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Summer in Calaveras: Go for it! Active adventures

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Written by Charlie Pankey

Discover the Active Lifestyle of Calaveras County

Kayaking Lake Alpine

Kayaking on Lake Alpine | SNAC-Arnold

Upcountry exploring, Stanislaus National Forest

Upcountry exploring | Photo: Ben Davidson

Hop in the car for a high country day. As you head up Hwy. 4 stop at the Stanislaus National Forest Ranger Station in Hathaway Pines for trail information and maps.
For one of the best breakfast options – or lunch, if it’s that time of day – on the mountain, stop into Bistro Espresso for breakfast wraps, pastries and great house-made coffees. Pick up some delicious, hand-crafted sandwiches for your day’s adventure from Big Trees Market & Deli.
Head down the street to Sierra Nevada Adventure Company(SNAC) to gear up. Rent a kayak or paddleboard from them, strap it on your car and take off toward Ebbetts Pass for a day of mountain fun.
Hit the trails at Lake Alpine. Try hiking up to Wheeler Ridge via the Bee Gulch trailhead ¾ mile past the Lake Alpine Lodge on the left side of Hwy. 4. This can also be a fun single track mountain bike ride or challenging trail run. Length varies depending on whether you make it a loop or out-and-back.
After getting your sweat on, grab lunch on the patio at Lake Alpine Resort which offers a stunning view of Inspiration Point (also a great hike) on the other side of the lake.

Spicer Reservoir | Jill Seale

Spicer Reservoir | Photo courtesy SNAC

Spend the afternoon paddling away. Backtrack a few miles down Hwy. 4 and look for Spicer Reservoir Road on your left. By the afternoon, winds will be tough at Spicer, so paddle at Utica Reservoir instead. This smaller, more serene reservoir doesn’t allow motorboats and offers a spectacular amount of rock islands to explore along the way.

Snowshoe Brewing Company

Brew-pub and restaurant in Arnold, CA

Have a beer, you earned it. Stop by Snowshoe Brewing for a pint of their Snowshoe Thompson Pale Ale. While you’re at it, order up their beer battered fries and the Monte Wolfe Burger with crispy bacon, BBQ sauce and cheddar cheese.
On the weekends, end your day with an outdoor concert at the Cedar Center in Arnold.
Area Lodging: Sleep under the stars and camp at Lake Alpine, get off-season rates at Bear Valley Lodge, or be centrally located along the Hwy. 4 corridor at Meadowmont Lodge.
Have more time in the area? Here are a few other suggestions…
Bear Valley Summer Day Camp.  One of the coolest summer experiences for kids who love the outdoors is the Bear Valley Summer Day Camp.  Drop in for one day or book an entire week of outdoor fun, education and skill building in the spectacular natural playground of the High Sierra.
Paddle the Mokelumne. For a class II whitewater experience, hop in your kayak and run the 5.5 stretch of the Mokelumne River known as the Electra run.

Vallecito: Camp 9

Stanislaus River at Camp Nine | Photo: srsmedly

Swim in “The Stan.” When the 100-degree days hit, locals head to the scenic swim hole on the Stanislaus River at the end of Camp Nine Road in Vallecito. No easy feat to get to, the remote swim spot requires a tedious 45-minute drive and ½ mile hike. Go early to claim your spot nestled among the rock cliffs and pebbly beaches.
Get Twisted. Take a ride through the world famous Rubber Chicken National Forest as you make your way up to Twisted Oak Winery. They like to make good wine and have a good time too. And who can resist buying a wine called “Potty-Mouth Red?

Twisted Oak Winery Vineyard

The Vineyard | Maria Camillo

Calaveras County is located in California’s historic Gold Country and spectacular High Sierra, between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite. An easy 2-3 hours’ drive from San Francisco and the Bay Area, and just 1-1/2 hours from Sacramento International Airport, Calaveras County seems worlds away with its oak studded savanna foothills and wild, rugged mountains.

Getting to Calaveras County from major California cities, Reno and Tahoe, is a beautiful drive whatever route you take.  Be sure to stop in at the Visitors Center in historic downtown Angels Camp for help planning your visit! Scroll down for directions from Sacramento, Fresno & LA, San Francisco & the Bay Area, and Reno & South Lake Tahoe.

Drive Times & Distances to Calaveras County






South Lake Tahoe (SUMMER) Tamarack 2.0 hours 70 113
South Lake Tahoe (WINTER) Mokelumne Hill 2.0 hours 92 148
Sacramento Mokelumne Hill 1.25 hours 55 89
Yosemite National Park Angels Camp 1.5 hours 56 90
San Jose Valley Springs 2.25 113 182
San Francisco Valley Springs 2.25 hours 115 185
Los Angeles Copperopolis 6.5 hours 349 562

About the author

Charlie Pankey

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