15 Best Things to Do in Arnold, CA

Arnold, CA
Tsirikashvili Nodari / shutterstock.com

Arnold is a census-designated place in Calaveras County.

Its mountainous terrains and dense forests make it an outdoor sports haven, with trails for mountain biking, hiking, and fishing.

It’s situated on the snow line, making it a perfect winter destination for snow sports like skiing and giving the region a variety of seasonal flora and fauna.

The hamlet was named after Bob and Berniece Arnold, who opened the Ebbetts Pass Inn in 1927 for people on a hike to Ebbetts Pass and those visiting the Calaveras Big Trees State Park.

Today, it’s a top destination for mountain sports, and its many lodges and vacation houses make it a great choice for vacations.

Here are the best things to do in Arnold, California:

Test Your Endurance at the Arnold Rim Trail

Cougar rock at Arnold Rim Trail
J. Dama / Shutterstock.com

The Arnold Rim Trail is a 17.5-mile non-motorized trail system where you can go hiking, biking, or horseback riding.

The trail’s mid-elevation gives it a unique terrain that will test your endurance.

Located on Dunbar Road, it is connected to the Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway stretch of Highway 4, which makes it accessible to both residents and tourists.

Discover scenic views of Mt. Diablo, Mt. Lyell, and the slopes of the Sierras while biking along the trail.

Hiking trail at Arnold Rim Trail
J. Dama / Shutterstock.com

See canyons, lush forests filled with pine, cedar, oak, and fir, and a waterfall where you can cool down.

Go birdwatching and observe different kinds of wildlife as you navigate your way through the hillsides.

Challenge your fitness level and try the Arnold Rim Trail.

Cowell creek at Arnold Rim Trail
J. Dama / Shutterstock.com

Play Golf at the Sequoia Woods Country Club

The Sequoia Woods Country Club on Cypress Point Drive has a state-of-the-art 18-hole golf course that follows the natural terrain of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

With its 4,000-foot elevation, the club offers spectacular views of surrounding areas and a unique golfing experience with Mt. Baldy as your backdrop.

The par 70 course was designed by Bob Baldock, and with its location above the fog line, you’re guaranteed sunshine for most golfing months.

The club is also known for its restaurant with elegant patio seating, serving contemporary dishes and an assortment of wines from local wineries.

Try the Roasted Angus Prime Rib and pair it with a glass of Cabernet.

Play golf with majestic views and have a fine dinner at the Sequoia Woods Country Club.

See the Giant Sequoias at Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Sequoia tree trunk at Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Zack Frank / Shutterstock.com

Arnold’s most famous tourist attraction is the 6,500-acre Calaveras Big Trees State Park, home to giant sequoia trees.

The park first opened to tourists in 1852 and is today considered California’s longest continuously operated tourist attractions.

It was the Native Americans who first knew about the giant sequoia trees in the area, but it wasn’t until 1833 that a written account by a European explorer referenced them.

More explorers discovered the giant trees in the following years, and in 1852, Augustus T. Dowd was the first to publicize it.

Trees illustration at Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Sundry Photography / Shutterstock.com

To showcase the tree species in exhibitions, one tree named the “Mother of the Forest” was skinned alive so its barks could be assembled and displayed.

This sparked a public outcry for the protection of the sequoias, and in 1931, the area was declared a state park and was formally established as Calaveras Big Trees State Park.

Today, the park along CA-4 offers camping, lodging, and guided tours where you’ll get a chance to see the diverse flora and fauna of the area.

Get Authentic Italian Cuisine at Sarafina’s Italian Kitchen

Sarafina’s Italian Kitchen is a family-owned and operated restaurant on Highway 4.

Opened in 2004, the restaurant serves homemade Italian dishes paired with a wide selection of wines and craft beers.

Some must-tries are the Ravioli Al Burro E Salvia, Risotto Ai Frutti Di Mare, Fettuccine Alfredo, and Pollo Al Parmigiano.

