Winter fun at Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Looking for a quick weekend get away from the Bay Area? Look no further than Calaveras Big Trees State Park area.

At only 2.5 hours from Oakland.. its as easy to get to as Santa Cruz and definelty worth the drive!

The higher you climb the more snow you see! For a coastal gal like me snow is really exciting and my inner child gets really excited… even if it is a light coating on the side of the road.

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We lucked out last minute and were able to reserve a cabin for week of… always great to check and see if there have been any late cancelations!calaverasbigtreesstateparkunadjustednonraw_thumb_8b62

Enjoying a milk stout after unloading the car… very tiring. hacalaverasbigtreesstateparkunadjustednonraw_thumb_8b65calaverasbigtreesstateparkunadjustednonraw_thumb_8b6b

Quick hike before sundown! Really beautiful to see the sun go down through the trees.calaverasbigtreesstateparkunadjustednonraw_thumb_8b6d

Wood stove fire place… perfect place for S’MORES! Don’t think I have ever stuffed my face with more s’mores. calaverasbigtreesstateparkunadjustednonraw_thumb_8b79Here are a few trail options that you will probably want to check out before heading out! As always with State Parks and National Parks I love asking the rangers for their personal tips and tricks!

Trails Overview

South Grove Trail

Best Trails

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After a day of snow-hiking a brewski is much needed! AND everyone thinks so… Snowshoe was packed! Staff is friendly but be prepared to wait with a big group or for dinner! You can get beer to go in a growler or bottles. Not the best beer I have ever had.. but I am a beer snob. I will say that it def helped hit the spot after a day of ‘hard work’.calaverasbigtreesstateparkunadjustednonraw_thumb_8bb1

Our little cabin had a full kitchen so we were able to make dinner and breakfast which was awesome!

On our last morning, my Friends made probably the most amazing French Toast I have ever had with their homemade sourdough bread. How can food bring such joy and then sadness when you realize you can’t have it everyday!

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I also was able to do a lot of weaving over the weekend which was really nice! It was great to sit by the fire and all have our individual tasks going. calaverasbigtreesstateparkunadjustednonraw_thumb_8bb2calaverasbigtreesstateparkunadjustednonraw_thumb_8bb4

One more hike before the short but windy road home! calaverasbigtreesstateparkunadjustednonraw_thumb_8bbacalaverasbigtreesstateparkunadjustednonraw_thumb_8bb9calaverasbigtreesstateparkunadjustednonraw_thumb_8bb8calaverasbigtreesstateparkunadjustednonraw_thumb_8bb7

Such a cool weekend! Really glad we were able to take a last minute trip into the Mountains for some snow play and R&R. Winter is steadily becoming one of my FAV seasons.calaverasbigtreesstateparkunadjustednonraw_thumb_8bbb

A little more information about visiting Calaveras in the snow.

The Warming Hut – Open weekends and holidays from Thanksgiving through late March  12 pm—4 pm. Get your hot chocolate or warm up by the fire. Pretty crowded but cute idea. 

Snowshoe Tours – Offered on Saturdays and some holidays at 1 pm.  Bring your own showshoes or borrow a pair of ours. Meet at Warming Hut.

On Your Own – Snow play is allowed in the North Grove area.  Build a snow person, ride a sled, or simply marvel at the beauty.  Bring your own cross-country skis or snowshoes and travel the North Grove trail or the 3.5 mile loop out the park road and back through the campground.

On Saturdays at 1:00pm we offer a guided hike through the North Grove area of the park.  Come enjoy the beauty and grandeur of the park while learning about why this place is so special.  The hike is approximately 1.5 hours long and is open to all family members (except dogs).  

In the event we have enough snow in the park the hike will be a snowshoe hike.  Some snowshoes are available for use on a first come, first served basis.  Snowshoes are available for rent in the town of Arnold located three miles west on Highway 4.

The cost of the hike is free with paid admission to the park; meet at the Visitor Center and wear appropriate footwear.  For more information, please call the Visitor Center at (209) 795-3840 or (209) 795-7980.

Libation: Snowshoe Brewing Company in Arnold

Sample Itinerary: Vegas to VOF, Zion, Bryce and Beyond

I created this itinerary for our trip that I have outlined over the last couple of weeks here on TB. We ended up adding the Grand Canyon so things shifted a bit but figured this might be helpful to someone else. Listed a couple blogs that I found helpful towards the end.

Happy trip planning!

