Hiking through the natural beauty of Calaveras County’s recreational areas can be much more rewarding when it’s capped off with a picnic, and Calaveras County offers lots of fantastic picnic areas – some that don’t even require a hike to reach!
One of my favorites has always been Lake White Pines Park, just outside of Arnold at the end of Blagen Road, at about 4000 feet elevation. The locals will be quick to point out that the community of White Pines is NOT Arnold, but everyone is welcome to visit and enjoy the scenery and amenities. The lake has two paved parking areas, one near the playground and bar-b-que area, and one beside the lake’s beach, across from the Moose Lodge. There are no motorized water vehicles allowed on the lake, so kids with rafts, folks with kayaks and canoes, fishermen, and those just wanting a brisk swim can relax in the knowledge that they need not be concerned about loud motors and big wakes disturbing their peace. There are lots of picnic tables all over the park, so finding a good spot is an easy task. And after you’ve enjoyed your repast, you’ll be pleased to note that there is a well defined trail that circumnavigates the lake upon which you can walk off your meal. The Sierra Nevada Logging Museum is located off to the side of the lake, near the dam end, as well. Make sure to allot yourself some time to peruse the historical displays and learn a little about the area at the same time.
Another great picnic spot is located at the bottom end of the mile-long Natural Bridges hike down from the parking area on Parrotts Ferry Road, about 4 miles south of Highway 4.
Along the route of the hike, you’ll pass over one of the original roads built in the area, where you’ll see retaining walls of piled flat rock which were built over 100 years ago by miners peeking out from under the overgrown local flora. At the end of the trail is another trailhead which leads to the top end of the naturally formed rock bridge, from which you can actually swim through the limestone cave to the bottom end. At that end, enormous granite slabs form a natural flat area perfect for picnicking, although there are also numerous picnic tables along the trail as well. Just remember not to eat too much, as the route back to the parking area is all uphill!
The last great picnic area I’d like to highlight today is a bit more remote than the others, and can include a hike along the Stanislaus River or not, depending on your mood. The Wakaluu Hep Yoo (Wild River) Campground at the north side of Sourgrass Bridge on Board’s Crossing Road, several miles south of Highway 4, is just across the bridge from a fantastic picnicking, 4 wheeling, fishing and hiking area known as the Sourgrass Day Use Area. From the parking lot there, you can have a lovely picnic at one of many tables set up for that purpose just along the south shore of the river, or you can hike up the trail that runs parallel to the river and find a more secluded area to enjoy your meal. A couple of miles downstream is the Board’s Crossing campgrounds with 5 campsites, which aren’t maintained by the state but do have portable toilets for visitor’s use. Remember to pack your trash at the end of your visit so that folks who come after you can also enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
These are three of my favorites out of literally 100s of great places throughout the county with wonderful picnic spots, and I will attempt in future posts to highlight more of them for you to explore and enjoy!