Spring in Calaveras: Unwind, Indulge…or Both
For the best in Spring flower displays, check out our blog: Where to See Beautiful Wildflowers. Tailor this itinerary to your tastes with this guide to places to unwind and indulge in Calaveras County.
In Spring, crisp mornings make way for soothing sunshine in the foothills. Sign up for a tee time at one of the area’s challenging and scenic golf courses. Try the championship course at Saddle Creek Golf Resort, which has received recognition from both Golf Digest and Golf Week Magazine, or check out Greenhorn Creek Resort, nestled on an historic ranch overlooking the Bear Mountains.
Spend the afternoon hopping from town to town and tapping into the local art scene. Make your first stop Allegorie Art and Wine in Murphys, featuring rotating exhibits from two local artists, as well as hand-crafted wines at their unique tasting bar (we won’t reveal what’s so special about their tasting bar here).
Next, make your way to the Gallery Store of Calaveras Arts Council. Housed in a historic building in San Andreas dating back to 1858, the Gallery Store sells gifts and fine art made by Calaveras County artists.
Finish your tour at the Petroglyphe Gallery in Mokelumne Hill which features the work of over 20 artists from California and beyond, as well as a broad variety of hands-on workshops to bring out your inner creative. Time it right and you might be able to observe an artist in action at one of their frequent demonstrations.
Wrap up your day in the same place it started. Both Saddle Creek and Greenhorn Creek feature restaurants that are a must try. Settle in to a table overlooking the 9th green at the Copper Grille, only a few steps away from Saddle Creek’s course. The grill, with its Frank Lloyd Wright inspired vibe, combines local, farm-raised products with other international treasures to create an exceptional dining experience. At Greenhorn, Camps Restaurant offers airy sunset views over the foothills and one of the best grass-fed beef burgers you’ll find, courtesy of nearby Orvis Ranch.
Have more time in the area? Here are a few other suggestions…
Grab your pole. Nothing is more serene than a peaceful morning on a calm lake in Spring, fishing pole in hand. Rise and shine early to get to Lake Camanche for some of the year’s best fishing, when the striped bass are plentiful.
Go for a stroll. Park your car at Murphys Community Park and head out for a stroll on Six Mile Road towards Ironstone Vineyards, a favorite early morning route among locals. Pass by budding vineyards, blooming daffodils and the greenest fields you’ll ever see.
Easy Hikes. Majestic Oaks, lush green hillsides and wildflowers surround the recreation trails at New Melones Lake, which are perfect for moderate afternoon hikes with the family or pets. Download trail maps for both Tuttletown and Glory Hole Recreation areas.
Spring in Calaveras: Easy exploring: Catch the highlights
Spring is the best time of year to wander around the country roads hunting for wildflowers. Be on the lookout for fields of daffodils. (Hint: Start your search at Ironstone Vineyards.) Spring is also a great time to experience the backroads and byways of Calaveras, whether it’s on two wheels or four, from winding river canyon drives to wide open grasslands.
Into history? Once you’ve gassed up your ride, explore the area’s historical sites. Calaveras County is home to more State Historical Markers than any other county and there are placards in just about every town with stories into the past. Don’t miss the Old Timers Museum in Murphys, the Angels Camp Museum and the Historical Society Museum in downtown San Andreas.
On your tour make a stop in San Andreas at The Pickle Patch, the most popular lunch shop in the County. Craziest menu item worth a try? The veggie-friendly Peter Piper Pickle. This hot spot is only open during the week, so if your timing is off, head to the Old Pueblo Cafe at La Contenta Golf Club instead.
Afterwards, make your way back to Angels Camp to check out the Frog Hop of Fame on Main Street before heading to dinner. The plaques that line the sidewalk immortalize the winners of the annual Jumping Frog Jubilee International Frog Jump Competition, including some World Record holders. Maybe you’ll get one next year?
On the Frog Hop of Fame, you’ll find Crusco’s Ristorante. Sit down for their made from scratch Italian favorites like ravioli and other crowd-pleasers like New York strip steak. Try not to fill up on their fresh focaccia bread, and leave room for dessert. For faster fare, Cascabels Mexican Restaurant spins up a hearty burrito or even better, a barbacoa bocadillo with chipotle sauce and a pint of pale ale.
