(Last Updated On: February 5, 2024)

Chances are you’ve never heard of Arnold, California. It’s a census-designated place in the Stanislaus National Forest of Calavaras County, with a population (and elevation) of around 4000. Arnold is about a 3 hour drive from San Francisco and Lake Tahoe, and 2 hours from Yosemite National Park.

Arnold has no stop light, and few sidewalks. In fact, don’t ask why they don’t have sidewalks or you’ll get scoffed at that “sidewalks are for city people!” 😀

For you fancy car people, Arnold is installing 8 car supercharging stations and they should be available soon! They will be in the parking lot of the Big Trees supermarket.

I have spent quite a bit of time in Arnold and really enjoy the tiny community vibe, beautiful scenery, and lots of live music. Let me give you some info on what Arnold has to offer, so you can plan out your visit!

What to See / Do

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Calaveras Big Trees State Park is a 3 mile drive north from Arnold, up Highway4. This park “stars” Giant Sequoias which are the largest trees (by volume) in the world. There is a nice Visitor Center which includes a small museum with info on the flora and fauna of the park. Also lots of cute gifts, souvenirs and books.

Right near the Visitor Center is a level 1.5 mile self guided trail. You can pick up a leaflet with info about each numbered sight you will be seeing. Gorgeous tall trees abound! Also fallen trees you can actually climb into if you’d like to experience the inside of a tree.

There are many more, longer trails/hikes available as well as picnic, fishing and camping areas!

A Gorgeous Sunset

Look at this sunset through the trees! No filter!!

The Sierra Nevada Logging Museum

From 1939 – 1962 there was a busy logging mill in this area, and a bustling community with it. The business and lifestyle of the logging community is well represented and explained in this little museum.

While it seems to be in Arnold, this Logging Museum is technically in the community called White Pines. The White Pines residents are very proud of this fact and it is called out quite a bit! 🙂

White Pines sign

When the mill became obsolete in 1962 condo developers began sniffing around, planning to build condos around the new White Pines Lake they created by damming the San Antonio creek. The proud remaining residents of White Pines (and of the growing town of Arnold) worked together with the county government stop the developers. Power to the people!

In 2000 a temporary museum was established, then over the next 10 years money was raised for a permanent museum. The community again came together, volunteered time and resources to make the lovely museum that exists today! Isn’t that cool?! How often does that happen nowadays?

This museum is right at one of the entrances to the Arnold Loop Trail. It sits on the side of White Pines Lake, and you can get a pretty view of that lake from the museum’s deck. The grounds of the museum feature a replica of a logger’s cabin, a chain saw exhibit, train and other logging stuff.

The inside of the Museum has quirky diorama exhibits, plus lots of photos, information and a small gift shop. There is also a very friendly, dedicated staff!

Arnold Rim Trail

This beautiful trail system is nearly 35 miles long, but there are many trail heads in Arnold to enter and enjoy the stunning trees, nature and precious quiet!

Hinterhaus Distilling Spirit Tasting

Hinterhaus is a highly acclaimed, family owned and operated distillery. Onsite they distill whiskey, bourbon, vodka, and gin; as well as unique spirits like schnapps. They offer a menu of various combinations of tastings, or you can get a full sized cocktail. They have a limit of serving only 1.5oz of spirits per person per day, so you need to choose either a tasting flight or cocktail.

They also offer alcohol free “spirits”. The one we tried was delicious, Dromme Calm.

Very fun atmosphere and great drinks!

Charming Shops

Arnold has several fun shops to visit. I look forward to stopping in these shops each time because they always have something different than the usual stuff I see at home. All 3 of these are located right behind the Bistro Restaurant, and near the Black Bear Inn.

Fine Things

Gifts, cards, women’s clothing, candles, home decor and more!

Timber Home Store

Gifts, housewares, toys, candles, books, bath&body stuff. Overall fun vibe!

Timber Home Store

Peddlers Market Antiques

I am not usually a huge antique fan. I really don’t like that musty smell antique stores have, but this store doesn’t have that smell! It does have interesting, pretty pieces that are amazingly reasonably priced!

Where to Eat

Bistro Espresso and Cafe – Coffee, breakfast, lunch and dinner

The Bistro serves breakfast and also burgers/sandwiches/salads later in the day. They have indoor and outdoor deck seating. During the summer they have free live music in a field with a stage next to the restaurant. They’ll usually have a big bar b q going during the shows. Lots of fun, and good food!

Sierra House Pub & Eatery – Delicious sandwiches for Lunch

I was pleasantly surprised with how good my lunch was at the Sierra House! Their menu is all sandwiches and a few salads. I got the “Sierra Dip”: roast beef, jack cheese, grilled onions, horseradish mayo on a Genova milk roll. Served with au jus, but of course! Really delicious! I think the super soft,˜ fresh roll made the sandwich.

I got potato salad on the side and was also delighted with that! It had a little bit of a deviled egg flavor. I am no foodie, so when something is good enough for me to really notice it means something! (Does that even make sense?)

Sierra house serves wine and craft beer. They have a pool table and cute stone fireplace.

This new restaurant is currently open for lunch only but be sure to check their website (linked in the title above) as they are planning to expand their hours soon. I highly recommend!

El Vaquero – Authentic Mexican Food

This family run restaurant has been an Arnold staple since 2010. Very casual, large portions, excellent fresh tortilla chips!

Sarafina’s Italian Kitchen – Upscale Dinner

Sarafina’s is one of the “fanciest” restaurants in Arnold. It’s family owned and operated since 2004. Open for dinner Wednesday-Sunday. Be sure to get a reservation, as it has been packed each time I’ve been there! Excellent Italian food!

Where to Stay

Arnold Meadowmont Lodge

The Meadowmont Lodge is right on Highway 4. The rooms are cute and functional. If you are traveling with several people a few of the rooms have an “adjacent room” which is connected to the main room for an extra fee.

Black Bear Inn

The Black Bear Inn is another great option in Arnold. It’s at a higher price point than the Meadow Mont Lodge. The charming inn has only 5 rooms. All have King size beds, jacuzzi tubs with separate showers and gas fire places.

The Inn has a charming living/dining room where breakfast is served, and wine and cheese in the late afternoon. You can arrange to have dinner made for you there by their own chef.

The grounds of the Inn are lovely with a creek, lawn and lots of trees! Apparently they hold small weddings and parties on their grounds.

Vacation Home Rentals

There are many homes for rent in the Arnold area since it is a place where many people have vacation homes and do not occupy them year round. Be sure to check VRBO if you’d like your own place. You may be able to find one with access to private lakes in the area like Fly-In-Lake, Lakemont Pines Lake or Blue Lake Springs!

The Answer

So, is Arnold California worth visiting? Yes! Amazingly beautiful trails and lakes, small town relaxed vibe, and delicious food!