Calaveras Big Trees State Park is the longest continuously operated tourist facility in California. A must-see when visiting Calaveras County, these sequoias are the largest in the world, towering between 250 and 300 feet. To put that into perspective, that’s the length of a football field or as tall as the the Statue of Liberty measuring from the ground to the top of her torch.
The Visitors Center caters to approximately 200,000 visitors to Calaveras Big Trees State Park each year, with a stylish gift shop, plush seating area, interactive displays, museum and video viewing area. The Visitors Center also includes a room fashioned to resemble the lower portion of a giant sequoia, containing information on the life cycle and world-beating statistics of the trees that give the park its name.
Back in 1852, no one would believe Augustus T. Dowd when he described the massive trees he had found while tracking a wounded grizzly in the wild, western Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. No surprise there when you consider they’re large enough to house an entirely separate ecosystem in their canopies. It took leading a group of men to the Calaveras North Grove so they could see for themselves, before general skepticism was replaced by amazement.
Giant sequoias or Sequoiadendron giganteum are the largest trees on earth and continue to amaze us to this day. Reaching heights of up to 325 feet and diameters of 33 feet, and living for more than 2000 years, these prehistoric trees soon became a major attraction. By the time Californians had voted to establish a state park system, Calaveras Big Trees was already being advocated for by the Calaveras Grove Association, inspired by the Sierra Club and Save the Redwoods League.
Located in two groves of mixed conifer forest featuring ponderosa pines, sugar pines, incense cedars, white fir and pacific dogwoods, the giant sequoias are experienced up-close and personal at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Well-marked trails lead visitors on meandering paths through the forest with ample opportunity to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of this beautiful, natural landscape with its chattering Steller’s Jays and tiny Douglas Squirrels.
Year-round access to trails, camping and picnic sites offer plenty of opportunities to see the park in its seasonal changes. In winter, guided snowshoe tours and a warming hut with hot chocolate and cider make Calaveras Big Trees State Park a very user-friendly destination. Summer gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy camping, hiking, biking, fishing and playing in the Stanislaus River, wildlife and environmental seminars, events, live music and art.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park is just 4 miles northeast of Arnold, a popular mountain hamlet, located on the Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway which features some of the most dramatic and breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Other attractions nearby include the Sierra Nevada Logging Museum, open April through November, which creatively displays the history of the logging and lumber industry in the entire Sierra Nevada from before the Gold Rush in the 1800s to the present day. Situated next to the pretty little lake of White Pines with its children’s playground, picnic tables and beaches, the museum is also the trailhead to the Arnold Rim Trail which welcomes hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking. Local lodging is plentiful and includes the outstanding Arnold Black Bear Inn with its timber frame construction, gourmet guest meals and award winning service and events. Popular local restaurants range from the casual to the sophisticated and tend to feature local Calaveras wines or craft beers. Year-round festivals and events combined with diverse recreational opportunities combine to make Arnold a year-round mountain sports and cultural destination.