The real crowd favorite is the Calamari Fritti—fried calamari served with lemon-caper aioli.

Pair your main with a glass of Italian wine and wrap up the evening with the classic Tiramisu or the staff’s favorite Italian Lemon-Cream Cake.

Satisfy your cravings for Italian food at Sarafina’s Italian Kitchen.

Learn about Sierra Nevada’s Logging Industry at Sierra Nevada Logging Museum

Exterior of Sierra Nevada Logging Museum
Junkyardsparkle, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

With its dense forests, it’s a no-brainer that the region’s leading industry is logging, and Sierra Nevada Logging Museum will tell you all about that.

Located on California State Route 4, the museum stands on a seven-acre site originally occupied by the Blagen Lumber Company from 1938 to 1962.

It features the region’s rich logging and lumbering industry through dioramas depicting its evolution and displays of antique equipment such as sawmills, handsaws, and axes.

A reproduction of a logging camp family cabin can also be found inside the museum.

On the museum’s grounds are a Willamette Steam donkey, a restored logging locomotive from the 1920s, a horse-drawn grader, and other equipment used back in the early days of logging.

There are barbeque areas, picnic tables, and an amphitheater where museum events are held.

Visit Sierra Nevada Logging Museum to learn about the history of this centuries-old industry.

Go Fishing at White Pines Lake

Located on Blagen Road in the Stanislaus National Forest, White Pines Lake was originally a site of a lumber mill.

When the mill closed, a dam and a lake were built in the area in hopes of selling lands around it, but the plan didn’t materialize, and the property was sold to the Calaveras Water District.

Today, the lake is a drinking water supply, but plenty of recreational activities still await.

With its secluded location and a “no motorized boat policy,” it’s a great place to enjoy a relaxing day fishing for trout and bass.

You can also go canoeing or kayaking or have a picnic by the lakefront shaded by pines and cedars.

Enjoy a restful day at White Pines Lake.

Cool Off at San Antonio Creek Falls

Daytime view of San Antonio Creek Falls
trekandshoot / Shutterstock.com

San Antonio Creek Falls is a 75-foot-high waterfall that drains Mt. San Antonio (aka Mt. Baldy) in the south.

The creek flows from an alpine bowl on Mt. San Antonio’s slopes and cascades through a canyon lined with big cone Douglas firs.

Bathe in the waterfall’s cold waters in the summer, or try cross-country skiing during the winter.

Cascades of San Antonio Creek Falls
Jim_Brown_Photography / Shutterstock.com

Take the Baldy Bowl Trail, where you can pass the San Antonio Ski Hut built in 1937 for hikers on the way to Mt. Baldy’s summit.

The San Antonio Creek Falls is the perfect cap off to a tiring day of exploring the trails of Mt. Baldy.

Have Coffee at Bistro Espresso

Located on Oak Circle Drive, Bistro Espresso is a quaint restaurant specializing in coffee, breakfast food, and barbeques.

The cafe prides itself in serving fair trade, organic beans in crafting espresso-based drinks.

Get a latte or a cappuccino and pair it with the bestselling Breakfast Burrito.

For non-coffee drinkers, the Chai Latte is a great option, but they also serve mimosas and wine to go with your brunch plates.

The Artichoke Chicken Pesto Melt and Pulled Pork Burger will fill you up before a full day of outdoor activities.

A dedicated barbeque menu means you’re in for a feast, with fall-off-the-bone ribs and juicy chicken served with corn muffins and special barbeque sauce.

Drop by Bistro Espresso and fill up your tank before exploring the mountains of Sierra Nevada.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Visit Ironstone Vineyards for World-Class Wines

Entrance to the Ironstone Vineyards
EWY Media / Shutterstock.com

Ironstone Vineyards is a leading producer of wines in the US, located in Murphys, 20 minutes outside Arnold.

The winery was founded by John and Gail Kautz, who were the first to plant chardonnay in the Lodi area.

Today, the vineyard grows several wine varietals, including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc.

