Discover Calaveras: Mountain Ranch, San Andreas, & West Point

Established in 1858 and once known as El Dorado Camp, Mountain Ranch was once a little thriving Gold Rush town. Then, as the gold mines and sawmills closed, Mountain Ranch turned to ranching as its main economy. Settled in 1848 by Mexican settlers, San Andreas was named after the Catholic parish, St. Andres. West Point, a California Historical Landmark on Highway 26 near Main Street, declares that the area was named by Kit Carson as he traveled with Captain John Fremont searching for a pass over the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

Take a beautiful drive through the Calaveras foothills and see some historic, quaint small towns…the kind you see in your favorite movie or read about in a beloved book. Looking for unique festivals, attractions, and adventures? West Calaveras has a little somethin’ somethin’ for you to discover…

California Cavern – Mountain Ranch

Cool Off in Calaveras, California Cavern
California Cavern Tour I Courtesy of Instagrammer @emformdesign

Originally called Mammoth Cave, California Cavern was California’s first show cave and is its longest cavern system. Depending on the season, the guided cavern walk tour can be 45 minutes to 80 minutes long featuring an enchanting trail with beautiful crystalline cave formations in historical and recently discovered pristine areas.

The cavern walking tour takes you through several passageways into multiple chambers on a trail system. On the way, you’ll see a wide variety of beautiful white, cream and caramel colored crystalline cave formations including stalactites, stalagmites, cave popcorn, flowstones and helictites, while also learning about the cavern’s fascinating discovery and early uses.

Calaveras County Museum & Historical Complex – San Andreas

San Andreas, CA
Calaveras County Museum Complex, historic San Andreas | Lisa Boulton

The Calaveras County Museum Complex includes the historic courthouse, jail yard and Hall of Records. It includes the upstairs portion of the Odd Fellows and Masonic Hall built in 1856. The museum contains displays dating to the Gold Rush era including information on the famous outlaw, Black Bart, the “Gentleman Bandit” who was jailed and tried here when he was finally captured in 1888 by Wells Fargo stagecoach driver, Reason McConnell and 19-year old Jimmy Rolleri.

An outstanding Mi Wok Indian exhibit includes artifacts, photos and quotes revealing the ancient Mi Wok lifestyle.

Researching your family’s history in Calaveras County? Friendly, helpful staff at the Historical Society’s office, located on the lower floor of the Hall of Records, are happy to help you during their regular hours.

P.A.W.S (Performing Animals Welfare Society) – San Andreas

Elephant Grape Stomp | PAWS
Maggie at ARK 2000 | PAWS

At Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuaries, rescued animals live in peaceful, natural habitats, free from fear, chains, and harsh confinement. They are at complete liberty to act out natural behaviors in the comfort of their individually designed enclosures. In February 2024, Lulu, a longtime resident at PAWS, celebrated her 58th birthday making her the oldest living African elephant in North America, however we are sad to say that Lulu passed in April of 2024. At her passing, Lulu was the longest living African elephant in captivity. Also in April of 2024, PAWS released a statement saying they “…received a nine-month-old tiger cub with a serious bone condition, confiscated in February by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. At the sanctuary, the tiger will be provided with the specialized support she requires for the rest of her life, while living in a more natural environment. Her enclosure and care are designed to address any physical limitations”.

Although it is generally closed to the public, the facility in San Andreas, known as ARK 2000, offers a chance to see these magnificent, rescued animals just a few times a year at fundraising events like the Elephant Grape Stomp and other events to help keep their important work going. They generally sell out months in advance, but are worth attending if you can. Meanwhile, please consider supporting PAWS by donating online, becoming a volunteer, adopting an animal or donating to their wish list.

Big Day of Giving is an annual Sacramento, California-area, 24-hour giving event for nonprofits. This year’s Big Day of Giving is Thursday, May 2nd, from midnight to 11:59 p.m. This year PAWS will be raising funds for the care of the elephants, tigers, bears and other wild animals living at their ARK 2000 sanctuary. Donate Dirt, keeps the elephants dusty – just like they like it. PAWS says “The seven elephants at PAWS just love a dust bath. Each day they cover themselves in clouds of soil, a natural behavior that protects their skin from the sun and insect bites, promotes social bonding and appears to just feel good.” Your generous gift offsets the thousands of dollars spent on truckloads of fresh dirt each year – just one load costs $995.00!

