Hiking Amongst Giants

Recently, one of my husband's sisters decided to make a quick extended weekend visit to see us in Tahoe, so we had some fun activities planned.


On my husband's and my very first trip to Lake Tahoe (back in 2012 before we moved there), our adventure route included places like Glass Beach at Fort Bragg and a large redwood grove.



So, we definitely saw some incredibly large trees on that trip. But we both think some of the trees we saw on our hike today through Calaveras State Park might have been even bigger.


We got up early and headed out for the roughly 2.5-hour drive ahead of us. As we approached Calaveras State Park, the smell of smoke filled the air. The north section of the park was closed due to prescribed burn efforts by the US Forest Service. It is an all-too-familiar odor and you can't help but have some flashbacks to the weeks of endless smoky skies and ash raining down around Tahoe the past few summers. We were hoping, however, the smoke wouldn't be wafting and hanging in the air over the southern part of the park where we'd be hiking.



When we arrived at the state park, we stopped at the visitor's center and I noticed ash falling in the air.





After picking up a few souvenirs, we eventually proceeded to the parking area for the South Grove Trail and the first thing I saw was a large passenger van with Tahoe Rim Trail graphics on the side! We were 100 miles from Tahoe and yet we came across the TRT van!



Of course, I had to snap a pic and send it to my friend who used to work for the TRT. She got a kick out of it, as well, and thought the TRT staff might be on a retreat.


The trailhead was not far away, so we walked in that direction. Children's screams of delight could be heard in the near distance. The weather was very pleasant, but the air was a little cool and more damp than we are used to, so we were glad we'd dressed in layers. A couple of moms guiding their toddlers were making their way back to the parking lot as we headed into the forest.



I was surprised to still see glimpses of fall colors throughout the trail. Overall, it was a beautiful walk through the woods. And peaceful.




This forest has numerous species of trees – not just the giant sequoia – including incense cedar, white fir, ponderosa pine, and sugar pine. Many of these are large in their own right, but are still dwarfed by the giant sequoias, which can grow up to 310 feet high, 33 feet across, and can reach 3,500 years of age. By comparison, sugar pines are the next largest in this forest and they can grow up to 250 feet high, 10 feet across, and can reach 500 years of age.



Even the leaves are giant.




A giant felled tree.




I was hanging behind my husband and his sister a ways, because I was stopping to take photos. All of a sudden, I looked up to my right and through the trees I saw our first set of giant sequoias.


"OH MY GOSH! YOU GUYS! LOOK! THEY'RE HUGE!"


I yelled to them. They were too busy chatting to have noticed them!



These trees are humongous.





















This tree is known as "Palace Hotel."




This tree, Agassiz, is at the end of the trail and it's quite incredible.













We took the other leg of the loop back to the trailhead, so we got to see mostly new scenery on the way out.







We even spotted a few mushrooms!



Once we returned to the trailhead, we drove back to the small area of the north grove that was still accessible despite the prescribed burning efforts.


We stopped at Discovery Stump.



And then did a jig upon it.


Then we walked over to see the Sentinel Tree.


Just massive.


While this was more of a beautiful walk in the woods than a hike, it was amazing. The trail was in great condition, the scenery was second to none. I'm always in awe around giant trees.



Big Trees: South Grove Loop

Total Distance

5.67 mi

Total Time

2:36:10

Total Ascent

636 ft

Max Elevation

4,469 ft



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