Amphitheater at Ironstone Vineyards
EWY Media / Shutterstock.com

The seven-story facility was built in the shape of a gold stamp as a nod to the Ironstone’s Crown Jewel—the world’s largest piece of crystalline gold—that’s on display in the Jewelry Shoppe.

The vineyard hosts wine tastings and events all year round.

Sample their Reserve Meritage, Kramer Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, or Reserve Merlot.

Drive off to Ironstone Vineyards for world-class wines with a side of history.

Welcome sign of Ironstone Vineyards
Jeffrey Beall, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Try the Red Wine at Brice Station Vineyards

Brice Station Vineyards is a family-owned winery on the Sierra Nevada Foothills, just a 10-minute drive from Arnold.

The seven-acre estate opened in 1993 and has produced top-quality red wine in the region.

Wine tastings are done from Friday to Saturday, but you can drive by any day to get your stash of award-winning vino.

In the summer, live concerts are held on The Hilltop featuring jazz, folk, traditional, and other music genres.

Visit Brice Station Vineyards and take home a bottle or two of their famous red wine.

Go Cliff Jumping at Candy Rock

The Candy Rock swimming hole is located in Avery, just 22 minutes from Arnold.

A quarter mile of stairs will lead you from the roundabout to a huge boulder perched atop smaller rocks, with water coming from a 12-foot cliff down to the swimming hole.

There are smaller swimming holes in the area with shallow waters, but the trip’s highlight is jumping off the Candy Rock cliff into the hole that’s around 10 to 15 feet deep.

If you’re not ready for the jump, you can swim in the shallower parts of the hole and enjoy the cold water as you listen to the water as it cascades down the boulders and hits the rocks underneath.

Whether you’re up for an adrenaline-pumping experience or want to go for a swim, Candy Rock is a must-visit.

Discover Aragonites at Mercer Caverns

Aragonites at Mercer Caverns
Frank Schulenburg, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Mercer Caverns is a cave one mile north of Murphys, a little over a 20-minute drive from Arnold.

It’s named after Walter J. Mercer, who filed a claim after discovering the cave in 1885.

Six skeletal remains—four adults, one child, and one infant—were excavated during the early exploration of the cave.

Upon extensive examination of the bones, they were identified as members of the Mi-Wuk tribe of the Native Americans that occupied the area 1,500 to 2,000 years ago.

Because of this, the cave was initially named New Calaveras, which means “New Place of Skulls.”

Today, the cave is famous for its large number of stalagmites, stalactites, and aragonites—a carbonate mineral formed from the precipitation of marine environments.

A model gem mining facility called Mercer Caverns Mining Company, depicting how mining was done in the 1800s, can be found near the cave.

Marvel at the beauty of aragonite frosts at Mercer Caverns.

Choose from The Watering Hole’s Hundreds of Beers

You’ll never find another pub with as much beer selection as The Watering Hole.

Located in Murphys, around 15 minutes from Arnold, this pub boasts over 40 draft beers and hundreds of bottled beers on its menu.

Opened by a formally trained chef with over 25 years of experience, it’s a beer and bar restaurant for all beer lovers.

He curated beers, ciders, and meads from all over the world to satisfy even the pickiest drinker.

The rotating draft beer menu is regularly updated and features seasonal drinks, so it’s better to drop by the pub yourself.

The food menu also rotates, but you’re guaranteed delicious eats with an experienced chef at the helm.

There’s something for everyone at The Watering Hole!

Final Thoughts

Arnold is a town blessed with perfect terrain for outdoor activities.

Adrenaline junkies will have the time of their lives in this region with its challenging slopes, dense forests, and unique flora and fauna.

Whether you’re up for an adventure or want to try an active lifestyle, this is the place to be.

Try the best things to do in Arnold, California, and see if you’re up for the challenge.

Spotted a mistake, have some feedback, or just want to chat with our editorial team? Click here to get in touch.
Find out more about Travel Lens and read our editorial guidelines here.