The transition from winter to spring is one of the epic times of year to sample all of the adventure opportunities here in the Central Sierra. While the snow hangs on in the high country offering great spring skiing, it’s also trickling down and charging up the rivers for the rafters and kayakers. Everything in between – and underground – from single-track trails to vertical cliffs and limestone caverns is in prime shape for a white knuckled experience. But don’t worry if you can’t get here right away – most of these activities are within reach all year if you know where to look. Bookmark this page for inspiration when planning your next adventure.
Skiing and Backcountry Snowsports With at least another month of the season (conditions permitting), the skiing at Bear Valley Mountain is excellent thanks to the efforts of their snowmaking and grooming crew. Head up for the March 28 Freeheel Race Series. Whether you’re a seasoned backcountry traveler or new to the scene, this event will inspire and challenge. Now look around at those other snowy peaks out there. Locals get ready with their backpacks and snowshoes when the resorts close and the passes open, creating plenty of options to hike and ski well into May. Not currently available, but hopefully with more snow in the forecast, snowmobiles can be rented for 6 hours on wilderness trails at Bear Valley Snowmobile. Check in with Bear Valley Adventure Company and Sierra Nevada Adventure Company for snowshoe rentals and Sierra Avalanche Center for the latest on backcountry conditions. Keep in mind that from November to May, Sno-Park permits are required to leave your vehicle at the end of the road.
White Water Rafting Follow that snowmelt downstream and you’ll find some impressive class 4 and 5 rapids on the north fork of the Stanislaus River. OARS offers one day rafting tours through frothy white water and granite gorges, with the added bonus of taking out at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Spend your day paddling and finish it up with a stroll through the ancient Sequoias. This stretch of river – known locally as “The Stan,” is also popular with private raft and kayak trips, putting in at Sourgrass Campground and taking out at Big Trees.
Caving and Zip Lines It may be a dry year, but these hills have seen a lot of water over the millennia that’s been busy dissolving the limestone beneath our feet. That effect has given us an extensive network of caverns to explore. For a fully immersive tour, check out the Middle Earth Expedition at California Cavern, where you will slither through tight muddy spaces and even take a quick raft trip across a subterranean lake. Prefer a 165 foot rappel into California’s largest vertical chamber cave? Head to Moaning Cavern for that, and what the heck, harness up to their zip lines while you’re there for a flight over a nearby canyon.
Airplane Rides Speaking of flying – how about seeing the area from the passenger seat of a small plane? The annual Calaveras Air Fair is April 18 at the Calaveras County Airport near San Andreas. For $10 ($5 for kids) you can take a ride above it all.
Mountain Biking When it comes to peddle power, you’ll find great single-track mountain bike trails 365 days a year. Like a seasonl migration, in winter we’re riding the lower foothills at New Melones Recreation Area and at New Hogan Lake, and as the weather warms the pine forests of Arnold Rim Trail beckon, with the 30+ miles of trail and fire roads, open to feet, peddles and the saddle bound. Then at the height of summer heat nothing beats a breezy 70 degree day on the granite slick rock around Bear Valley. Bear Valley Adventure Company will rent you bikes, as well as provide on demand shuttle service to get you to great riding.
Rock Climbing Winter and spring are the times to test your vertical limits on the basalt columns and steep walls of Table Mountain, part of the New Melones Recreation area. Once a “secret” among local climbers, the routes have become a popular destination for climbers from all over Northern California. Not much here is below a 5.10+ rating, so come ready for a workout. Summer time opens up the high country for granite slabs and bouldering, especially in the Hells Kitchen and Spicer Terraces region near Bear Valley. Check in with Sierra Nevada Adventure Company in Arnold or Sonora for gear, guides and access tips from their helpful staff.
Get full details on all there is to see and do in Calaveras County from the digital version of our Acitivities Guide online here: gocalaveras.com/activity-guide.