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

Zion – Angel’s Landing in Winter

Our first full day in Zion and we needed some fuel so we stopped at Cafe Soleil .  I ordered the breakfast burrito and dirty soy chai latte ( chai latte with shot of espresso! ). Very filling and great. zionnationalparkimg_2227

Next we headed to Zion Outfitter to inquire about hiking the Narrows the following day. How much for gear rental, weather conditions etc. This place was recommended to us by our bartender the night before as having the best equipment for the Narrows. I don’t have anything to compare it to but I had a great experience with everyone who worked here. I highly suggest purchasing your crampons beforehand ( much cheaper!) but they also had the good crampons not just yak tracks.

Finally headed into the park, lines get longer the later it gets. Loved this ‘RL GOOD’ license plate!  After stopping at the visitor center and getting information about trail closures etc…  we decided to start hiking at Lower Emerald Pool Trail and see how we were feeling. We had NO.. I repeat NO intention of hiking to Angel’s Landing. The park ranger specified how dangerous it was and that if we were to fall there would be no rescue party – yowzaaaa so we decided we would just build our own hike and see where it would take us. zionnationalparkimg_2230

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PC : John Thomas

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From Lower Emerald Pool Trail to The Grotto Trail and Kayenta Trail then finally towards Angel’s Landing Trail itself. Once we were there we decided to just see how far we could go.. we all had crampons and hiking poles which made ALL the difference. People were hiking without but I don’t know why you would.zionnationalparkimg_2243zionnationalparkimg_2249zionnationalparkimg_2254zionnationalparkimg_7679zionnationalparkimg_7681

MADE IT TO THE TOP! WOOHOO – Amazing feeling, can not begin to describe! Don’t think I would do it again but it was invigorating. I almost feel that in the winter it might be better… this is because with the crampon you really dig into the snow instead of just climbing on rock.

I would definelty reccomend Angel’s Landing in winter but you 100% should have crampons and hiking poles! zionnationalparkimg_7682zionnationalparkimg_7686zionnationalparkimg_7689

Someone even took the time to make a snowman!

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PC : Chelsea Thomas
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PC : Chelsea Thomas

Heading back down – on the way up this trail was full of people… now it is deserted.

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SO many switchbacks! I don’t know how I would have survived this without my poles or crampons.. I will keep saying it.. they were lifesavers!! zionnationalparkimg_7698zionnationalparkimg_7703zionnationalparkimg_8293

Felling really amazing after this hike!zionnationalparkimg_8298

Spotted some wildlife!zionnationalparkimg_2255

Now headed to Zion Mountain Ranch… our home for the next two days! Time to relax. zionnationalparkimg_2389

From Kanab, Utah to Bryce Canyon

What a beautiful view to wake up to! Driving out of the campground during sunrise was another one of those wow, beautiful, amazing moments. img_1973

Only 19 degrees, we sure got cold packing up our campsite! img_1976img_1979

From our campground we had another 45 minutes to Kanab, Utah to see about getting a Wave Permit. I highly reccomend getting your permit online. You just need to know 4 months in advance and best case scenario be slightly flexible. If you are planning on trying to get a walk in permit get there at 8:30 – the lottery starts at 9 on the dot. They have 10 permits per day for the next day. Look at all these people hoping for a day of permit! Yowza – DEF reccomend trying to get one online.

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Fortunately/Unfortunately we did not get the lottery but it was an interesting experience and I still want to do the wave but will plan in advance next time!

We decided to hang out in the parking lot and make breakfast while we chose what our next plan would be since we didn’t get the wave permit. A few guys got their car stuck o on a rock so my friend and her boyfriend helped them jack up the car and get them off the rock! Quite the scene!

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Despite or maybe because of the crazy circumstances of the morning this breakfast was especially good!img_1983

We decided we would end up that night in Bryce Canyon National Park and on our way we would try to find another canyon called Peek – a – boo Canyon. It is off highway 89 N and there is a large sign that specifies a turn off for Peek – a – boo Canyon on the right hand side if leaving Kanab, Ut headed toward Bryce. If you park your car in the parking lot you will walk along the road towards the Canyon and end up with a 6 mile round trip hike. If on the other hand you attempt to drive to the canyon you will need a lifted 4w/awd vehicle. I would not reccomend attempting otherwise, at least when there is snow/mud.

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We may have tried to dig out the car tires with our camp cups… Definitely needed a beer after that undertaking! img_1996

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When hiking in a Canyon you should always wear layers as it tends to be colder inside the canyon than hiking around it. img_2001img_2002img_2005img_2006img_2014img_2020img_2019img_2047

Once we hiked around the canyon we drove back out to the highway and made our way towards Bryce to catch the Sunset.

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Once we hit Bryce we went straight to Sunrise point and parked. Walked along the ridge to Sunset Point and back to the car. It was chilly but breathtaking! Those hoodos are one of a kind and covered in snow they are very magical. Not too crowded, perhaps because it was so cold!

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We decided to book a room because the temps were getting into the negatives over night. We stayed at Bryce Resort in their last room! Not much open in Bryce this time of year! Very friendly staff and comfortable, clean rooms. The high season here in Bryce is April – October.

Looking forward to another day exploring in Bryce.