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Lava Bluffs Trail

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Calaveras Big Trees State Park Links:

June 9th, 2002

2.2 miles
545 vertical feet
Total Time: 1:35

Rating: 6/10

Directions:   View Driving Map

We parked in the completely empty parking lot at 10 in the morning. It was a bright sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. The park green sheet listing the hiking trails says that the Lava Bluffs Trail is 2.2 miles. However, the display at the trailhead says 3 miles. I'm not sure which is correct, but I think 2.2 or 2.5 is more likely.

The trail, while short, does have a bit of climbing. And the sections that do climb are actually quite steep. The trail starts climbing immediately and then descends down to the start of a loop trail. We took the right fork to start the loop.

Hillside next to the trail

The vegetation here is completely different from the South Grove. Sequoias are nowhere to be found; neither are Mountain dogwoods. Unfortunately, that being said, I don't have the botanical knowledge to tell you what trees do exist here. I will say that the trail is on a south-facing slope and was getting quite warm; perhaps this explains the difference in vegetation.

Trail leading into the forest

We passed lots of different types of wildflowers. I noticed lupine near the start of the trail and Indian paintbrush up on the hills above the trail. Most prevalent where some bright yellow flowers which looked like tiny sunflowers. I also saw some blueish/purple flowers I'd never seen before, and the occasional yellow iris. I stopped to take some pictures of flowers at a viewpoint. Far in the distance I could see a lake; at the edge of the lake there appeared to be water rushing in, perhaps a waterfall. I couldn't tell because the trees obscured the view. Other than the lake, all I could see was forest everywhere.


More flowers

We continued along the trail, passing a section with a lot of loose rocks. We soon came to a small spur trail next to a trail sign. I walked a few feet into it before deciding it was too overgrown to pursue. Apparently there might be a view from the end of the spur, but it didn't look like it would be much. We continued on the main trail, starting our loop back toward the start. This section of the trail is a trench, with the hillside on the left and a 4-foot lip on the right. The trench is filled with pine cones, and we walked along crunching them with every step.

Eventually we returned to the start of the loop and then hiked out. The parking lot now had one other car, which surprised us. We would have expected no other cars in the lot. As we put away our gear, another car pulled up and two men walked out. With a "what the hell," they started off on the trail, with absolutely nothing with them. I would definitely not want to do this trail without water! Actually, I can't really recommend doing this trail at all, except perhaps in early spring when there are more wildflowers. Other than that, there's not much to see.

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