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The Trees, Lakes, and Caverns of Calaveras County

The Trees, Lakes, and Caverns of Calaveras County

Upon arriving in Calaveras County, you'll find yourself amongst towering sequoia groves, serene rivers, green spaces, and mountain towns.


4 min read

June 16, 2022

Just west of Lake Tahoe and on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains sits the charming county of Calaveras. You might’ve heard of the county through Mark Twain’s short story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, but you’ll never truly know the extent of its beauty until you see it for yourself.

The Gold Country region of Calaveras County gained popularity during the Gold Rush when over nine million ounces of gold were mined from its lands. Today, the county’s popularity lies in its breathtaking nature, which attracts thousands of visitors every year. Sit down, relax, and let the trees, lakes, and caverns of Calaveras County take your breath away.

Standing next to the giant Sierra redwoods of Big Trees State Park can make you feel so small.

The Fauna and Flora of Calaveras County

Upon arriving at Calaveras County’s Big Trees State Park, you’ll find yourself standing amongst the towering groves of giant sequoias, listening to the subtle swish of the Stanislaus River and the hushed voices of dozens of campers whose tents are settled between ancient Sierra redwoods. One of the county’s main attractions, Big Trees State Park welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, eager to see and learn about the largest trees in the world. Though it’s incredibly worthwhile to spend a day or two following the trails here, this destination is far from the only reason to visit the quaint mountain towns and luscious green space spread across the northeastern region of California.

Hiking the short and easy Natural Bridges Trail can turn into an exciting family affair.

Visiting Big Tree State Park might be the highlight of your Calaveras, California stay, but hiking the Natural Bridges Trail is the most exciting thing you’ll do in the region. The gorgeous, two-mile hike leads you to striking limestone caverns, which are carved by Coyote Creek. Springs, in particular, are extra beautiful on this trail, with the wildflowers coming to life and decorating your path. Your hike should be abrupt and easy, as long as you keep an eye on poison oaks. Unfortunately and understandably, your four-legged friends cannot join you on this hike, due to the geological sensitivity of the trail. It’s easy to assume that this wildflower hike will be one for the books.

Grab a boat and enjoy the beauty of Calaveras County as seen from New Hogan Lake.

The Calaveras County Lakes and Rivers That Will Make You Swoon

If relaxation is what you seek, take a step back and enjoy the county’s multitude of lakes, which are ideal for lounging and enjoying any season’s unique beauty. From Salt Spring Valley Reservoir in the south to New Hogan Lake in the north, Calaveras County will leave you feeling refreshed. With 80-plus acres of camping grounds, the rolling grasslands surrounding Salt Spring Valley Reservoir are the perfect place to spend a day or two with family and friends, especially if you’re looking for a cool boating lake. Ride a boat on the reservoir’s waters and catch a fish or two before spending the night in a tent or an RV — after all, you’re at one of California’s top lake camping destinations. While Salt Spring Valley Reservoir is perfect for relaxing, New Hogan Lake is the perfect spot for the more adventurous, aka water sports fans. Water skiing, wakeboarding, and sailing are all activities you can enjoy at this gorgeous NorCal lake. You can also hike, mountain bike, and horseback ride at this famous lake in Calaveras County.

Calaveras County is famous for its gorgeous and massive bodies of water, which come in many different forms.

Water bodies in Calaveras County, Ca. aren’t limited to lakes only. If you’re down with exploring the gorgeous lakes spread all over the county, you should explore its rivers too. The North Fork Stanislaus River, a tributary of the Stanislaus River, is a recreational area frequented by locals and admired by tourists. Rafting and paddle boating are two of the more popular activities you should enjoy while visiting Calaveras County. Another can’t-miss river in the region is Calaveras’s own Calaveras River. The 59.1-mile river is a popular fishing recreational area and is home to important rainbow trout and steelhead populations.

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The Many Caves and Caverns of Calaveras County

 Calaveras County entered the limelight when California Cavern became the first cave discovered during the Gold Rush, immortalized in John Muir’s The Mountains of California and designated as a National Historic Landmark. California Cavern remains a standout today as the state’s longest cavern system, with a labyrinth of passageways featuring stalagmites and various white, cream, and caramel-colored cave formations. A guided tour of this awesome Calaveras County Cavern can last anywhere between 45 to 80 minutes, and usually includes a moment when the guide turns off the lights for you to experience total darkness.  If California Cavern inspires you to continue exploring more natural wonders, Calaveras County won’t let you down. This is the county with many of the most show-caves in the Golden State and the county with the coolest caverns.  

Explore the different types of Cave formations in Calaveras County’s many caves and caverns.

Your next destination should be Moaning Cavern, the cavern which lures people in with its echoing moaning sounds. Though it sports a shorter system of caverns, it is home to the biggest cave chamber in the state—so large that the Statue of Liberty could fit inside of it. If you’re an avid explorer of everything beautiful and unique, head straight to Moaning Caverns Adventure Park and join the Spiral Tour. During the tour, you will descend 165 feet below ground level to the base of the cavern. If you’re the more adventurous type, join the Expedition Tour. This special tour allows you to wiggle and crawl your way around the caverns through the cracks and crevasses. Another can’t-miss Calaveras cavern is the Mercer Caverns, the longest, constantly-operating show cave in the Gold Country. This magical cave is filled with a large array of formations, including stalagmites, stalactites, and flowstones. It also displays the rare mineral formation known as flos ferri, which has earned it a few prestigious awards.

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