Day 1 Arrive in VEGAS

Points of Interest :

Bellagio Fountains water show

Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Sky Lobby at the Mandarin Oriental

Outdoor Activities around Vegas – Hot Spring Anyone? ( 5.6 miles RT hike)

Day 2 Head to Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

From Vegas to VOF: 52.1 miles / 53 minutes

*Dog Friendly Park (on leash)

Mainly Short to Moderate Hikes at this park

Scenic Drive : White Domes Road

Hike Options : All Trails,  Fire Wave, Elephant Rock, Natural Arches ( 5 miles RT), The Fire Wave ( not to be confused with ‘The Wave’), Prospect Trail 11 miles RT), The Pinnacles ( (4 miles RT) or loop (7 miles RT loop). )

Camping Options : Arch Rock and Atatl Campground ( first come, first serve)

Exit Park and head NB on I15 toward St. George, Utah

Day 3 Zion National Park, Utah

2 to 3 days?

From VOF to Zion : 133 miles / 2 hr 30 min

On the Way: In Springdale, on the southern tip of Zion, stop at Springdale Fruit Market for gourmet snacks and fresh fruit grown in orchards beside the banks of the Virgin River. Also in Springdale, Zion Canyon Theatre shows Zion Canyon Treasure of the Gods on a giant movie screen.

Drive the Zion – Mount Carmel Highway … easy hikes off road

Hikes :

Angel’s Landing ( 5.4 miles RT) Steneous

Observation Point ( 8 miles RT) Mod to Strenuous

Riverside Walk / The Narrows ( 2.2 miles ) Easy ( walk through water ?)

Permits are not needed for most day hikes within Zion Canyon. Permits are only needed for overnight wilderness camping, the top-down Narrows hike, or a day hike in the Subway.

Weeping Rock Trail — This half-hour hike (round trip) takes you beneath Weeping Rock, a huge sandstone rock formation from which water drips like a gentle rain.

Canyon Overlook Trail — This is an excellent hour-long hike. You’ll get stunning canyon views and pass jagged rock formations. If you’re lucky, you’ll see some goats.

Upper and Lower Emerald Pool trails — The lower trail, which passes beneath a waterfall, is quite nice. Compared with the park’s other hikes, the upper trail is nothing special.

Side Drive: Kolob Canyons Scenic Drive in the far northwest part of the park—a 10-mile round-trip—looks over the edge of the Colorado Plateau into a wilderness landscape laced with deep box canyons.

Oddity: Crawford Arch, also known as Bridge Mountain Arch, is a long, thin, freestanding sandstone arch (156 feet long and 3 feet wide) high on Bridge Mountain. The hike up is long and technical, but you can see the arch from the patio of the Human History Museum, a thousand feet below.

Local Amenities :

  • Groceries, firewood, and ice can be purchased at The Canyon Market or at Sol Foods. The Canyon Market also has some camp kitchen supplies if you forget any cooking necessities.
  • Liquor, beer, and wine can be purchased at the Switchback Liquor Store. It’s a state run liquor store, so it’s closed on Sundays, but the plus side is that they sell full strength (>3.2%) beer.
  • Cafe Soleil is an awesome, funky cafe with local art for sale. They have free wifi, friendly staff, and delicious coffee. The food also looked amazing. I highly recommend the dirty soy chai latte (chai with a shot of espresso)

 Day 6 From Zion to Bryce 73 miles 1hr 20 min

Sunset Point – Best place for sunset

Paria View awesome for afternoon.

Sunrise Point — The Point affords great views of Bryce Amphitheater. On clear days, you can see for miles. Formations visible from here include Boat Mesa and Sinking Ship. .9 mile rim trail

Sunset Point — Aside from taking in the sunset, this point is a great spot for birdwatching. Check out Thor’s Hammer when you’re here.

Natural Bridge — This isn’t really a bridge but a humongous arch carved by erosion.

Queens Garden — This scenic 1.8mile trail takes you into Bryce Amphitheater and passes through numerous rock formations, including one shaped like Britain’s Queen Victoria near the terminus of the trail.

Navajo Trail — The trail, a 1.3-mile loop, is short but steep and descends into Bryce Amphitheater. In the winter, the last part of the loop is closed, so be prepared to backtrack your way out or extend your hike to another trail.