Across the street, newly opened Sugar Bakery and Yummy Ha Ha Ice Cream churn out delicious artisanal baked goods and ice cream in downtown historic Angels Camp., and is quickly becoming the stop for a morning – or evening – coffee and pastry. They also offer small plates for both lunch and dinner – do try the soup of the day, and many edible gifts for purchase.
Spring in Calaveras: Go for it! Active adventures
Snowplay in the Spring. On one end of Calaveras the wildflowers will be blooming and on the other, there will still be mountains of snow, perfect for snowshoeing in short sleeves, taking a cruise on a snowmobile or skiing the spring “corn.”
Rent a pair of snowshoes from Sierra Nevada Adventure Company or Ebbetts Pass Sporting Goods (be sure to get your day parking pass, see below) and head for a day long adventure on Mt. Reba or Inspiration Point near Lake Alpine, both offer stunning views of snow-capped peaks as far as meets the eye. You’ll need a Sno-Park permit to park at the road’s end, available online, or at Ebbetts Pass Sporting Goods and Hathaway Pines Ranger Station.
Prefer a little more horsepower for your day on the snow? Take a tour with Bear Valley Snowmobile, they’ll set you up with a snowmobile and all the necessary safety gear for the 70+ miles of groomed trails within the Stanislaus National Forest. Rentals can be reserved for a minimum of two hours up to a full week!
Some of us just need to keep skiing as long as there’s snow to slide on – both Bear Valley Mountain and Bear Valley Cross Country typically stay open until mid-April, conditions permitting – and it’s a perfect time to get a deal on a season pass that will let you ski the rest of the current season and the following as well.
Meet up with O.A.R.S. Whitewater Rafting in Big Trees State Park for a day of big water on the North Fork of the Stanislaus River. Ride through Class IV+ doozies like Beginner’s Luck, Body Slam and Surf City on an exhilarating half-day trip. This unique whitewater run is typically only available for a small window of time each Spring, so make sure to call ahead to find out if/when trips are available.
Keep the adrenaline pumping all day long and mountain bike the Arnold Rim Trail, 30+ miles of dirt road and single track trail through pristine forest with incredible vistas at Cougar Rock and trailside bonuses like San Antonio Falls overlook. The trail, which connects White Pines to Avery/Sheep Ranch Road is well-marked, but it’s still advisable to have a map since many fire roads intersect the route. Pick one up at the Stanislaus National Forest Ranger Station in Hathaway Pines, or SNAC outdoor shop in Arnold.
If you’re more of a hiker, make your Spring visit a full-day trip the following day, or access only a portion of the trail via various fire roads for a shorter trip.
The best way to reward all that activity is with a Giant Burger. By the name it should be clear what to order. But don’t skimp – go for one of their extremely thick milkshakes too. If you like flavored shakes, you’ll have plenty to choose from here including boysenberry, banana and root beer.
Area Lodging: Camp with the giants at Big Trees State Park, sleep riverside at the Sourgrass Recreation Area Campground or grab a room at one of the motels in Arnold.
Have more time in the area? Here are a few other suggestions…
Paddle Pardee. While some try to hang on to their snow sports for as long as they can, others have a chance to launch their kayaks and start welcoming the warmer weather of Spring. Put your boat in at Pardee Reservoir, a scenic low-elevation lake with several fingers that are ideal for flat-water paddling and exploring.
Rock On at Table Mountain. Stretching along the southern end of New Melones Lake (in neighboring Tuolumne County) is an ancient lava flow that stretches from the High Sierra to the foothills known as Table Mountain. It’s become a regional hub for serious rock climbers in recent years, with its variety of basalt columns, finger cracks and steep challenging sport climbs. But even if you don’t fancy the rope-tethered vertical world, a spring hike along the top of the formation, full of vernal pools and lush microhabitats, with views to the Central Valley and Yosemite, is a unique springtime experience. Check in with the Visitor Center at New Melones for details on access and other interpretive info.
Cheers to an adventurous Spring!