Ragin Cajun Festival – San Andreas

A Taste of Louisiana Jambalaya in San Andreas

Held on May 4, 2024, this event is sponsored by the San Andreas Rotary who donates all of the proceeds to Hospice of Amador and Calaveras Counties.

Featuring a true blue, authentic Louisiana crawfish boil, frozen Hurricane slushies (must be 21 to enjoy!), vendors galore right on downtown Main Street, and live music on four stages from the Mark St. Mary Zydeco Band, Primitivo Latin Rhythm Band, Jeramy Norris and The Blue Cartel, Teal Wheels Band, and The Rusty Rockers. WOW this will be amazing!

Lumberjack Day – West Point

West Point Lumberjack Day
West Point Lumberjack Day by Instagrammer – Adam Weidanbach

The annual Lumberjack Day in nearby West Point takes place annually on the first Saturday of October, and is hugely popular with locals and visitors alike… they call it the “Biggest Little Celebration in the Mother Lode” for a reason. This event celebrates the history and traditions of the Calaveras County lumber industry with community spirit, and fun, family-friendly entertainment.

For over 40 years, this event has featured a day packed with fun, old-fashioned activities for the entire family. Highlights include a parade (full of local color and humor), soap box derby (with contestants from all over Northern California), The Lawn Chair Brigade (performing now for over a decade), and of course the lumberjack competition with big timbers, an axe throwing contest, Jack and Jill bucking, and chainsaw contests.

But that’s not all. Directly after the parade, the children’s area opens with a climbing wall, face painting, bounce houses, free petting zoo and more!

Vendors line the street, with yummy food and fun gift items like souvenir caps and t-shirts, there’s a car show displaying classic and vintage cars, and live entertainment including juggling and music. There’s a volunteer Fire Department BBQ selling tri-tip sandwiches, a horseshoe competition and the Community Garden is open for exhibits and a shady rest area.

Plan to get to Lumberjack Day early for the soap box derby which kicks off at 8:30 am.  For those able to attend even earlier, a pancake breakfast gets started at 7:00 am at the VFW Auxiliary Hall on Highway 26 and Pine Street, across from the red Community Covenant Church. The Lumberjack Day King and Queen Scholarship winners are announced and crowned at 9:30 am. The parade begins at 11:00 am, while the horse shoe competition begins at 12:30 pm and the logging show and axe throwing contest begin at 1 pm and run throughout the afternoon.

The Metropolitan & 4th Wall Entertainment Troupe – San Andreas

The Metropolitan Theatre. Photo courtesy The Metropolitan theatre

Located on historic Main Street in San Andreas, the Metropolitan was originally a hotel in 1859. In 1926, fire destroyed the building and a movie theater replaced sometime in the early 1950’s. The current owners of The Metropolitan have transformed the building into an event space and the home to live theatre entertainment company, Fourth Wall Entertainment Troupe.

Interactive theatrical experiences that include music, dinner, dancing and drinks make a Fourth Wall experience special. Unique works are written and performed by local artists, and this small community comes together to celebrate its history and culture through its appreciation of the arts. And a great big plus is that they are serving amazing, local wines grown and crafted right here in Calaveras.

Gooney’s Bar & Grill – San Andreas

Gooney's Bar and Grill, Gooneys, Gooney's, Historic San Andreas, San Andreas, San Andreas Restaurant, Bar, Beer, Craft Beer
Courtesy of Gooney’s Bar and Grill

After many iterations (including the former Red Brick Saloon) this historic building has been restored to its former glory and namesake under new ownership as Gooney’s Bar & Grill, this time with a twist: it’s ready for the 21st century.

Friendly staff and great quality food at reasonable prices in a beautifully restored setting, Gooney’s is quickly becoming a locals favorite, drawing visitors from every corner to historic San Andreas. Located on the corner at the intersection of San Andreas Main Street and the historic Highway 49…just look for the flashing yellow traffic light!

Robin's Nest Bed & Breakfast Inn

Can you stay with us a few days? Check out lodging at the Robins Nest Bed and Breakfast or The Sierra Inn in San Andreas. Give us a call if you’d like help planning your next trip to Calaveras at 209-736-0049. We look forward to hearing from you!