Calaveras Big Trees State Park
This lush preserve of some 6,000 pine-forested acres in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada harbors two remarkable groves of giant sequoia trees. A visitor center has exhibits on natural and human history and a theater with slide shows. The startling size of these gargantuan botanical wonders attracted worldwide attention to the North Grove in the early 1850s, when tourists arrived in droves and several trees were destroyed for display elsewhere. Today, a well-maintained, self-guided trail (1mi) winds gently through the grove where some 150 giant sequoias coexist with pine trees, dogwoods and other forest vegetation. The more remote South Grove (1mi from end of paved road at Beaver Creek; closed Nov-Mar) remains in its natural state; a 3.5mi loop trail offers a rare opportunity to experience the untouched primeval forest.