Discover the Discovery Tree and other Giant Sequoias
Calaveras Big Trees became a State Park in 1931 to preserve giant sequoias noted by Augustus T. Dowd in 1852. A tree named the ‘Discovery Tree’ was felled in 1853 leaving a giant stump that measured 24 feet (7.3 m) in diameter at its base and by tree ring count was over 1,000 years old.
A plaque at the site reads: “Several stockholders of the Union Water Company (who employed Augustus as a hunter) developed a plan to display in New York and other cities, a piece of the largest of these trees. Many people, however, were outraged at the cutting of the tree, Dowd among them. The tree was felled, sections of bark and a slab were shipped to New York City, and the entire promotion was a failure.” Later the stump was used as a dance floor and then a pavilion, bowling alley and a bar.
Big Trees is at an elevation of 4,800 feet. Summer is the best time to visit with temperatures as high as 80 but lows in the 50′s. In spring and fall there is a lot of rain, thunderstorms or snow showers likely, although it is drier in the Fall.
In winter there is often snow the roadway beyond the North Grove that leads to the Stanislaus River and South Grove is closed from approximately mid-November to mid-April. The North grove area is open and sometimes suitable for cross-country skiing.
Big trees has two campgrounds, the North and South Grove, with a total of 129 campsites. For reservations go to recreation.gov six months in advance. For more about Big Trees check it out in the destination guide.
Calaveras Big Trees / South Loop Mountain Bike Trail
Take Memorial Parkway to the end past Beaver Creek Picnic Area. A fire road starts on other side of the gate. Stay right on road until your past the bridge. Then go right at first crossing, right at second crossing, and left at the second crossing. Then just stay left for the loop, very, very rustic, no tracks, nothing for 100 miles south of you.
The five mile hiking trip through a spectacular grove of giant sequoias is highly recommended and amazing to take in. Plenty of photo opportunities but remember to stay on the trails.
The trails include the moderately difficult Lava Bluff 2.5 mile trail and the gentle well marked 1.5 mile Bradley Trail.
South Grove Trails depending on your route, may take you on a 3.5 to 5 mile hike. The first 1.5 miles of trail you a gain of 260 feet in elevation. The loop trail is just over a mile and passes the lower part of the grove.
Halfway around the loop, you will find a 1/2 mile side trail leading to the upper grove and the largest tree in the park—the Agassiz Tree.
Garbage cans and restrooms are available at the parking lot only, and be sure to carry water with you.