Winter in Calaveras: Active adventures

Snowy mountain

Itinerary for winter lovers

We’ve done the planning so you can getaway to the Sierra this winter and not think about anything.  Here are some of our picks for a hardcore winter sports escape for those who love the snow:

Power up at Bristol’s Ranch House Cafe before a big day of powder. You can’t beat the prices at this cozy, lodge-setting themed diner in Arnold. Eggs benedict that are done just right, omlettes made to order, homemade biscuits and a never-ending cup of coffee keep the regulars coming back. Or, for a quick bite and a great cup of coffee, stop at the Camp Connell General Store, the oldest gas station in California. The Arnold Chevron has quick to-go breakfast sandwiches or Bistro Espresso has breakfast to go or breakfast plates to go with your favorite coffee drink.

As breakfast settles, drive just 30 miles for perfect skiing and snowboarding conditions. Snag a half-day pass at Bear Valley Mountain, a picturesque 1280-acre ski hill at 8,500 feet in the Stanislaus National Forest that offers everything you want from a resort, minus the attitude. Hit the runs in Grizzly Bowl for big challenges and what seems like your own private mountain at times.

On your way back down the hill look for the National Forest sign for Big Meadow. In the summer it’s a campground, but in the winter it turns into parking for a prime snowshoeing spot. Explore the rolling snow hills and icy streams that meander through this scenic area. Snowshoes can be rented from SNAC in Arnold or at the Bear Valley Adventure Company.

For dinner that will appeal to many tastes, you can’t go wrong with Snowshoe Brewing Company.  Their massive menu offers everything from nachos to prime rib.  And their woodsy cabin feel is a perfect setting to relax in at the end of a day in the snow…with a seasonal or specialty brew in hand.

Area Lodging: Stay where the snow is at the rustic Bear Valley Lodge, or grab a cozy vacation cabin from Arnold Vacation Rentals or Forest Meadows Vacation Rentals.

Have more time in the area? Here are a few other suggestions…

Ride the snow highway. There is another way to get to Ebbetts Pass once the road closes for the winter, and it’s much more thrilling. Bring your snowmobile (or rent one from Bear Valley Snowmobile) and zip through 15 miles of groomed trails through a winter wonderland to reach the pass. Keep going and you can reach the secluded Highland Lakes area.

Work a sweat up. One of the most extensive cross country trail systems in the country, Bear Valley Cross Country, offers skiers 35 groomed trails ranging from beginner to advanced on over 3,000 acres of National Forest Land. Bring a few bucks along and treat yourself to lunch at the area’s full service café conveniently located on the trail system. Ski rentals available or bring your own.


Winter in Calaveras:  Unwind, indulge or both