Top Ten Activites to do near Lake Tulloch….besides the lake!

 While the Lake Tulloch / Copperopolis area is a vacation destination for many, there are also a lot of interesting activities to explore just outside of town. Lake Tulloch is a great place to take a “mini vacation’ from your second home. If you live here full time, the local activities will make sure that you will always have something fun to do. Here are my Top 10 local activities (other than Lake Tulloch). 


#10) Golfing

The 8th Green at Saddle Creek Golf Course

 Located in Copperopolis, is one of the most highly regarded golf courses in the region. Saddle Creek features 18 scenic holes and is ranked 8th by Golf Week Magazine for Best Public Access Courses in California. Also located just 12 miles from the Lake Tulloch / Copperopolis area is the Greenhorn Creek Golf Course. Greenhorn Creek has been voted “Best Playing Conditions” and “Best Value for the Green Fee” by    


#9) The Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee


The Stafford and Caywood Kids at the "Frog Jumps".

  “The Frog Jumps” as it is referred to locally, dates back to the 1800’s and was the inspiration of Mark Twain’s first published work, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”. Where else in the world can you “jockey” a frog, hoping to set a World Record? Only in Calaveras County. It is definitely something that everyone should experience once in their life. While I was torn placing a world known event closer to #1, it comes in at #9, because I personally think that the pricing is terrible. When I was a kid, your entry fee included all of the rides which was great. Now it is a ticket system for rides that generally cost a buck a ticket and some rides were three tickets or more. With three kids, at nearly $10 a ride, I would rather go to Disneyland. The “Frog Jumps” are held annually the third weekend in May at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds. For more information visit their website.     

 #8) Wine Tasting in Murphys


 Murphy’s is quickly becoming a destination for wine connoisseurs. Anchored by Ironstone Vineyards, Murphys features many great wineries including Twisted Oak and Stevenot. Besides wineries, there are many great bed and breakfast places to stay. My favorite is the Victoria Inn which features a “Miner’s Exchange” style, blending history with modern comfort. Each room is an eclectic mix of wonderful European charm, featuring high ceilings and doors, fireplaces or wood stoves, claw-footed bathtubs or whirlpool tubs. For a complete list of wineries and places to stay, please click here.      

#7) Columbia State Park

Columbia State Park

 The town’s old Gold Rush-era business district has been preserved with shops, restaurants and two hotels. Visitors have the chance to time-travel to the 1850s, imagining life when gold miners rubbed shoulders with businessmen and the other residents in Columbia. Visitors can experience a bygone era watching proprietors in period clothing conduct business in the style of yesterday. There are opportunities to ride a 100 year-old stagecoach, pan for gold, and explore the real working businesses of Columbia. I remember as a youth when Columbia was used as a backdrop for the Clint Eastwood movie, Pale Rider. You can’t beat the old fashioned candy store and getting an “ice cold sarsaparilla” at one of the “water’n holes”. For more info click here and here.    

#6) 4th of July at Ironstone Vineyards

Ironstone 4th of July

 While I was growing up in the area, the best and pretty much only firework display was held out at the county fairgrounds. For the last couple of years, we have been going to Ironstone for their Fourth of July Celebration. There is live music, climbing walls, bounce houses, all sorts of food, Cruiser’s Ice Cream, and much more. It is my favorite one day event of the year. The fireworks show is one of the best and longest that I have ever seen. If you haven’t tried gone yet, go this year! I promise that you will be impressed!    

#5) Camping at Lake Alpine/Slick Rock Trail

Camping at Lake Alpine

While it seems that most people are either a Pinecrest person or Lake Alpine person, I am definitely the latter. Pinecrest and Lake Alpine are similar but in my opinion, there is a lot less people and traffic at Alpine. The lake is crystal clear and great for canoeing, fishing and swimming. The campgrounds are well kept and the general store/restaurant is great for the things that you may have forgotten. I have camped at a lot of places and Lake Alpine is my favorite because of Slick Rock Road/Trail.   

Slick Rock Trail at Lake Alpine

Slick Rock Road winds through dense trees over huge granite slabs from Lake Alpine to Utica Reservoir. It is a trail for 4×4 vehicles only and I would only attempt it if you are serious about rock crawling. While I ran the trail end to end in a stock Rubicon Unlimited, I would not recommend this unless you have some off road experience. It isn’t the “Rubicon“, but it is nice because it is relatively close and great because of the camping at Lake Alpine.    

#4) Moaning Cavern

Main Chamber at Moaning Cavern Photo by Dave Bunnell

 I have been going to the Moaning Cavern since I was 9 years old. It is one of the area’s best natural (under) landmarks and you must check it out if you haven’t seen it for yourself. It is a cavern so large, that you could actually fit the Statue of Liberty into it.  There are multiple types of tours but I like the basic walking tour. It is awesome and the kids really like it. Recently they added some ziplines that I hear are really fun, but I have yet to try them.    

#3) Big Trees State Park

Big Trees State Park

     I think that Big Treesis often left out of conversations about the massive redwoods in California. People talk about redwood groves near the coast and not much is mentioned about the massive redwood trees right here in Calaveras County. The trees are massive and you don’t have to travel half way down California to get there. There are many different hikes to take, but they are generally pretty mild and the sights are fantastic.  

#2) Snow Skiing at Bear Valley or Dodge Ridge

Bear Valley Ski Resort

Dodge Ridge Ski Resort

I have grown up going to both ski resorts and I really like them. “Dodge” is closer, but I have gone to “Bear” more often. Either is a great choice. Both offer great ski schools and all the amenities that you would hope for. The Challenge is to snow ski at Bear or Dodge, and water ski at Lake Tulloch on the same day.  

#1) Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

  I am embarrassed to admit that I grew up in Calaveras County and I never visited Yosemite until I was into my 30’s. In 2006, I went there with my family and I could not believe that I had missed out on something so beautiful for all of those years. Maybe it’s something that you appreciate more as an adult, but I really love the place. I went there and felt like Ansel Adams, snapping unbelievable pictures of the park. You can’t take a bad picture! Everything is breathtaking. My favorite part of the park so far is Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which is a bit out of the way from the main park, but well worth the trip. Across the Dam at Hetch Hetchy, a hike begins, taking you through a tunnel and around the lake. A few miles in, there is a waterfall that washes over an elevated wooden walkway and it is awesome. If you go to Yosemite, you must check out Hetch Hetchy. If you haven’t gone, go now because you are missing out. 

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