Friday, April 17, 2015

Arnold, CA - A Hidden Sierra Gem

I stumbled upon Arnold more or less by dumb luck. I am so excited to have found this sleepy
mountain town.  There seems to be endless amounts of potential activities to satiate even the most rugged outdoors enthusiast. Arnold is often over looked by the much bigger attractions of Lake Tahoe to the North and Yosemite to the South. Situated on Highway 4, Arnold is the starting point of the Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway that winds across the Sierras to the east. Arnold stands as the launching point into the some of the most untouched Sierra wilderness.

Where to Stay:
Most likely you do not live within an hour or two of Arnold, so a day trip is probably out of the question. So then, where to stay? If you are coming from the Bay Area (only a 2-3 hour drive) odds are you probably know someone who owns a cabin in or around Arnold. Arnold seems to be the getaway for those in the Bay Area who do not like the Tahoe crowds and traffic. One of the best ways to experience Arnold is to stay in a cabin. If you don’t know a cabin owner then try getting a group together of your best friends and family and split the cost of a vacation rental. You have the online options of airbnb or VRBO, but the selection is limited. I would recommend working with one of the several vacation rental management companies in Arnold you can work with.  Barry Ward Realty has a friendly and accommodating staff with a great selection of vacation rentals. They can also offer insights into where to rent that you cannot get through the online sites.

Where to Eat:
If you have gone the way of the vacation rental, then the best thing you can do to travel on the cheap is cook at the cabin. Arnold has a great full grocery store in Big Trees Market. It is reasonably priced and has a great selection for being at 4,000 feet in the mountains.

If cooking on vacation is not your thing, then your options become a little more limited. However, there are a couple of gems in the few restaurants that are sprinkled around Arnold.

Breakfast:
Bristol’s Ranch House Café - Good solid hearty breakfast, bacon, eggs, pancakes, you get the idea.

Suzie’s Diner – slight variation to Bristol’s, but is a typical breakfast spot.

Lunch/Dinner:
Giant Burger – Great mom and pop burger joint. It has your standard burger and fries as well as great milk shakes.
Arnold Chinese Restaurant – it is the only Chinese food in town, but it is quite good.
Snowshoe Brewing Company – I can only recommend going here for appetizers and beer. Their “Snowflower” (blooming onion) is fantastic.

What to Do:
Where to begin is the real question. If you are wanting to just explore in and around Arnold, then checking out the Arnold Rim Trail (ART) is a must. It is a 17 mile long trail that winds through the majestic forest around Arnold. Highlights include White Pines Lake, San Antonio Falls Overlook, and Top of the World. The trail is great for beginner hikers and can be started a several starting points.

If hiking is not your thing, then White Pines Lake is the place to be. The small lake has beach access,
playground, picnic areas, barbecues, basketball court, and a sand volleyball court. In the summer, the water is cool but pleasant and great for swimming. Don’t forget your inner tube and bask in the glorious mountain sun. This is an amazing place to bring kids and can easily be an all day event.
Tip: For the best beach access, go past the playground area and head to the second parking lot. If you get here by 9-10am you can get a picnic table in the shade right on the beach.

Another nearby attraction and maybe the biggest pull to the area is the Calaveras Big Trees State Park. The short 4 mile drive up Highway 4 to the park brings you to some of the most majestic trees in the world. The Giant Sequoias are breath
taking. Take the time to visit the visitor center and store, then take the short stroll (1.5 mile loop) through the North Grove.
Tip: Go in the morning to experience the peace and tranquility of the North Grove before the tourists arrive. 

More information on Arnold and its surrounding adventures to come later... 

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