On the way to Yosemite National Park, stop and explore towns like Murphys, Angels Camp and Mokelumne Hill in stunning Calaveras County. It’s home to Calaveras Big Trees State Park, a spectacular grove of giant sequoias. Here are five things to see and do in this area that’s one of California’s best-kept secrets.
1. Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Why Go: This amazing grove of giant sequoias was the first one to be discovered by settlers in 1852 and is California’s longest continuously operating tourist attraction.
Tip: See the spectacular giant sequoias up-close on the 1.4-mile North Grove Trail Loop. It’s super popular for good reason as it’s an easy trail for kids and adults.
2. Moaning Caverns Adventure Park
Why go: Rediscover your adventurous side and laugh a lot at this adventure park in Vallecito, Calif., which includes cave tours, ziplining and a 32-foot-high climbing wall for all ages.
Tip: Home to the state’s largest single cave chamber, take the Spiral Cave Tour that takes you into the marble depths of the Calaveras formation. View the main chamber by walking down a narrow wooden staircase 65 feet under the ground. Continue 100 more feet to the bottom below.
Why go: This charming historic town was voted one of the top 10 coolest small towns in America by Budget Travel Magazine. There are more than 24 wine tasting rooms within walking distance of Main Street.
Tip: Visit Ironstone Vineyards to see a 44-pound chunk of crystalline gold, the largest piece of gold mined in North America since the 1880s. The museum also contains Miwok artifacts and letters, photos and mining related artifacts from the Gold Rush era. There’s also a deli, tasting room and jewelry store on site. In summer, there’s a concert series at Ironstone Amphitheatre on site, as well.
Then stop by at Murphys Historic Hotel, a beautiful building that opened in 1856 and hosted President Ulysses S. Grant and J.P. Morgan back in the day. Today’s it’s known for its lively bar scene. Or head to Victoria Inn, a charming boutique hotel on Main Street. that offers excellent customer service, the great on-site V Restaurant & Bar and complimentary round-the-clock brownies and cookies.
4. Angels Camp
Why go: Writer Mark Twain shot to fame when he wrote The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras. Inspired by his story, residents started the annual Jumping Frog Jubilee in 1928. It’s held at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds on the third weekend of May and is the oldest continuously operating county fair in California.
Tip: Stop by the Angels Camp Museum to see new exhibits as well as the museum’s large collection of carriages and wagons and to learn about the area’s gold-mining history. The museum sells locally made honey, olive oil and snacks as well as hats, t-shirts and other souvenirs. Up the road is one of the best preserved and oldest school houses in the state, Altaville Schoolhouse. Don’t miss historic downtown’s Stories in Stones, a haven for rockhounds.
5. Mokelumne Hill
Why go: Petroglyphe Gallery features contemporary art of all kinds and is housed in a historic building from 1858. Then walk across the street to get a cup of coffee or small-batch nuts and candy at Moke Hill Nuts and Candies.For food and wine, head to Renegade Winery on Main Street where grapevines climb a huge pergola providing shade as you dine on the outdoor patio.
Tip: Hotel Léger Restaurant & Saloon, established in 1851, gives you a great opportunity to dine in a 130-year-old dining room or have a drink at the bar with locals. You can borrow a ghost hunting kit from the front desk since the hotel is rumored to be haunted by friendly spirits.
For more information:
Calaveras County Visitors Center
1192 South Main Street, Angels Camp, CA 95222