Stops on the Way

Jumping for Calaveras

5 best-kept secrets on the way to Yosemite.

Mark Twain became famous with his story about the frogs of Calaveras County. On the way to Yosemite National Park, stop and explore towns like Murphys, Angels Camp and Mokelumne Hill in this stunning area. 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

Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Calaveras Big Trees State Park (Photo: by Preethi Chandrasekhar courtesy of Calaveras Visitors Bureau)

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

Walking tour at Moaning Caverns Adventure Park in Calaveras County
Walking tour in Moaning CavernsPhoto by Menka Belgal courtesy Calaveras Visitors Bureau

Why go: Rediscover your adventurous side and laugh a lot at this adventure park in Vallecito, Calif., which includes cave tours 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.

3. Murphys

Downtown Murphys in Calaveras County, Calif.
Downtown Murphys (Photo: by Preethi Chandrasekhar courtesy of Calaveras Visitors Bureau)

Why go: This charming historic town was voted one of the 15 best U.S. destinations for 2021 by Forbes‘ Travel Bucket List  There are more than 24 wine tasting rooms within walking distance of Main Street.

Gold nugget at Ironstone Heritage Museum
Gold nugget at Ironstone Heritage MuseumPhoto by Ben Davidson courtesy of Calaveras Visitors Bureau

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 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

Downtown Angels Camp
Downtown Angels CampPhoto by Kaedence Eaton courtesy of Calaveras Visitors Bureau

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.

Antique carriages at the Angels Camp Museum
Antique carriages at the Angels Camp MuseumPhoto by Jason Smith courtesy Calaveras Visitors Bureau

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

Hotel Leger in Mokelumne Hill in Calaveras County
Hotel LegerPhoto by Rick E Martin courtesy of Calaveras Visitors Bureau

Why go: 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.

Petroglyphe Gallery in Mokelumne Hill
Browse the art at Petroglyphe GalleryPhoto by Cari Morgan courtesy of Calaveras Visitors Bureau

Tip: 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.

For more information:
Calaveras County Visitors Center
1192 South Main Street, Angels Camp, CA 95222
(209) 736-0049