By Heather Crivellone
For those of us who live in Sacramento, we are truly lucky. We have the opportunity to live in a rural area, yet have access to the “big city life”. We are “minutes from nowhere” and yet, “minutes to everywhere”. We can enjoy our local surroundings and yet take day trips to some world-renowned tourist attractions; Napa Valley, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite to name a few. This is one of my favorite reasons for living in “Sac Town”- we are a short 2 hours’ drive from some of the best “day trips” imaginable!
Recently, some friends of ours introduced us to the charming town of Murphys. Oddly enough, I had never even heard of Murphys- but when we decided to make a weekend trip into Calaveras County, I was pleasantly surprised by how wonderful this little town is!
Hidden in the hills of Calaveras County and among the “Big Trees”, Murphys is approximately an hour and a half drive out of Sacramento. The drive itself was beautiful and we had the opportunity to stop in some smaller towns along the way and explore some great antique shops! Once we arrived in Murphys, I was overjoyed by this quaint little mountain town. Along the tree-lined streets were over 20 wine tasting rooms, boutiques, knickknacks shops, restaurants and even dog-friendly shops. The feel of the town is very casual so if you are planning on a more “upscale” wine tasting adventure like you would find in the Napa Valley- this isn’t it. However, if you want to take the kids, dog on a leash and cruise the town in flip-flops and enjoy some local varietals- this is the place!
Now, you may not think of wine tasting as a vacation suitable to take the kids- (I was a little skeptical myself), but Murphys is very family friendly and they even have a great park in the middle of town that the kids played at for hours! This was a great spot for bringing a picnic lunch and visiting after spending some time window-shopping and “cruising” the streets. My kids didn’t want to leave the park- and we had been there for over 2 hours!
And if you are a bit more adventurous and looking for something a little more active, then the Calaveras Big Trees State Park is only a short drive away from the town of Murphys. If you have never seen the Calaveras Big Trees this is definitely a must do on your bucket list of life! They will absolutely amaze you and leave you speechless as you stand amongst these massive relics that are 2,000 years old and can reach a height of 325 feet! These Giant Sequoias- the world’s largest trees are native to this area of our Sierra Nevada mountains, and we are lucky to be able to visit and hike through some of these natural wonders!
“Calaveras became a State Park in 1931 to preserve the North Grove of giant sequoias. This grove includes the “Discovery Tree”, also known as the “Big Stump”, the first Sierra redwood noted by Augustus T. Dowd in 1852. This area has been a major tourist attraction ever since, and is considered the longest continuously operated tourist facility in California.”
The park has several trails for hiking, areas for camping, creeks to splash around and fish in, and many opportunities for photography, bird watching and just relaxing! They have a wonderful tourist center that is interactive and great for the kids, teaching them about the trees and animals that live in forest.
While we were visiting, it was still cold outside- and the kids were excited to warm up after our long hike in the “Warming Hut” with hot cocoa and a warm fire to thaw out our fingers and noses!
This is a fantastic National Park to visit and learn about some of the world’s great wonders. Easily accessible and the trails are easy enough for all athletic levels (we did see a few strollers along the path as well as walkers and runners).
I would highly recommend planning a trip to Calaveras Big Trees- they are open daily from sunrise to sunset. Located on Highway 4, approximately 3 miles east of the town of Arnold and 20 minutes out of Murphy’s. From Sacramento, it’s only about an hour and a half drive- which you could make this trip into a day trip or an overnight weekend trip staying in one of the local towns or camping in the park. Either way, it’s a must do for one of your upcoming spring weekends!