Calaveras Summer Vacation Itineraries

Here we offer 3 itineraries for summer in Calaveras County:

Unwind, indulge…or both

Sougrass Recreation Area
Sourgrass Recreation Area | Photo: Sandi Pearce

For breakfast on the go grab a strong coffee, a homemade everything bagel with cream cheese (and maybe a sweet treat too) from Aria Bakery in Murphys.

Then hop in the car for a peaceful 20-minute drive through the pines to the town of Dorrington for easy access to the wild and scenic Stanislaus River via the Sourgrass Recreation Area off of Boards Crossing Road. Grab a rock upstream and zone out to the rushing waters of the river, or crack open a good book and just enjoy. Bring your swimsuit along if you think you might be up for a dip in the refreshing mountain runoff.

Make your way back for lunch at The Lube Room in Dorrington or the Camp Connell General Store.  Both have patios and are puppy and child-friendly, so grab a seat on the patio and order up delicious burger or wood-fired pizza.

Need to walk that off? Peruse the shops of Murphys. The Spice Tin is a unique sensory experience where you can find flavors from around the world.  Poke your nose into Serendipity, a boutique style arts and craft shop, featuring local artisan collectives and unique home treasures, and Creative Cookware for that kitchen gadget you didn’t know you needed.

If it’s starting to get warm out there, duck into the quirky and cool (literally) cellar at Hatcher. Get a jumpstart on dinner with a cheese and wine pairing at Lavender Ridge upstairs.

Spoil your inner foodie with a dinner that celebrates our regional bounty at V Restaurant & BarRefined American cuisine & specialty cocktails offered in cozy quarters with a cosmopolitan vibe”.

Hunt down some local tunes to finish your night. A handful of emerging musicians, like The Hot Dark, Grover Anderson and Nicholas Lefler, are on the scene and can often be found playing at one of the local establishments like the Murphys Pub or Jazz Cellars. Murphys Community Park hosts First Fridays in the Park at the beginning of each month from June to September and the Murphys Certified Farmers Market on Sundays through October.

Area lodging: Hide away at the The Dunbar House, or check into a home away from home through Murphys Vacation Rentals, or go for the pool at Murphys Inn.

Have more time in the area? Here are a few other suggestions…

Float your afternoon away. Head to the beach at White Pines Lake (near Arnold) with a tube in hand for relaxing on the water.

Pack a picnic. Stop by Sierra Hills Market for deli sandwiches, plus an assortment of gourmet cheeses, olives, and other portable fare. Then head to Indian Rock Vineyards for a picturesque vineyard picnic under a giant oak tree next to the peaceful pond.

Easy exploring: Catch the highlights

Mountain bikes are welcome on fire roads and paved tarmac in Calaveras Big Trees State Park. | Calaveras Visitors Bureau

Start your visit among ancient trees the size of the Statue of Liberty. Head to Calaveras Big Trees State Park and get lost in the giant sequoias. Plan on spending some time at the park’s visitor center, then head for a 1.5 mile hike through the North Grove to view well-known icons like Father of the Forest, Empire State and the Siamese Twins. With wide paths and wooden boardwalks, this stroll welcomes the whole family, and it won’t be soon forgotten.

Head back toward Arnold and discover the Sierra Nevada’s rich logging history. Officially located in the small community of White Pines, the Sierra Nevada Logging Museum provides visitors with a glimpse into the past with elaborate logging artifacts, informative videos and life-size outdoor exhibits.

Head down the hill, but keep with the tree theme and grab lunch at Firewood, a casually hip restaurant on Main Street in Murphys. Wood fired pizza and tangy fish tacos are a couple of the go-to dishes here.

After lunch, drive to the Natural Bridges trailhead (located 4-miles west of Murphys on Parrots Ferry Road) and hike 1 mile to Coyote Creek and the naturally-formed cave it flows through. Make sure to bring your swimsuit for a dip in the creek, or to swim through the cave. Adventure alert!

On your way to Natural Bridges, you’ll pass Moaning Cavern. Don’t miss this experience and the opportunity to rappel 165 ft. into California’s largest single-chamber cave.

You’ll need a hearty meal after this jam-packed day. Unwind with housemade pasta at Crusco’s (reopened under new ownership August of 2023) in historic downtown Angels Camp.

