Learn character from trees, values from roots, and change from leaves.Tasneem Hameed
Note: Check updated information on COVID-19 restrictions, weather updates on their website.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park, created to preserve 2 groves of sequoias, is located 3 miles east of Arnold on Highway 4.
The North Grove Trail is a nice and easy 1.7-mile loop that will take approximately 1 hour. Some of the largest trees in the park are located on this trail. It is accessible from the North Grove Trailhead parking lot where accessible parking is available. Strollers are allowed and doable if the trail is dry. It also connects to the Three Senses Trail, which I regret not taking. It’s a short loop, and it’s “intended to help visitors enjoy a sensory experience of the forest’. Sensory markers include Braille interpretation.
The North Grove parking lot contains the Visitor Center and a Warming Hut, as well as restrooms. It is the most visited grove.
We packed our lunch, sunscreen, and water and set off from Folsom around 9am.
And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.John Muir
The drive is about 2 hours from Sacramento or close to 3 hours from San Francisco. The road is windy, so for those of you who have family members who are prone to motion sickness, you may want to pack some Dramamine. Before you leave, you may want to take screenshot of the directions because you’ll likely lose connection about 15 miles out. Fortunately, the park is easy to find, right off of Highway 4.
Upon arrival at the North Grove, you’ll see a Visitor’s Center and clean bathrooms. There is typically a park ranger outside of the Visitor’s Center, directing people, answering any questions, and offering trail maps.
The trail guide/map is very informative, with great descriptions of the trees that you’ll see along the way and the history behind them.
There are picnic tables located near the parking lot. They are easily accessible from the parking lot, but yet far enough from it where you are likely to feel safe if you have kids who need to run around.
After your picnic, take your trail guide and walk along to each of the areas described, conveniently marked by number markers along the path.
I had no idea what to expect as far as crowds go. When we pulled into the parking lot, there were about 10 other cars there, with plenty of parking available. We barely saw anyone our entire walk, except for a group of about 6 people in the beginning, and one woman by herself taking photos. The park was incredibly quiet and peaceful. In the mid-80s, it was a bit warm in the sun, but it was interspersed with shade from the trees, so it was pretty doable.
We walked the short distance to the beginning of the trail and set on our way. It was amazing how quiet it was.
walking inside the Father of the Forest tree
The whole walk took about an hour, and that was with not a whole lot of stopping, but walking at a pretty leisurely pace. It was an easy, enjoyable walk, and I’d definitely bring the kids back for this one again. Next time I’d take the little Three Senses detour, as well as visit South Grove.
If you’re looking for more of a hike, South Grove may be for you. The South Grove area is more remote and has more strenuous hiking trails than North Grove (3.5-5 mile hikes). There are fewer tourists, so it’s a lot quieter. Check out their website for more information on the trails/hikes. There is access to the Stanislaus River and Beaver Creek in this area.