We’ve done the planning so you can pack up the family (or yourselves) and get away to the Sierra Foothills this winter without stressing about what to do. Here are our picks so you can catch the highlights:
If you’re a biscuit and gravy kind of breakfast person, then stop at Hillbillies on Hwy. 4 for a down-home breakfast that will fill you up. Also rumored to have the best pancakes, you can’t beat their prices. Grab the covered wagon table for a fun start to the day.
If the weather is gloomy, head underground to Mercer Caverns (pictured above). The 45-minute, family-friendly tour provides an easy way to experience the ancient (3 million-year-old), subterranean world below Murphys. If you’ve never been in a cave, Mercer offers everything you’d expect to see down there and then some…until they turn the lights off, that is.
Get ready for the cold as you leave the mild temps of the cavern. Put on your winter boots, grab a few layers and don’t forget your hat before jumping in the car and heading up the hill to a winter wonderland.
How much snow is up there? Travel to the end of the road just before Lake Alpine and don’t be surprised if you see 8-foot snow walls on either side of you if it’s a good year. That should make you want to play in it.
Backtrack a few miles (and a few years to tap into your inner-kid self) for some high-country sledding. Some folks bring their own tubes and fly through the trees at the Lake Alpine or Spicer Reservoir SNO-PARK areas. But for a more groomed experience, rent a tube at Bear Valley Cross Country for a ton of no-hassle fun.
Tromp over to Meadow Café and warm yourself up with a hot cocoa from this sled-side establishment that also offers cross country skiers relief from the cold and grilled eats if needed.
After a day in the snow, try Alchemy in Murphys for dinner. There you can find an extensive (and rare) beer list, sweet potato fries, and no joke, meatloaf wrapped with bacon.
Area Lodging: Soak up some history at the Murphys Historic Hotel, or sleep above the snow line at Meadowmont Lodge.
Have more time in the area? Here are a few other suggestions…
See the “Gold Pocket.” Even if you’re not into wine, Ironstone Vineyards Heritage Museum is worth the trip to the winery. Home to the largest gold leaf specimen ever discovered, weighing in at 44-pounds, the museum’s collection also provides a glimpse into the Gold Rush era. Make an afternoon of it and plan to have lunch at their Gourmet Deli.
Revel in history at the Red Brick Saloon. Located on historic Main Street in San Andreas and dating back to the early 1900’s this intriguing watering hole is a gathering place not to miss. Feeling competitive? Challenge the locals to a game of shuffleboard.