Connect parts of two trails, Queens Garden and Navajo, on a 3.1-mile round-trip that descends into the weirdest of Bryce’s hoodoo geology. The hike back up the Navajo Trail passes through Wall Street, a canyon surrounded by skyscraper spires, from which you can see the park’s iconic formation, top-heavy Thor’s Hammer.

https://www.theoutbound.com/utah/hiking/hike-wall-street-in-bryce-canyon

More details about what to expect and bring for winter camping in Bryce: https://www.theoutbound.com/utah/camping/winter-camping-in-bryce-canyon-national-park

**Shovel/tarp not a bad idea**

Winter Notes :

Canyon trails are open to snowshoers or hikers who use traction devices (available at the park store) on their boots. The park provides snowshoes for ranger-led snowshoe hikes and full-moon hikes throughout the winter.

 Day 8 Bryce to Grand Staircase Escalante : 77.6 / 1 hr 28 min

Hiking :

Lower Calf Creek Falls ( 6 miles RT) easy

Neon Canyon /Golden Cathedral ( 9 miles RT) moderate

Devils Garden

Hole In The Rock

Spooky Gulch Visit in midday for the best sunlight

Coyote Gulch

Antelope Canyon : 6.5 miles heavy traffic out and back. Have to get Navajo guide as it is on a reservation. Better for photography not hiking.

Horseshoe Bend : Easy walk from Parking lot , Sunset is nice

Lower Calf Creek Falls Trailhead

If you are looking for something a little more off-the-beaten-path, one of the really great things about Escalante is that it is managed but Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and there are numerous free campsites scattered throughout the monument. All of these are primitive sites with no facilities or restrooms. You must pack out your trash and the BLM asks that you only camp in already disturbed areas.

 Day 9/10 From Grand Staircase Escalante to Antelope Canyon/Horseshoe Bend /Coyote Buttes ( Page, AZ) 26.4 miles / 35 mins

Extra!

Resources : Girl on a Hike, Bearfoot Theory, My Life is a Movie,

Guide Books : Hiking from here to wow

Gear : Walking Poles? Crampons?, warm clothes, gloves, long underwear and hats, Gaiters, – mentioned above and now just saw this:) but shovel if camping in snow and tarp, def bringing poles and snowshoes, and water “proof”ish hiking boots

Entertainment : Cards, jambox

Brews :

Zion Canyon Brew Pub – at the park entrance

From Vegas to the Grand Canyon

We set out for the Grand Canyon a little after 6 am and chose not to stop at Hoover Dam, I hear its cool if you are into that sort of thing… There are a couple big towns between Vegas and GC that have a Safeway/Vons in them. If you must have Trader Joes or Whole Foods you will have to wait until they open in Vegas.

The Road from LV to GC is beautiful, you will go from the desert to snow and travel parts of historic Route 66.grandcanyonthumb_img_1596_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1607_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1606_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1603_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1602_1024

A stop in Williams, Arizona will drop you to two… that is right… two, Arizona based Breweries. Historic Brewing Co and Grand Canyon Brewing.

Unfortunately, GC Brewing wasn’t open since we were rolling through on Monday they opened at 2pm, but we weren’t too broken hearted because Chelsea spotted a little gem on the corner, Historic Brewing Co. Very thankful for keen eyesight and being flexible with our schedule!

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Side note: You can take the train from Williams, Az to the Grand Canyon… how cool would that be?!grandcanyonthumb_img_1617_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1616_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1621_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1618_1024

A little map planning and beer tasting.grandcanyonthumb_img_7210_1024

Oh wow! We have arrived! Since we were getting in around 2:30 we quickly geared up with Crampons, Trekking Poles, Headlamps ( just in case ), and layers. We took off down the Bright Angel Trail and each switch back produced more awe inspiring views.grandcanyonthumb_img_1643_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1652_1024

We encountered a few individuals who had camped at the bottom of the canyon and told us that they had a great time! No snow and warmer temps at the bottom… good to know for next year!grandcanyonthumb_img_1672_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1698_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1702_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1714_1024

After this amazing, lung and bunz burning hike we headed to meet up with our friends, find a camp site and have dinner! We decided to eat inside at their cafeteria ( don’t let the name fool you… it is really nice! ) Chels and I split the tamale dinner and had a few more local brewskis while our friends got soup and salad, they were very pleased with the salad bar selection!

We stayed at Mather campground which was empty and covered in snow. The bathroom was luxurious and heated. Since we didn’t have a shovel we chose to car camp and decided to wake up to catch the sunrise the next morning before heading to Page, Arizona.

Really LOVING my new camo camp mattress ( Thanks JER! )

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Once we were settled into the back of Chelsea’s car we popped open the popcorn tin for a little dessert. Don’t worry, we did brush our teeth afterwards!

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