Calaveras Big Trees Day Tour: Sequoias, Caves, Gold Country

12 Hours  |  Round-Trip Transportation

Entrance Fees  |  Hidden Gold Country (Apr-Nov)

Giant Trees. Small Groups. Hidden Gold Country.


Across the Bay Area and its surroundings, we are spoiled with natural beauty. While Yosemite and Muir Woods are some of our crowned jewels, there’s more to explore off the beaten path than you think — and it’s in historic California Gold Country. This day tour to Calaveras Big Trees, Mercer Caverns, and Murphys is the mother lode of amazing, lesser-known natural attractions just outside of the Bay Area, and we can’t wait to show you around.

About this Big Trees Gold Country Day Trip


Our small-group tour showcases the Bay Area’s surrounding (and stunning) geology and gold rush history on this day trip to Calaveras Big Trees State Park and Mercer Caverns.

We’ll visit the 3-acre Angel Camp Museum, a perfect place to start our day learning about the area’s mining history. At the museum, you can experience one of the most comprehensive collections of artifacts from the California gold rush era in the entire state. Bonus: You can even try panning for gold on the property.

Afterward, we’ll head over to Calaveras Big Trees State Park for a leisurely 1.5-mile walk through a grove of giant sequoia trees. Here, you can learn the entertaining history about the Discovery Tree, and how the park became the longest continually running attraction in California.

Next is a 1.5-hour stop in Murphys, an old miner’s town that’s filled with art, boutiques, and some fun surprising facts. You have many options for lunch spots, including the historic Murphys Hotel. This hotel is where Mark Twain, J.P. Morgan, and Ulysses S. Grant, among other famous folks, stayed. This is your free time to roam, eat, and shop on your own.

Our last stop of the day is Mercer Caverns, where you descend into another world, one that sparkles with stalactites, stalagmites, and more. For those who can’t physically make the journey down the stairs and into the caves, don’t worry: We’ve set up wine tasting for you in Murphys to enjoy. We’ll head back to San Francisco in the late afternoon.

Sample Itinerary

7:00 am Pickup from your San Francisco hotel in most downtown and waterfront areas including Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, and Lombard, among others.
8:30 am En route to Gold Country, we’ll make a brief stop for coffee and restroom breaks before heading to our first stop of the day at Angel Camp Museum and Carriage House.
10:00 am Arrive at Angel Camp Museum and Carriage House, where we cover the admission to explore exhibits, a gift shop, and activities such as gold panning. The 3-acre property sits directly on the mother lode vein of the California Gold Rush of 1849 that turned some miners into millionaires. We’ll be sure to check out the large Carriage House with some of the most well-preserved wagons and carriages in the entire United States.
11:00 am

Next we get outside for a spectacular look at the giant sequoia trees of Calaveras Big Trees State Park. We love Yosemite, but this is definitely for the visitors who want to go beyond the famous sights to see some really big trees and learn the entertaining history of how they were discovered. The wheelchair- and stroller-accessible path makes it easy for the whole family to enjoy some spectacular California nature — you’ll be amazed by the sheer size of these trees. We’ll be sure to tell you the story behind the Discovery Tree.

1:00 pm After working up an appetite, it’s time for lunch (own expense) and some free time to shop and relax in the beloved town of Murphys. It’s a favorite spot for Bay Area locals who want to escape the city for the quaint charm of a gold rush town. We recommend lunch at the Murphys Historic Hotel, where famous guests included Mark Twain, Ulysses S. Grant, and J.P Morgan. You’ll have 1.5 hours to enjoy the town on your own.
2:30 pm Our last stop of the day is Mercer Caverns, situated in the Sierra foothills of Calaveras County. It has been an attraction since its discovery in 1885, and you can have fun looking through the guest book that dates back to its first visitors. The caverns are equipped with steep staircases that drop you about 14 stories underground to see otherworldly stalactites, stalagmites, and more.

Please note: This is a strenuous activity that requires you to be in good health. Those in your group who cannot do this part of the tour will get to do a wine tasting activity that we’ve coordinated on your behalf in Murphys.

3:30 pm Return to San Francisco with drop-offs at your accommodations.

*Tour times are approximate

What you can expect with Best Bay Area Tours

You get to learn more: From the time of morning pickup at your San Francisco hotel to drop off in the late afternoon, your guide shares anecdotes and history about the places you get to visit on this full-day experience.

You’ll be entertained: What’s the point of doing a tour if you can’t have fun? Every aspect of your tour has been carefully thought out so you get the most out of your visit to the Bay Area.

You get a truly local experience: Best Bay Area Tours is owned and operated by San Francisco locals. We create intimate, relaxed experiences that allow you to truly get to know all the beauty and bounty of the region.


How long does it take to get from San Francisco to Calaveras Big Trees State Park?

The drive from San Francisco to Calaveras Big Trees State Park is roughly 2.5 hours one way. We will make stops around Calaveras County to explore and stretch. See itinerary for more details.

How strenuous is the walking on this tour of the Calaveras big trees?

The path is flat and accessible for all ages and abilities. 

Are there bathrooms on the bus?

We do not have bathrooms on our buses but we can make stops on the drive.

Is lunch included?

Lunch is not included on this day trip to Calaveras Big Trees State Park from San Francisco. We will stop in Murphys, Calif., a town situated about 15 miles east of Calaveras Big Tree State Park. Here you’ll have time to enjoy lunch and some shopping before our last activity of the day.

How difficult is it to explore Mercer Caverns?

While the scenery in the caves is stunning, it does require a decent level of fitness to climb up and down the stairs. The length of the stairs is equivalent to going up and down 14 stories of a building.

Is this tour wheelchair accessible?

For people who would like to use a collapsible wheelchair, we are more than happy to accommodate that. Just let us know at the time of booking.

Please note: The Mercer Caverns is not wheelchair accessible. For those who cannot visit the Mercer Caverns, we have arranged a wine tasting in Murphys on your behalf. This is included in the price of the tour.

Tour Pricing

Adults Children (under 12)
Tour Price $179 $119

*Price includes all park entrance fees (unlike other tour companies).

Always Small Groups

We don’t do big bus tours. We create intimate, relaxed experiences that allow you to truly get to know
the Bay Area and its surrounding region.

Check out our other tours.


Kristen S

This tour was fantastic! It was the perfect balance of guidance and free time. Had we tried to visit the park on our own, we would not have got to everything we were able to hit on this tour. Brian was a fantastic guide…

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and shared a lot of interesting stories and facts that made us appreciate the park more. We are looking forward to coming back for another tour!

Mike U

Brian was an excellent guide. Extremely knowledgeable about the sites and history. He kept the drive fun and interesting, and he set up telescopes for us to spot climbers on El Capitan. It is clear that he loves his job and…

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has a passion for nature and the parks. This just makes the experience all the more enjoyable, and Brian works hard to ensure everyone has the best experience possible.

The entire process of working with the tour company was fantastic. They kept us updated on meeting times and locations, and they were very understanding and accommodating when 2 Uber drivers and 1 lift driver cancelled on us. Brian redirected us to one of the later pick up points to ensure we didn’t miss the tour and miss out on this fantastic experience.

Carol P

Excellent tour from start to finish. Our guide was informative and enthusiastic! He even made the morning drive out enjoyable with an excellent playlist! Yosemite was breathtaking. We had multiple stops and never once felt… 

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rushed. If you only have one day to spend in the park, this is the trip for you!