Calaveras Winter Vacation Itineraries

calaveras county winter itineraries

Here we offer 3 itineraries for winter in Calaveras County. Use these links to view each or scroll down: Unwind, indulge…or both | Easy exploring: Catch the highlights | Go for it! Active adventures

Unwind, indulge…or both

Brice Station Winery

Warm your body up with a few downward dogs and some deep stretching at one of Murphys’ two yoga studios. Find morning classes every day of the week at either Intelligent Body on Main Street or Patty Miles Yoga. For a more vigorous workout, try Calaveras County’s newest fitness studio – Angels Camp Body Shop – any weekday for zumba, trx or ballet barre.

After class, take your relaxation to the next level. Stroll over to Jillian Day Spa for their La Stone Therapy, a restorative massage using heated and cold stones. Be sure to have a reservation since their prime weekend slots tend to get scooped up fast. Or, head over to Elements for a couples massage with champagne spritz and time in their infra-red sauna. You’ll be glad you did.

Can lunch really be cupcakes and cheese? In Murphys it can. Check out the cheese shop at Lavender Ridge Vineyards tasting room. Sip your way through the winery’s Rhone varietals while sampling some of the finest cheeses hand-picked and paired by Calaveras’ own Cheese Lady, Judy Creighton.

Then head over to Lila & Sage’s Cupcake Shop for dessert. With a half inch of creamy frosting on a perfectly moist cake, you can’t go wrong with any flavor. But if you need it narrowed down, we wouldn’t sway you away from favorites like the Peanut Butter Cup or the Lemon, Lemon.

Spend the rest of your day further up the hill, but before you get there make a stop at Quyle Kilns. This eclectic pottery studio, featuring the work of several artists is drenched in history. Ask for a tour to hear about Quyle Kilns’ past, take a peek at the working blacksmith area or peruse the showroom for a one-of-a-kind gift.

Don’t leave yet. You can walk across the dirt “road” to Brice Station Winery, the highest vineyard in the Sierra Nevada at 3,300 feet. Here you’ll find Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet and Merlot more reminiscent of Napa.

Resist the urge to dig into that cheese you likely bought at Lavender Ridge and save your appetite for dinner at Sarafina’s Italian Kitchen. A table at this cozy restaurant with a log-cabin feel can often be the hardest to get in the county, so you know it’s got to be good. On the menu, Sarah’s Favorite should be renamed Everyone’s Favorite as this creamy tomato pasta dish can usually be spotted on many tables throughout the evening.

Area Lodging: Treat yourself to first class service and accommodations at Arnold Black Bear Inn, or go for simple elegance at The Victoria Inn.

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

Date night at the movies. You can’t miss the neon sign in downtown Angels Camp for the movie theater. It may look retro, but the local theater offers a state of the art projection system, including the Big-D, a 35-foot wide, 2-story-high screen that’s great for 3-D movies. And it’s right in historic downtown. So, arrive early, grab a cup of soup or a coffee and pastry and sit at a table window to enjoy the sights from Sugar Bakery.

Easy exploring: Catch the highlights

Mercer Caverns

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. 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. That should make you want to play in it. Be sure to get your sno-park pass from Bear Valley Cross Country, Bear Valley Snowmobile, Ebbetts Pass Sporting Goods or Sierra Nevada Adventure Company.

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. When you’ve tried their trademark gold nugget cheese bread, you’ll no doubt want the recipe which they’ve thoughtfully provided on their website along with several more of their delish dishes.

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.

Go for it! Active adventures.

Ski Bear Valley Mountain

Power up at Susie’s Diner before a big day of powder. You can’t beat the prices at this no fuss, no frills 50’s-themed diner in Arnold. Eggs that are done just right, homemade biscuits and a never-ending cup of coffee keep the regulars coming back.

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.

Big drops work up big appetites. Head to Bear Valley Village and try to land a table at the Creekside Dining Room in Bear Valley Lodge for lunch. This chic café’s creative menu, which changes daily, highlights fresh ingredients and will have your mouth watering.

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 Cross Country Center.

For a great dining experience try Sarafina’s Italian Kitchen in Arnold. Here, old world Italy meets contemporary California for pasta, chicken, veal, steak and seafood goodness. And their woodsy cabin feel is a perfect setting to relax in at the end of a day in the snow. Got vegetarians in your group? Try The Arnold Pantry where vegetarian and meat options are organic.

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 up a sweat. 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.

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