If you are looking for fun activities to do with family and especially kids along with camping, look no further than Calaveras Big Trees State Park for hiking.
Especially during the summer time, Yosemite National Park in the region seem to get the most love, for all great reasons. However, if you want to avoid the crowd and yet be able to get campsites relatively easily, Calaveras Big Trees State Park should be your top choice.
Calaveras Big Trees Hiking
This state park may not come across as the most popular one when it comes to hiking options for those looking for strenuous hikes. However, if you are either hiking with kids, just interested in a stroll, or take a moderate hike up to the river for a dip on a hot summer day, you are in luck.
The park has seven maintained trails and countless unmaintained(and unnamed) trails to explore.
If you are out on an unexplored path, I recommend a few important things:
- Take a GPS with you, so you can trace back your back.
- Be mindful of wildlife such as bears.
- Even better, don’t go off wandering into unmaintained trails.
Here are the maintained trails in Calaveras Big Trees for hiking:
South Grove Area Trails
Calaveras South Grove Trail
The maximum distance on this trail is 5 miles. However, you don’t really need to do 5 miles if you don’t want to. There is a 3.5 miles option as well.
The first 1.5 miles of the hike, you would gain an ~260 ft of elevation. Well, it’s really hard to say whether this qualifies as a climb or not. But, if you are with young children, it might very well be a considered a climb.
The next 1 mile of the hike is another 200 ft climb. At this point the trail descends to back to the start of the loop.
If interested, and highly recommended is the detour to Agassiz Tree, the largest tree in the park. It’s a 0.6 miles each direction, a total of 1.2 miles round trip to the Tree and back. This section of the hike is fairly easier with just a 100ft elevation gain.
Bradley Grove Trail
This 2.5 mile round trip trail gets it’s name from the conservationists Owen and Adrienne Bradley, who decided to protect the Giant Sequoias and planted these young seedlings in the 1950s.
This trail takes us through these young 60+ years old trees. Start the hike at the South Grove Trail and just after the Beaver Creek bridge, the Bradley Grove Trail starts.
This trail is known for wildflowers in the Spring.
North Grove Trails
Calaveras North Grove Trail
Don’t overlook this trail for it’s shorter distance and heavy traffic. There is a reason why this trail is really popular. Best of all, this trail is stroller-friendly.
1.4 mile, well marked and gentle, North Grove Trail has historical significance. One of the must visit on this trail is the Discovery Tree, as it was the largest tree in the North Grove. 25 ft in diameter and 300ft tall, this 1,244 years old tree was unfortunately cut down in mid 1800s.
The base of the tree is one of the most photographed in the park.
Grove Overlook Trail
You can take a detour of another 2.5 miles round trip to Grove Overlook Trail from the beginning of North Grove Trail, to add more mileage to your hike.
However, the more interesting part of the trail is the North Grove itself.
Three senses Trail
This 200 yard, super short loop is just right to get a sense of what the forest has to offer. Give yourself a 15-20 mins to walk among the literally Big Trees.
River Canyon Trail
8 miles out and back with ~1600 ft elevation gain, you will be hiking in the Stanislaus River Canyon.
Compared to other trails, River Canyon Trail is probably one of the most difficult Calaveras Big Trees hiking you will do.
The hike itself starts at North Grove Trail head. It can be slightly confusing to reach the River Canyon trail from here.
As per the Park brochure, ” Just past marker #2, take the trail to the right
and follow it up to the Scenic Overlook (not the Grove Overlook trail). At the far end of the Scenic Overlook parking lot, you will find a restroom, a display describing the trail, and access to the rest of the trail. “
Near Park Entrance
Lava Bluffs Trail
A spectacular 2.5 mile round trip trail known for Wildflowers in the spring. Also, this trail does have poison oaks. I would be cautious on taking my toddler, who likes to touch every plant, on this trail.
All these hikes can be covered over a weekend of Calaveras Big Trees Camping. And a perfect weekend getaway to be away from technology and be in awe of some of the world’s largest trees.
Don’t we all need that break ?!