Hiking Calaveras Big Tree State Park off HWY 4 in California
Calaveras Big Tree State Park off HWY 4 in California
Looking a great family day hike area that will represent the best of California and the Sierra Mountains. Calaveras Big Tree State Park should be on the top of your list. A great grove of California Redwoods provides for multiple hike adventures ranging from the short to the long and Adventurous.
There are seven maintained hiking 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 rushing Stanislaus River, and the Lava Bluffs formation. For your safety and the enjoyment of others, dogs and bicycles are only allowed on fire roads and paved roads. Dogs must be on leash at all times in all California State Parks. Check the park map for locations of trails and roads. Trail guides are available for the North Grove, South Grove, Bradley Grove, and Lava Bluffs trails and can be purchased at the Visitor Center or picked up at the trailhead. Please stay on the trails when hiking, to protect the plant and animal life of the park. When the park road closes for winter, the only trail that can be accessed is the North Grove. The following is a brief description of each trail and its prominent features.
North Grove Area
North Grove Trail: This gentle 1.7 mile loop will take you through the historic grove of Giant
Sequoias discovered in 1852. The Big Stump, Mother and Father of the Forest, and the Pioneer Cabin Tree (at one time a “drive–through” tree) are all located along this trail, as well as about 100 very large Giant Sequoias. The trail begins and ends at the far end of the NorthGrove parking lot. This trail is “stroller–friendly” when dry. Allow 1–2 hours.
Three Senses Trail: Located next to the Big Stump, this is a very short loop of just a few
hundred yards, intended to help visitors enjoy a sensory experience of the forest. Trail markers display both printed words and Braille. Allow 20 minutes.
Grove Overlook Trail: This trail begins a short distance beyond the Big Stump, branching off
of the North Grove Trail just past the #2 marker. It climbs the ridge above the grove and parallels the North Grove Trail for about ½ mile to provide views of the upper parts of the Big Trees. It rejoins the North Grove Trail near the Father of the Forest and trail marker #13. From there you can walk either right or left on the North Grove Trail to return to the trailhead. Allow 1–2 hours.
South Grove Area
South Grove Trail: This trail travels through the South Grove Natural Preserve, home to about 1,000 mature Giant Sequoias, 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 trail leading to the Agassiz Tree—the largest in the park—for a total of 5 miles. The South Grove Trailhead parking area is located nine miles past the park entrance station on the main park road. There are restrooms at the trailhead, but no drinking water. Allow 2.5 to 4 hours for this hike, and be sure to bring water and wear sturdy shoes.
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 1950s by summer park caretakers and conservationists Owen and Adrienne Bradley. To access the trail, start hiking on the South Grove Trail. Just after crossing the bridge over Beaver Creek (about 600 yards), look for a trail sign and box with trail guides and follow the trail to the left. The Bradleys were concerned about the danger of wildfire to the Giant Sequoias in the newly acquired South Grove, so they decided to collect seedlings and replant them in this location as a safeguard. This is a nice area for wildflowers in the late spring. Allow 1–2 hours and bring drinking water.
River Canyon Trail: This is NOT a gentle stroll along the river, but a very 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. To access the trail, start hiking on the North Grove Trail. 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. From here,
you will descend 1,000 feet over 3 miles to the Stanislaus River. From there, you will retrace your steps, traveling 3 miles and ascending 1,000 feet back up again to the
Scenic Overlook. Be sure you are physically able to do this hike and carry plenty of drinking water. There is no trail guide for this trail, but it is shown on the park map. If you decide to walk back along the park road, be aware that it is a lot longer and just as hot. Allow 4–6 hours.
Lava Bluffs Trail: This 2.5 mile loop trail will take you through varied environments, across a volcanic formation, and along a historic water ditch. This diverse area hosts the park’s most colorful spring wildflower displays and excellent birdwatching. There are many steep sections along this trail, including some with difficultfooting. Because the trail follows a south–facing slope, it can be enjoyed more in the spring or fall rather than on hot summer afternoons. This is the only trail in the parkwith poison oak, butitis easy to avoid if you are careful. The trail begins at the Lava Bluffs parking area, about 5 miles from the park entrance on the main park road. Allow 2–3 hours, and bring plenty of water.