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.
Snow-covered peaks in winter, gushing waterfalls in spring, wildflower meadows and glistening lakes in summer, vibrant colours 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
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