Arnold’s history & culture owes its nature to the discovery of giant sequoia trees – the largest living things on the planet. The Calaveras Grove (now the North Grove of Calaveras Big Trees State Park) was home to the “Discovery Tree”, discovered by Augustus T. Dowd in 1852. These forests had been known of for centuries by the Miwok Indian inhabitants of the area. They called the trees “Wawona” after the sound that a Northern Spotted Owl makes – the bird they considered the guardians of the forest. It was only now, when Westerners first stumbled upon these giants that news of unbelievably massive, majestic trees was disseminated, making the area a major tourist attraction. In fact the Calaveras Grove is the longest continuously operated tourist facility in California and became a state park in 1933. The South Grove, containing ten times as many mature giant sequoias was purchased and added to the park in 1954.
Meanwhile, during the Gold Rush era, the Arnold community was comprised of two large ranches where logging was the main and very lucrative industry, large supplies of timber being essential for gold mining. In 1927, Bob and Bernice Arnold arrived and built the Ebbetts Pass Inn and a restaurant. Their accommodations offered services to the thousands of visitors traveling from all over the world to Murphys, Angels Camp and the Big Trees. Many were drawn even further up the mountain to the snow country beyond.
Visit the Sierra Nevada Logging Museum for more on the fascinating history of logging in the Sierras, with many firsthand experiences from family members of original settlers, and memoirs from the characters themselves. Also visit Calaveras Big Trees State Park‘s visitors center for the history of the park and its native species of animals and plants.
Over time, the logging industry came to a close, while tourism continued to rise with more exploration of the area. The spectacular beauty of Arnold and its environs inspired the designation of Ebbetts Pass (Highway 4) east from Arnold up over the Sierras as a National Scenic Byway. Today, Arnold is home to outstanding outdoor recreation in the High Sierra, a community-built, 17-mile biking, hiking and equestrian trail system, restaurants, shops & galleries, charming mountain lodging and the giant sequoias, which continue to enthrall and delight visitors and locals alike.