Calaveras Big Trees State Park is a large, woodland park famous for its Giant Sequoia trees that is the longest running parks and recreation area in California. A major tourist attraction in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, it is frequently used for many different outdoor activities. The park has purchased land several times over the years, increasing the acreage tremendously. It now totals over 26 square miles, or about 6,400 acres. Located at a fairly high altitude, the park is about 4,800 feet (1.5 km) above sea level. Along with the Giant Sequoias, ponderosa pines, white firs, sugar pines, and incense cedar trees can be found living here.
The Giant Sequoia trees in Calaveras Big Trees State Park are enormous, and are only located in two California State Parks. They can also be found in the Yosemite-Sequoia National Park, but exist nowhere else on Earth. The largest tree ever found in the Calaveras park was called the Discovery Tree. Measuring 24 feet (7.3 m) wide at its bottom, only the giant stump remains today in the North Grove of the park. This tree was 1,244 years old when it was felled in 1853.
The South Grove of the park is much more remote than the popular North Grove and offers solitude among the giant trees. This area is deemed a natural preserve, which is the highest level of protection that can be designated by California state parks. Wandering off of the marked trails within all parts of the park is forbidden.
There are several camping areas in Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Campers are charged a nominal day use fee for their campsite and sites must be reserved in advance. Several amenities are provided, including restrooms, showers, picnic tables, and swimming areas. There are also sites and restrooms that are handicapped accessible. Food brought in by campers needs to be stored in lockers or in cars, as it attracts the black bears that live within the park.
In addition to the bears, there are many other animal species that call this park home. Raccoons, deer, and flying squirrels, as well as foxes, porcupines, and squirrels are just a few of the animals that are native to this area. Coyotes and bobcats also reside there, but are heard more often than they are seen. Numerous birds can be observed in the park as well, including pileated woodpeckers and northern flickers.
There are a variety of recreational activities offered by the park. The Calaveras Big Trees State Park has several hiking and biking trails of varying difficulty. The trails can be used for no charge, though there is a parking fee. The Beaver Creek and Stanislaus River both provide fishing, particularly for brook trout. No trash bins are provided for most areas, so all trash must be carried out.