Located at the mid-elevation of the western Sierra Nevada, Calaveras Big Trees State Park is a prime example of a mixed conifer forest in the yellow pine belt. Giant Sequoias dominate ponderosa pines, sugar pines, incense cedars and white fir. The Pacific dogwood displays white blossoms in the spring, Wildflowers along the Lava Bluffs Trail include leopard lily, Hartweg's iris, crimson columbine, monkey-flowers, harvest brodiaea, wild hyacinth and lupine. Native grasses in the park include bentgrass, sedge, rush and needlegrass.
The park is located three miles east of Arnold on Highway 4. P.O. Box 120/1170 E. Highway 4, Arnold, CA 95223
Open daily from sunrise to sunset. Visitor's Center is open daily 10-4.
There are great choices and opportunities with every season. Park staff and volunteers offer many fun and educational programs - from snowshoe trips to exploring life in Beaver Creek. Program information is posted at the park entrance and Visitor Center.
Opportunities for wildlife observations are abundant in the park. Bird species include pileated woodpeckers, northern flickers, Steller's jays and dark-eyed juncos. Raccoons, foxes, porcupines, chipmunks, chickarees and flying squirrels are among the native animals. Black bears, bobcats and coyotes are sometimes seen.
Leashed dogs are allowed in campground, picnic areas, paved roads, fire roads and parking lots. They are not allowed on the seven developed hiking trails, on beaches, waterways or in the back country.
There are seven maintained trails in the park as well as many miles of fire roads. They offer a range of difficulty and highlight the varied features of the park, including the Giant Sequoias, the Stanislaus River, and the Lava Bluffs formation.
In the North Grove area:
1. North Grove Trail: A gentle 1.7 mile loop takes you through the historic grove of Giant Sequoias discovered in 1852. "Stroller-friendly" when dry. Allow 1-2 hours.
2. Three Senses Trail: This is a short loop of just a few hundred yards, intended as a sensory experience of the forest. Allow 20 minutes.
3. Grove Overlook Trail: Climbs the ridge for views of the upper parts of the BIg Trees. Allow 1-2 hours.
In the South Grove area:
1. South Grove Trail: Travels through the South Grove Natural Preserve, home to about 1,000 Giant Sequoia, and the largest trees in the park. This moderately difficult trail consists of a 3.5 mile loop through the lower part of the grove, with a 3/4 mile-long spur to the Agassiz Tree - the largest in the park - for a total of 5 miles. Allow 2.5 - 4 hours and be sure to bring water and wear sturdy shoes.
2. Bradley Grove Trail: This 2.5 mile round-trip moderate loop trail travels to a grove of young Giant Sequoias that were planted in the 1950's. Nice area for wildflowers in the late spring. Allow 1-2 hours and bring drinking water.
1. River Canyon Trail: A strenuous hike into and out of the Stanislaus River Canyon. The hike is 8 miles round-trip with an elevation change of over 1,000 feet. On summer afternoons this south-facing slope can be very warm. Be sure you are physically able to do this hike and carry plenty of drinking water. Allow 4-6 hours.
2. Lava Bluffs Trail: This 2.5 mile loop trail will take you through varied environments. This diverse area hosts the park's most colorful spring wildflower displays and excellent birdwatching. Allow 2-3 hours and bring plenty of water.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park was created to protect and preserve two groves of Giant Sequoias - the world's largest trees. The historic North Grove became a State Park in 1931, with the more remote and pristine South Grove added in 1954. In addition to the groves, visitors can observe a prime example of west-slope, mid-elevation coniferous forest with it's representative flora. The Stanislaus River, Beaver Creek and North Grove Meadow add a great mix of native plant species to the experience.