Murphys – The Other Wine Country & Skulls Big Trees State Park

This is a really fun day trip, but it could require a designated driver for tours in all the wine tasting rooms! From Groveland head up the hill on Highway 120 to Highway 49 to the north, then continue to Angels Camp, about 45 minutes. Take a right on Route 4 and follow Murphys, and Arnold to Calaveras Big Trees State Park.

If walking along the side of the California Sierra, the Great Tree groves from this park are wonderful, we think they are much better than the Groves found in Yosemite. The trees are easily accessible from the car parks and there are far fewer tourists fighting for trails and photo opportunities here. There are miles of trails, and not all of them go up and down hills. We like to walk through the desert for an hour or two before returning to Murphys for the rest of the day.

When you’re done with the Big Tree adventure, head west again toward Highway 4 at Murphy’s. Entering Murphy, you’ll find a sign that says it’s “the other wine country.” We fully agree. On our last trip to Murphy’s we made a stop at most of the vineyard tasting rooms, starting with the rural setting of Ironstone Vineyards, the only tasting room surrounded by its hillside vines. To get to Ironstone, turn left at the old Murphy’s Hotel and follow the signs, about 2 miles away.

Once in Ironstone, enjoy the tasting room and the surrounding gift shop. Ironstone is a great place to have a nice lunch from the deli bench overlooking the vineyards. We enjoyed the quiet environment with a glass of reserve chardonnay. Ironstone is also famous for its 500,000 daffodil bulbs that bloom all together in March and its well-kept flowers throughout the year.

While at the Ironstone complex, take the time to explore the museum and jewelry center. After doing two seasons of gold panning in a lifetime before the inn, we were thrilled with its gold standard, a huge 44 lb. puff pastry found in 1992 in the Jamestown mine and housed in a real bank vault.

Ironstone has numerous regular public events including concert series, black and white movie nights, wine park sales and even more. From Ironstone return to Murphy and explore the numerous tasting rooms in the city center. We still make time for the Pumpkin Cellar, found just off the main road a bit from the park by falling into a cave. The atmosphere is warm and the wine is tastier! We left with a port bottle.

After walking around the corner for Hatcher, one of our favorites was both for the wine and for the charm of Matt and his tasting room team. Victor thinks this year’s Zinfandel is the most important. We bought a magnum. Oak intertwined with its whimsical gift shop and fun approach to everything is another worthy stop and its wines are also good!

Murphy’s is a large country that walks with good showcases. We ventured into many galleries and antique shops and also found a good sign to use at the hotel: Go fishing carved into the side of a wooden fish. If we have never been out of fishing, we are now ready with a sign!

Don’t miss the antique plumbing shop on the left, just beyond the old Murphy’s Hotel, for a bit of hassle on old pieces of porcelain and plumbing. I also had fun here. Incredibly they have claw tanks on the third floor, how did they get there and why on the third floor? The Murphy’s Hotel is a real step back in time. Here we tried an Australian wine and another local wine and enjoyed the unexpected guitar-singing-a-long performed by some regulars.