Calaveras Big Trees: Hike Among Giants
Important Note: This Calaveras Big Trees hike is located in the park’s South Grove. The road to the South Grove is closed from mid-November to late-April. If you are attempting to hike this trail in November or April you should check the park’s website for current road conditions before heading out.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park is home to the tallest trees in the world. You get to admire these giants in this jaw-dropping, nature-filled 4.9 mile Calaveras Big Trees hike.
In addition to being the world’s tallest tree, the Giant Sequoia is also one of the oldest living trees on Earth. Also called Sierra Redwoods, the Giant Sequoia is unlike the Coastal Redwoods that thrive on thick fog and grow only in certain coastal regions. The Sierra Redwoods are taller and wider than the Coastal Redwoods and prefer the mild, wet winters and dry, warm summers found on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada.
This 4.9-mile loop takes you to the park’s largest and most impressive tree, the Louis Agassiz tree. The Agassiz tree is 250 feet tall and has a diameter of over 25 feet– this tree is larger than most San Francisco apartments!
While the Giant Sequoias may steal the show, they are just one of the beautiful sights on this trail. The rushing water of Beaver Creek, the fragrant Incense Cedars, and the colorful birds that call these big trees home, are just a few other wonderful things on this hike. If you are lucky enough to hike in the spring, you’ll find the forest awash with color from seasonal wildflowers and the Mountain Dogwoods bursting with large white flowers.
Once you enter the park it is an 8-mile drive to reach the South Grove. After parking in the South Grove lot, the trailhead is well marked and easy to find. Look for the bulletin board and trash cans (across the parking lot from the bathrooms). At the trailhead, you can also pick-up a wonderful interpretive guide that tells you all about the trail and the big trees that you will see along the way. The guide is also available for download on the park’s website.
Signage on the trail is excellent. Follow signs for the South Grove Trail. The trail passes a picnic area before crossing Beaver Creek and starting a climb into the trees. (Shortly after crossing the bridge, you’ll see a sign for the Bradley Grove Trail. If you would like a longer hike, take the Bradley Grove Trail loop for an additional 2.5 miles of hiking before continuing with the South Grove Trail.) Rest assured that the short climb early in the hike is the only bit of elevation on the trail- the rest of the hike is flat and easy.
You’ll follow the South Grove Trail for about a mile before you start seeing any Giant Sequoias. Continue along the trail until you come to a junction, you can choose to continue on the South Grove Trail loop (which I highly recommend) or you can head straight for the Agassiz Tree and shorten this hike to a 3-mile out-and-back hike. If you choose to continue with the loop, follow the South Grove Trail as it loops back to the junction and then follow signs for the Agassiz Tree. After visiting the Agassiz Tree turn around and follow the South Grove Trail back to the parking lot.
- Parking: Parking lot at the trailhead
- Fee: $10 park entrance fee
- Restroom: Pit toilets at the trailhead
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