The area known today as Camp Connell was first used by Native Americans thousands of years ago. Its location on San Antonio Creek was along a trading route between bands of Miwok, Piute, and Washoe, as well as being a popular summer encampment.
The discovery of gold in the Mokelumne and Stanislaus River basins in 1848 led to large numbers of prospectors and adventurers following the old Indian trail over the Sierra to the southern gold fields. The famous route - Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway or Hwy 4 - between Murphys and Carson City became famous when the Calaveras North Grove of Big Trees was discovered in 1852. The Big Trees - Carson Valley Road was improved in 1856 and by 1857 much of the immigration into California came over this road. Not long after that, the area of Camp Connell became a junction of roads between Sheep Ranch and San Andreas and was a favorite stopping point and rest area on the route.