If you live in Northern California and are looking for a nice road trip up to the mountains, may we suggest traveling to Arnold, California, in Calaveras County? Heading up State Route 4, Arnold is right at the 4,000-foot elevation. At this elevation, you will get the tall pine trees, spruce trees, and even the giant sequoia trees as well as some snow in the Winter, but we don't do snow.
We enjoy visiting the many lakes and rivers during the Spring and Summer. Some of the beautiful waterways in and around Arnold include White Pines Lake, located in the town of Arnold. It is a great family place and easy to get there. This picturesque high country lake has a nice day-use area with picnic tables and a beach area where the kids can bring their floaties and play in the water. You can fish, kayak, paddleboard, or just lounge amongst the pine trees. Camping is not allowed.
Exploring the Lakes
Located 28 miles up Highway 4 is our favorite lake in the region, Lake Alpine. Located within the Stanislaus National Forest, in Alpine County, sits this gem of a lake. This lake sits in a granite basin surrounded by red fir and lodgepole pine. The water is simply beautiful. Take some time to kayak, fish, boat, paddleboard, and explore the granite outcroppings. "Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves" - John Muir.
If you choose to be more remote, we suggest the twin Alpine lakes of Utica and Union reservoirs. These beautiful lakes sit as well in Alpine County. These lakes are great for mountain biking as well along with great fishing. These lakes do have day-use facilities and dispersed, first-come, first-serve camping. Utica Reservoir is managed for non-motorized boating, whereas at Union Reservoir, you can bring your boat.
If you're into winter activities, Bear Valley is a 40-minute drive from Arnold. Bear Valley provides snow skiing and cross country skiing. This High Sierra resort provides recreational opportunities year-round. The Bear Valley Lodge is a popular place to stay.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Maybe the most popular destination in the Arnold area is Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Take a stroll through the giant Redwood trees and be amazed by the enormity and beauty of the forest. There are two groves to explore, the North and South groves each providing mixed-conifer forests, ancient volcanic formations, and natural meadows. The park is open year-round, every day of the year, but camping is open between the months of March through November. There is a $10 fee for day use.
If you forget any day use or camping gear, stop by the Sierra Nevada Adventure Company located on Highway 4 in Arnold as they have all your outdoor needs.
One of our favorite places to dine within Arnold after a day exploring the outdoors is the Bistro Espresso, actually, we go there for breakfast. Get the biscuits and gravy, delicious. If there during the Summer, be sure to stop by on Taco Tuesdays, as they have live, outdoor entertainment with bands on the back community lawn area as well as Friday nights with their barbecue flair.
We also enjoy Snowshoe Brewing Company and their wood fire oven-cooked pizzas. Snowshoe Brewing Company was at the forefront of craft, micro beers, and to this day, their beers stand the test of time. Grab a burger, some pasta maybe, or, the aforementioned, pizza, and a pint.
If you're you are hankering for a giant burger, may we suggest, well, Giant Burger! An old-fashioned diner, Foster Freeze type atmosphere, grab a burger, some fries or onion rings, and certainly their delicious shakes before you head up the hill, or when you're coming down.
Our final recommendation for food, and just an all-around good time with a rustic feel, is to stop by the Lube Room Saloon in Dorrington just up the hill from Arnold. The Lube Room Saloon is a bar and grill with great food and a backyard patio area where they will have live music during the Summer. Kick up your feet and throw down a beer or two!
There is a lot to explore in the Arnold area. We highlight just a few of the places that we have enjoyed. I could write forever! We do not camp, nor do we hike. We prefer to simply spend a day at one of these lakes and then have a bite to eat after. We are fortunate that we have friends who live in the area so we have a place to stay. We have, in the past stayed at the Meadowmont Lodge located right on Highway 4. We do recommend this place if you are looking for lodging. There are a number of vacation rentals in town as well. We highly recommend spending a weekend here and exploring all of Arnold's beauty and outdoor exploration opportunites.