DISTANCE: Hiking 2 miles Round Trip. That’s a 1-mile hike down into a canyon where you find the cave entrance. The cave has 3-ish distinct chambers with amazing limestone features on the walls.
HOW TO GET THERE: Click the link for Google Maps location. Or alternatively you can search “Calaveras Natural Bridges” and use your preferred mapping app to navigate there.
WHAT YOU WILL SEE: This trip starts with a beautiful view of the Sierra Nevada Foothills complete with Oak trees. The mile hike down into the Coyote Creek Canyon offers beautiful views of oak trees. You come around a bend in the trail and get your first view of the cave below in the canyon. Down a few stairs you get the first glimpse of the mouth of the cave. You can swim through
WHAT TO BRING: We found it very helpful to bring inner tubes. We brought a battery powered air mattress blowers, towels, some snacks, water, headlamps (though not required), a Dry bag/box was helpful for safe keeping of valuables.
THINGS TO KNOW:
- This trail is a little uneven and pretty steady back up. It takes big steps and stairs (rated moderately strenuous).
- It’s an $8 Day Use Fee per car.
- Popular Spot with Limited Parking: try to arrive early (I showed up at 830AM and not many people were there).
- Poison Oak: This 3-leafed plant is right off the trail in many areas and could cause a painful rash a day or so later if you come in contact with it. Remember, Leaves of 3, let it be.
- The squirrels are pretty fierce. Don’t leave your bag unattended or they will eat a hole in it to get at your food (it happened to us). Better to travel light or stick your stuff in a dry bag.
- It can be hot (+100F) in the summer, be sure to prep with some water for the journey.
- As with all caves, it’s best to avoid this attraction until a day or two after the storm. The water could rise and get dangerous.
Other things to do in the area:
I’m usually more of a Do It Yourselfer, but this trip is well worth the money. I’d recommend the Middle Earth Expedition if you’re okay getting in extremely tight spaces (not for claustrophobics). It takes you on a long trip through multiple chambers, mud pit, a swimming hole, and through some incredible geologic features such as stalactites (big spikes on the ceiling) and stalagmites (on the floor). Typically open summer to fall. They have a less strenuous option as well.
This area and the surrounding counties have a large number of wineries, breweries, and small towns offering plenty of shopping and entertaining. I highly recommend the town of Murphy’s as my go-to.
Located just up the road from the Natural Bridges, this location has a very deep cavern you take a long staircase to the bottom and has zip lines.
Jumping Frog Jubilee
The Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee is reminiscent of the Mark Twain short story that bares similar namesake. You will see some of longest jumping frogs in the world compete for the championship title. Laugh and cheer to see if they have what it takes. A great activity for your kids and the kid-at-heart types. It’s always held the 3rd weekend of May.