Area lodging: Stay for a while at Worldmark Angels Camp or Murphys Suites, or enjoy cool evenings at the Meadowmont Lodge in Arnold.

Have more time in the area? Here are a few other suggestions…

See who’s headlining. Throughout the summer, well-known artists and musical acts come to Calaveras to perform at Ironstone Vineyard’s Summer Concert Series. General admission tickets for shows at this outdoor amphitheater are usually available the day-of at the box office.

Explore a reservoir. Rent a boat from New Melones Lake Marina, where you can also stock up on food and provisions for a day of exploring the waters of New Melones. Want to spend the day just kayaking around the lake? On the Lake Kayaks brings the fun to the lake for you! Located next to beautiful New Melones Lake in Downtown Angels Camp, they offer Single and Tandem open deck (sit-on) Kayak Rentals that can be enjoyed by beginners and experts alike. Lakeside delivery is located at the Glory Hole Point Boat Launch in the Glory Hole Recreation area of New Melones. No need to worry about tie-downs or transporting. Just get on the lake and enjoy!

Go for it! Active adventures

Upcountry exploring, Stanislaus National Forest
Upcountry exploring | Photo: Ben Davidson

Hop in the car for a high country day. As you head up Hwy. 4 stop at the Stanislaus National Forest Ranger Station in Hathaway Pines for trail information and maps.

For one of the best breakfast options – or lunch, if it’s that time of day – on the mountain, stop into Arnold Pantry, Arnold’s newest hot spot, featuring local produce and pastured meats, house made breads and pastries, great coffee – and an on site produce market to boot!

Head down the street to Sierra Nevada Adventure Company (SNAC) to gear up. Rent a kayak or paddleboard from them, strap it on your car and take off toward Ebbetts Pass for a day of mountain fun.

Hit the trails at Lake Alpine. Try hiking up to Wheeler Ridge via the Bee Gulch trailhead ¾ mile past the Lake Alpine Lodge on the left side of Hwy. 4. This can also be a fun single track mountain bike ride or challenging trail run. Length varies depending on whether you make it a loop or out-and-back.

After getting your sweat on, grab lunch on the patio at Lake Alpine Resort which offers a stunning view of Inspiration Point (also a great hike) on the other side of the lake.

Spend the afternoon paddling away. Backtrack a few miles down Hwy. 4 and look for Spicer Reservoir Road on your left. By the afternoon, winds will be tough at Spicer, so paddle at Utica Reservoir instead. This smaller, more serene reservoir doesn’t allow motorboats and offers a spectacular amount of rock islands to explore along the way.

Stop by The Watering Hole  for their chef-drive modern American pub food. Plus, you will have plenty of beer to choose from with 40 rotating taps and eight retail doors of bottled beer, and an emphasis on hard to find beers, Belgian styles, and the best of American craft beer

Area Lodging: Sleep under the stars and camp at Lake Alpine, get off-season rates at Bear Valley Lodge, or be centrally located along the Hwy. 4 corridor at Meadowmont Lodge.

Have more time in the area? Here are a few other suggestions…

Paddle the Mokelumne. For a class II whitewater experience, hop in your kayak and run the 5.5 stretch of the Mokelumne River known as the Electra run. Grab lunch at Renegade Winery and stay a while at the historic (and newly renovated in 2023) Hotel Leger right in downtown Mokelumne Hill.

Swim in “The Stan.” When the 100-degree days hit, locals head to the scenic swim hole on the Stanislaus River at the end of Camp Nine Road in Vallecito. No easy feat to get to, the remote swim spot requires a tedious 45-minute drive and ½ mile hike. Go early to claim your spot nestled among the rock cliffs and pebbly beaches.

Get Twisted. Take a ride through the world famous Rubber Chicken National Forest as you make your way up to Twisted Oak Winery. Check out their cave tours with The Twisted Underground Wine Experience. Tour their real working winery football field length cave with temperatures at a cool 68 – 72 degrees (perfect during these Calaveras summer months), see the gorgeous vineyard views, then enjoy current bottle selections in their winery tasting room.  They like to make good wine and have a good time too. And who can resist buying a wine called “Potty-Mouth Red?