Land of Big Legends and Even Bigger Trees
After exploring the Mark Twain–infused history of Calaveras County and its jumping frogs, witness the majesty of some of the world's tallest trees. Go from high to low by descending into an ancient cavern, then explore the "rubber chicken forest" at Gold Country's quirkiest winery, and settle down for dinner where the likes of Horatio Alger and Ulysses S. Grant broke bread.
Photo credit: Maria Camillo
Photo credit: Maria Camillo
27.3 mi40 min
Angels Camp Museum
The town of Angels Camp inspired Mark Twain to pen his first big hit, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” The pretty, peaceful community is built on hills honeycombed with tunnels. In the 1880s and 1890s, five mines were located along Main Street, and the town echoed with noise. Between 1886 and 1910, the mines generated close to $20 million. The sprawling museum complex that tells the story of the place includes 30,000 square feet of exhibits on Gold Rush history as well as a massive collection of antique carriages and wagons.
14.4 mi20 min
On the road to Calaveras Big Trees State Park, the most popular stop is Red Apple, a family-owned roadside farmstand, shop, and bakery that's been attracting travelers since the early 1900s. The crisp, mountain-grown apples from the orchard here go into homemade pies and pastries, freshly pressed cider, and the bakery's famous apple cider donuts.
9.6 mi15 min
Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Fifteen miles east of Murphys up Highway 4 is Calaveras Big Trees State Park, where you can see giant sequoias that are among the biggest and oldest living beings on Earth. For a quick overview of the sights, sounds, and smells of the park, hit the 0.13-mile Three Senses Trail, or, if you want to spend more time among the trees, try the North Grove's 1.5-mile self-guided trail. Swimming and fishing in the Stanislaus River are also big draws here. Admission is $6 per car for day use.
3.1 mi10 min
Started in 2020 by Nate and Bonnie Randall, Hinterhaus is a boutique distillery and tasting room where the goal is crafting spirits that evoke the rugged Sierra landscape. The Randalls incorporate a wide variety of locally grown ingredients to give unique flavors to their vodka, gin, and liqueurs distilled from Northern California wines, as well as small-batch American single malt whiskeys distilled from grains sustainably grown on family farms. Before you head back to the car, grab some tacos for lunch at El Vaquero next door.
17.7 mi25 min
Moaning Caverns Adventure Park
The limestone in this area of the foothills is riddled with underground caves. Moaning Caverns, to the south of Parrotts Ferry Road, got its name from the sound that used to come from the entrance. A wooden staircase descends 65 feet before a steel spiral stair descends a further 100 feet into the cave. You can blame these staircases, which altered the acoustics of the space, for the current absence of moaning at Moaning Caverns. Visits are still worthwhile, though, thanks to the eerily beautiful rock formations and cathedral-sized main chamber.
4.1 mi10 min
Twisted Oak Winery
This quirky winery is serious about wine but whimsical about everything else. That helps explain the obsession with rubber chickens, both in the gift shop and hanging from trees on the property. Winemakers specialize in Tempranillo, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Viognier. The elaborate tasting room is billed as dog- and dragon-friendly.
5.7 mi10 min
Murphys Historic Hotel
This Italianate home, built in 1880 for the bride of a local businessman, is one of the finest B&Bs in Gold Country. The front porch, which overlooks the exquisite gardens, is decorated with wicker furniture and hanging baskets of ivy. Inside, the emphasis is on comfort and elegance. Guest rooms are furnished with quality antiques and equipped with every possible amenity. Beds have Egyptian cotton linens and down comforters, and each room has a fridge stocked with mineral water and a complimentary bottle of local wine. The Sugar Pine suite features a private balcony in the trees.
2 mi10 min
19:0012 hrs 30 min
This B&B is set at the top of a hill in an actual log cabin, an adorable one at that. It was built by the owners, who did a wonderful job both in the construction and in the decorations to create a lodging that feels welcoming and cozy. Among the many niceties here are antique wrought iron bedstands topped with quality mattresses, balconies that open up to stunning views of the surrounding countryside, and spa tubs. The included breakfast features eggs, fruits, and home-baked pastries.