valley, follow Rock Creek Road along Salt Springs Reservoir and down a winding canyon to the little town of Milton (terminus of the Stockton-Copperopolis Railroad- which didn’t quite make it to Copperopolis!) Then, hang back on Milton Road to Highway 4 and head to Copper Town Square for a bite and a beverage.  O’Byrnes Ferry Road brings you over Lake Tulloch and eventually to Jamestown on Highway 108.  At the stoplight take a left onto Rawhide Road back to Highway 49, where you’ll want to pay a visit to Mark Twain’s cabin in Tuttletown before crossing the Stanislaus River again back into Calaveras County.

New Hogan Lake in spring | Lisa Boulton
Spring at New Hogan Lake, Valley Springs

Highway 49: From Angels Camp, head north on Highway 49 towards San Andreas.  At the end of town, you have two choices – turn right and stay on Highway 49 to Mokelumne Hill or head straight on 26 towards Valley Springs.  Either of these routes will showcase the rolling green or golden hills (depending if you visit in the spring or summer) of Calaveras. Pass by gentle, pastoral scenes of grazing cows, sheep, horses, or  goats on your way to Lake Hogan.  Get out and stretch your legs at the Cameron Loop trail or continue driving around the loop for gorgeous lake views. Valley Springs has not just one, but three lakes to visit – Camanche and Pardee Lakes also have trails, wildlife viewing, and serene vista points.  If you choose to continue north on 49 towards Mokelumne Hill, California poppies and lupine burst with color in the spring along the highway.  Stop in Moke Hill for coffee at Moke-A-Java, have lunch at the Hotel Leger, and be sure to see the mural at Shutter Tree park made from porcelain artifacts found in the China Town section of the Gold Rush days.