Destination California: Walk among giants at Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Destination California

CALAVERAS COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — From big caves to big trees, it seems the wonders never cease in Calaveras County, and the land of giants just outside the town of Arnold doesn’t disappoint.

They may only seem like really, really tall trees, but Amber Sprock took FOX40 on a walk among the largest living things to ever exist on Earth. The trees are so old that their fossil record dates back to the age of the dinosaurs.

There are so many things for families to do at Calaveras Big Trees State Park that it’s recommended that visitors plan their trip a few days before to cover as much of the park as possible.

Since 1931, people from around the world have come to see the ancient giant sequoias at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. 

But before wandering outside, visitors can take a tour inside to see some small and not-so-small furry critters. 

“We usually have bear sightings weekly, sometimes daily,” Sprock said. “People do get to see them in real life, but they don’t get to see them quite that close — or at least, we don’t want them to.”

Visitors can learn how destruction leads to evolution.

“The giant sequoia is adapted to fire and actually really needs low intensity and frequent fires to really be successful,” Sprock explained.

This 6,498-acre park is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, with plenty of campgrounds, hiking and fishing along the Stanislaus River.

But the main attractions are all around you. 

“There’s about 150 giant sequoias in this north grove and about 1,000 in the south grove,” Sprock said.

To put the tree size in perspective, it may take stacking 20 15-foot long cars, bumper to bumper, vertically just to reach the top of some trees in the park.

“We have a sugar pine cone, which most people would mistake for a giant sequoia cone because it’s so big. However, this little guy is a giant sequoia cone and grows the largest living tree,” Sprock explained.

While these quiet giants reign over the forest, they pale in comparison to the colossus that once stood 169 years ago. It’s now a tree stump that is so big it was once used as a dance floor. 

“We call this the Discovery Stump. Augustus T. Dowd was coming through, chasing a grizzly bear, supposedly as the story goes, and he discovered this tree and went back and told gold miners. And they came up here with plump augers, and it took them 22 days to take down this giant sequoia,” Sprock said.

At the time, it was found that the tree stood 280 feet and was only 1,244 years old. That’s basically a teenager in Sequoia years.

Had it not been torn down, it would’ve grown to surpass all the trees in Calaveras County.

“Sometimes our curiosity, or just for the thrill of it, things get destroyed, but this tree can live for 3,000 years,” Sprock explained. “So it’s important for the future generations and for the health of this forest to protect it.”

Big trees make big smiles and big memories at Calaveras Big Trees State Park, and it’s one of the reasons why this is a great destination in California 

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