Starting out as a day trip, we took a pair of 7 year olds to see the Big Trees at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. This park was one of the first tourist attractions after California became a state, working since 1853.
Going in February is a different kind of treat. During the summer months it is busy and packed with tourists from all over. In the winter, covered in snow, the trees and the foothills take on a quieter mode and you can really stand back and appreciate their beauty.
Things to See
The Discovery Tree
Or the remains of it anyways. The famous stump once belonged to a giant tree measuring 24 feet in diameter. ‘Discovery Tree’ was felled in 1853, taking 22 days of work to complete. It was thought to be 1,244 years old.
Interesting facts about the stump include it becoming: 1) a dancing hall, 2) a bowling alley, and 3) a bar for the locals.
The Tree trunk was divided up and sent out into the world as sort of “freak show” wonder; visiting San Francisco and New York.
Following the North Grove Path
The Three Graces
Pioneer Cabin Tree
This once great tree and wonderful tourist attraction has been laid to rest. With the downpour of storms California received in 2016-2017 season the already ailing tree gave way and fell. I paid my respects to its historical significance and moved on. It’s still really important to take a moment to remember the: history the tree represents, it’s ancientness; as well as its remaining natural beauty.
“Old trees are our parents, and our parents’ parents…,”- Henry David Thoreau in 1855.
Beautiful Sequoia clusters and fallen tress.
There was about 3-4 feet of snow on the ground, but the trails were all very nicely cleared and only slightly slippery in some patches. If visiting in winter, I’d still recommend some water proof shoes (I just had tennis shoes) and a sweater. Unless you are going to go full into the forest, snow gear is not required.
Heading back we went to the museum.
Fun Facts from the Museum
The Park has the most wonderfully kind/knowledgeable docents and staff I have ever met at any CA Park. Take the time to meet the staff and learn some wonderful facts.
- Sequoia seed are about the size of an oatmeal flake.
- A mature giant sequoia will produce about 1,500 to 2,000 new cones every year. Each cone holds around 100 seeds.
- Giant sequoia seeds are so light that there are around 90,000 of them in one pound.
- Different Sequoias have different kinds of bark. Sometimes it’s rigid, other kinds have really soft and “hairy” bark.
- Giant Sequoias have shallow roots that can extend 100 feet out from the tree. You will often see Sequoias in family groups that help each other to survive.
- Giant sequoias only grow naturally at elevations above 4,000 and up to 7,000 feet.
- The largest Giant Sequoia in Calaveras Big Trees State Park is the Louis Agassiz tree, which is 250 feet tall and over 25 feet in diameter.
- Older giant sequoias have bark up to two feet thick at their bases, which helps protect them from ground fires.
And the gift shop
Tips and Wishes
Tip: If you are travelling with kids, bring your lunch and/or snacks. Arnold and the surrounding towns are really great, but a lot of the places to eat are bars and pubs which I wasn’t comfortable taking our kids into. So we starve drove the 2 hrs down the mountain.
Tip: When you enter the park, ask for a map and newsletter. There is sometimes a 10% off an item coupon from the gift shop inside.
Wish: One thing I really wish we had time to do was snowshoeing. In winter, snowshoeing through the North Grove is a beautiful way to see the park. Calaveras Big Trees Association hosts snowshoe tours on Saturdays at 1 PM, Jan -March. Being on a schedule we couldn’t go but I Highly recommend YOU do it next time you visit in the winter.
Call 209-795-1196 for more information.
Remember: Take it all in.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park is four miles northeast of Arnold on Highway 4.
(1) The Three Graces, 272 feet high, circumference 32 feet, Mammoth Grove, Calaveras County. [published 1866].Lawrence & Houseworth Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.
(2) The Stump and Trunk of the MAMMOTH TREE of Calaveras. Showing a Cotillion Party of Thirty-two Persons Dancing on the Stump at one time. Retrieved as of February 27, 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.sierracollege.edu/ejournals/jsnhb/v2n2/trails-BigTree.html
(3) Pioneers cabin. [published circa. 1886].Lawrence & Houseworth Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.