Big Trees Calaveras State Park is a great place to visit by day, but it’s also a fantastic place to bring the family for a camping trip. Big Trees is a sizable park with two main campgrounds and multiple picnicking areas within it, and the lovely Stanislaus River running through the middle of it all. If you want a campground with lots of trees and a little elbow room between you and your neighbors, this is a good option.
We like the Oak Hollow camping loop, where many sites are set back from the road a bit, often with steps, though this can be an issue if you need to carry much gear from your car to the site. If you want privacy and don’t mind a good schlep, aim for site 95, which is separated by a small bridge and a full flight of steps up to the tent site. Mosquitoes can be an issue in sites close to the “creek,” which gradually dries over the summer in the center of the campground.
All campsites in the park have picnic tables and fire rings, and you can purchase firewood at the entrance on your way into the park. While many campgrounds in California ban campfires or limit them to Duraflame logs in dry summer months, making a “real campfire” with wood is often still allowed here. Don’t forget your marshmallows—or the Jiffy Pop!
Like its southeastern neighbor Yosemite with the River Merced, you will find many nice spots for picnicking along the Stanislaus River, with some sandy beaches exposed and toddler-friendly wading areas later in summer months when the river is low. Unlike Yosemite, you won’t have to deal with the crowds and parking issues, however, you will have to store your food and scented items in a bear locker and use the dishwashing station at the restrooms.
And although it thankfully doesn’t get the congested feeling of Yosemite National Park, Big Trees is a favorite campground of many families and summer weekends get booked well in advance. So if you’d like to stay a Friday or Saturday night, plan ahead and be sure to make a reservation.
For more information about Big Trees:
Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning guide Travels with Baby