We were looking for something fun to do over the labor day long weekend without having to drive hours or fly at all. A friend of ours had booked calaveras big trees camping for the long weekend and hesitantly, I signed up. I was thinking, it’s just a camping trip and was dragging myself out of the house.
Once we hit Hwy 4 and entered Calaveras county, my perception changed dramatically. I kept telling my husband that we should come back here again and explore more.
Calaveras Big Trees Camping
Starting from Hwy 4 drive and all the way to Calaveras Big Trees State Park, it’s such a beautiful scenery. A windy road would lead you to Calaveras Big Tree campgrounds among deep and dense forest with Stanislaus river cutting right through it.
How to book Calaveras Big Trees Camp sites online ?
It’s really easy to book the sites online at ReserveCalifornia.com
For $35 a night, the campsites are super spacious and accommodate 8 people per site.
There are two campgrounds at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. North Grove and Oak Hallow. We stayed at Oak Hallow. And from what I see Oak Hallow is easier to get than North Grove campsites.
We drove around and found both of the campgrounds similar in facilities and appearance. So, just book whatever is available.
For those not interested in camping out, this is probably one of the few state parks that offers Cabin rentals. Check out more details at Park website.
Why should you camp at Calaveras Big Trees State Park ?
You might be wondering what’s so special about this park after all ? Let me put it this way, it’s a smaller version of a National Park in every aspect.
- Junior Ranger programs
- Water Access and Fishing at Stanislaus River
- Guide Hikes
- Craft programs
- Astronomy nights
The activities list goes on and on and changes for every season.
Amenities at Calaveras Big Trees State Park Camping:
I was overall impressed with the facilities here at Calaveras campsites. This year of 2019 has been an outdoor year for our family. We have been camping every other weekend. Rocky Mountain National Park, Bodega Bay camping, Granite Flats Campground at Donner Lake, Pohono Trail backpacking, this list goes on and on.
So far, among all the camping trips this year, my most favorite would have to be Calaveras Big Trees for both the scenery and amenities.
- Steaming Hot Water
- Clean Toilets
- Really huge bear lockers
- Fire ring
- Generous campsite space
- Picnic tables
- Convenient parking spaces
- Access to firewood and ice at the entrance of the park that you can purchase
I am sure to return to this campground in near future.
Calaveras Big Trees Hikes:
Another reason to camp at Calaveras Big Trees State Park for young families is the hiking options at this park. Especially, if you are hiking with little kids, the North Grove Trail or the Lava Bluffs Trail are fairly flat and shorter in distance. Should just the right distance to get a good workout for young souls.
River Canyon Trail is a decent hike for others and even a perfect destination for trail runs.
Here are popular trails in the park. There are a total of 7 maintained trails in the park.
- Calaveras South Grove Trail – 4.9 mile loop of relatively flat trail.
- Calaveras North Grove Trail – 1.4 mile loop flat trail. Expect heavy traffic here.
- River Canyon Trail – 6.7 mile out and back with ~1600 ft elevation gain. You will be hiking along the beautiful Stanislaus River.
- Lava Bluffs Trail – 2.5 mile round trip is known for Wildflowers.
Other 3 trails are:
- Three senses Trail – couple of hundred yards
- Grove Overlook Trail – A slight detour from North Grove Trail. You can come back to North Grove Trail after the overlook and combine these two trails.
- Bradley Grove Trail – 2.5 miles. This trails is a detour from South Grove Trail.
Besides hiking the designated trails, one can run through the campground, the main road that connects south and North Grove for some serious workout.
In fact, there were lot of bikers riding between the two groves for some elevation training.
At a 4,728ft elevation, this park is a great destination for training bike rides and runs.
Throughout the park there are several water access points. Check the map here for more details.
For really super easy access to water, if you are going with kids, easiest water access is at the Beaver Creek, fire road parking lot. From the parking lot, just walk down to the river. It’s probably a 50 ft of steep climb down to the river from the parking lot that’s a dead end.
Are pets allowed at Calaveras Big Trees Camping ?
Yes, Dogs are allowed at the campsite. However, most of the trails are not dog friendly. So, you might be slightly limited on the hiking activities.
River access is limited to dogs to certain places. We took the Dog to Beaver Creek section for the river access. And ranger was totally ok with it.
Your best bet is to ask the rangers on where the dogs are allowed to be sure.
Calaveras Big Trees Activities:
Depending on the season, Calaveras Big Trees State Park has activities that are absolutely worth checking out.
Summer Activities at Calaveras Big Trees State Park:
- Several ranger led activities such as Astronomy nights to junior ranger programs.
- Camping at one of the two developed campgrounds or 5 primitive campgrounds.
- Fishing at Beaver Creek or Stanislaus River
- Road Biking, Mountain Biking and Running
Spring and Fall-Season Activities at Calaveras Big Trees State Park:
- Guided walks
- Hikes that can become a snowshoeing experience if there is snow on the ground.
- Visit to see the Dogwood trees Fall color change at the park. They are spread out throughout the park to give an interesting depth to the forest as the color changes.
Winter Activities at Calaveras Big Trees State Park:
Winter in the park is an exciting to time to visit.
- Ranger led snow-shoeing. You can either bring your own snowshoes or the rangers will lend you a pair.
- Warming Hut – Cozy fire and warm drinks with park staff for free. Well, donations are appropriate.
- Cross country skiing and snow-shoeing.
Campgrounds are closed for the winter. However, there are lodges outside of the park at the town of Arnold or Murphy for a overnight stay.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park Highlights:
- Calaveras Big Trees State Park is a winter wonderland when it snows. You can take your skies and snowboards for cross country skiing in the park.
- Bears are cute at a distance. So are other wild life. Enjoy the view but be mindful.
- Wildflower in the park is one of the best in the spring.
Overall, it’s an amazing all season park that one must put on their top of their list while visiting California.