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Bear Valley

Bear Valley
Make family memories at a mountain hideaway

This pleasantly off-the-grid winter destination feels—and looks—like a secret escape in the middle of rugged alpine wilderness. With its laid-back, family-friendly vibe, this low-key mountain town, roughly half way between Lake Tahoe to the north and Yosemite National Park to the south, has a comfortably retro feel, the kind of place that might make you reminisce about your own favorite childhood vacations. As for skiing and boarding, Bear Valley Mountain Resorts features 9 lifts access 75 trails with nearly 1,700 acres/688 hectares of skiable terrain. Trails range from easy groomers to the challenges of Grizzly Bowl, so everyone can find places to play. Snowmaking keeps things skiable in dryer years.

In snowy winters, Highway 4, also known as Ebbetts Pass and a designated National Scenic Byway, closes just east of Bear Valley. Though vehicles can’t cross the mountains here, the snow-covered highway turns into an easy-to-follow route for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Rent gear in town, then follow the road to views of craggy mountains and hushed forests. For more trails, visit Bear Valley Cross Country, with groomed trails for track and skate skiing, 4 trailside huts and the Meadow Café, plus picnic tables for when the weather obliges, all dotting some 3,000 acres/1214 hectares of varied terrain. There’s also a gentle slope where you can practice your downhill technique on Nordic gear. (Don’t worry—it gets easier with practice.) There are also sledding and tubing hills, and fat-tire snow bikes for a new twist on winter fun.

Snowmobiling is also popular in the region; Bear Valley Snowmobile offers rentals and 70 miles of groomed trails, with the Highland Lakes area a popular destination.

Insider’s tip: Come back in summer for the annual Bear Valley Music Festival, featuring a full orchestra and other top music under the pines.

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Thomas H. Story/ Sunset Publishing

Discover the High Sierra

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34
November
Average (°F)
Sept - Nov
66°
High
26°
Low
Dec - Feb
39°
High
21°
Low
Mar - May
55°
High
23°
Low
June - Aug
72°
High
41°
Low

Snow-covered peaks in winter, gushing waterfalls in spring, wildflower meadows and glistening lakes in summer, vibrant colors in fall—this is a land of dramatic and wild beauty. World-class mountain resorts circling turquoise-blue Lake Tahoe, and at Mammoth Lakes cater to all, with scenic ski trails in winter and trails and vistas in summer.

Yosemite Valley…is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and gold and wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.”  --photographer Ansel Adams

Yosemite National Park, a World Heritage Site, is here, roughly 3½ hours east of San Francisco. Whether you hike a mountain, ski the steeps, or lounge in a hot tub beneath a canopy of stars, you’ll find your perfect getaway. 

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Room/Getty Images

Lone Pine

Discover the natural beauty and another side of California in a historic Owens Valley small town

Head to Lone Pine to see a different side of California—one that is less connected to...

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Find whitewater rafting fun for all—from newbies to nerves-of-steel experts

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CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Alex Honnold

The El Capitan free-solo rock climber explains his love for Yosemite and more California favorites

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At 14,505 ft. above sea level, Mt. Whitney is the highest point in the contiguous United States.
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CLIF Bar/Mason Mashon

California Questionnaire: Jeremy Jones

The professional snowboarder’s biggest conundrum is deciding which Sierra Nevada adventure to tackle next

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Truckee

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This charming mountain town is the central hub for North Shore destinations

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family-friendly resorts, snowy escapes

High Sierra peaks, deep drifts on a Mammoth volcano, family-friendly resorts, snowy escapes on the edge of Yosemite and more—California has enough alpine destinations to keep any skier or boarder...

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Relax after a day on the slopes

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Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.
Ansel Adams
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Trip 6-7 days 10 stops

Sierra Adventure

Granite peaks, alpine valleys, towering trees-the High Sierra is nature's playground all year-round
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Blue as a topaz and circled by majestic peaks, this High Sierra gem straddling the California-Nevada border is a bucket-list staple, a place where the air is “very pure and fine...it is the same the angels breathe,” according to author Mark Twain. Lakefront towns dot the shoreline, each with...

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Rachid Dahnoun/Aurora Photos

Spotlight: Lake Tahoe

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Majestic peaks encircle a turquoise-blue, year-round playground

Blue as a topaz and circled by majestic peaks, this High Sierra gem straddling the California-Nevada border is a bucket-list essential. Where else...

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Spotlight: Mammoth Lakes

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Snowy winters, wildflower summers

Surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the west, folks in this laid-back mountain town know they’ve got a good thing going. It’s a land of...

As it lay there with the shadows of the mountains brilliantly photographed upon its still surface, I thought it must surely be the fairest picture the whole earth affords.
Mark Twain (recalling his first sighting of Lake Tahoe)
July - August

With a pine-and-peak alpine setting and a relaxed and friendly ambiance, this appealing event in Bear Valley, roughly halfway between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, includes performances by outstanding...

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Courtesy of Bear Valley Music Festival
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Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve

Visit bizarre formations, cinder cones, and a super-salty lake

There are few places in California—and maybe on the planet—that can make you think you might just be on Mars. This is one of them. At this high-...

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Bodie

Tour the eerie remnants of a former boomtown

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Guided Adventures

Learn to climb, join a pack trip, and more

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From Gold Rush history to the 8th wonder of the world, visit these favorites

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Amy Meredith/Flickr
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The General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park is the largest (by volume) tree in the world.
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Gold Rush history, epic high-country landscapes, hidden wine country, and charming country towns

Granite monoliths, waterfalls, alpine meadows—it’s no secret that Yosemite delivery some seriously big wow moments. But what is a secret is the bounty of awesome things you can see and do on your...

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Kodiak Greenwood
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Courtesy of Mammoth Chambers of Commerce

Manzanar National Historic Site

Learn about a sobering time in U.S. history

During World War II, thousands of Japanese-Americans were moved from their homes throughout the West and brought to internment camps like Manzanar...

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Bass Lake

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Some think of Bass Lake, the pine-trimmed reservoir about a half-hour’s drive south of Yosemite National Park’s south entrance, as a smaller...