Bear Valley Ski Area is California’s most centrally located mountain resort, situated on scenic and all-weather Highway 4. The closest major ski resort to the Bay Area, Bear Valley’s central Sierra location and 8,500 foot summit provide some of the lightest and deepest snow conditions in all of California. (Bear Valley Ski Area is operated under special use permit with the Stanislaus Forest.) Eleven lifts service Bear Valley’s 1,280 acres and breathtaking 1900 foot vertical descent. Skiers and snowboarders will enjoy the diverse terrain, offering 60 different trails: 30% gentle beginner, 40% intermediate and 30% advanced.
Bear Valley Cross-Country offers one of the largest groomed trail systems in the country including 33 different trails with huts, picnic tables and ridges offering spectacular views. Equipment rental, lessons, restrooms, parking, food, snowshoe rentals, Sno-Park permits and ice skating are available at the cross-country ski center.
Extensive cross-country and snowmobile trails can also be found three miles above Bear Valley at the Lake Alpine Sno-Park area. Located approximately four miles above Arnold, the Calaveras Big Trees State Park offers scenic cross-country trails when snow conditions permit.
Only three miles above Bear Valley is one of California’s premier snowmobile recreation areas. Highway 4 from Lake Alpine to Highland Lakes turnoff and beyond is snow covered and groomed during the winter months for snowmobiling, and brings you past picturesque lakes and serene meadows. A Sno-Park permit for your vehicle must be obtained for parking and is available in Bear Valley. Snowmobile rentals, service and sales are available in Bear Valley.
The Stanislaus National Forest does not allow ATVs and snowmobiles in specified areas. However, there are wilderness areas which restrict motorized use.
There are a great variety of campgrounds for your outdoor enjoyment: Boards Crossing, Sourgrass, Big Meadow, Stanislaus River, Spicer, Lake Alpine, Mosquito Lake, Pacific Valley, Hermit Valley, Bloomfield, Highland Lakes and two located within the Calaveras Big Trees State Park: North Grove and South Grove. All campgrounds are on a first come, first served basis, with few exceptions.
Five developed picnic grounds with tables, stoves and toilet facilities are located within the Calaveras Ranger District: Crescent Grove, Cottage Springs, Spicer Reservoir, Marmot and Chickaree. Calaveras Big Trees State Park also has group and individual picnic sites on the North Grove and individual sites at Beaver Creek and Stanislaus River areas. Picnicking is not limited to only developed sites. There are many locations throughout the forest suited for picnicking.
Swimming and fishing opportunities await at most lakes, rivers and reservoirs in the area including Spicer Reservoir, Lake Alpine, Stanislaus River, Beaver Creek (in Big Trees State Park) and White Pines Lake in Arnold. There are also a few lakes and swimming pools which are a part of private homeowners associations and clubs.
Fishing enthusiasts will find the Stanislaus National Forest and surrounding area rivers, creeks and lakes abundant with rainbow, brown and brook trout. Although several lakes are open year round, the general trout fishing season starts in late April and ends in mid November.
There are many excellent opportunities for biking enthusiasts from beginner to expert. Enjoy biking on scenic and paved or gravelled roads with moderate terrain, or more challenging single track and 4×4 trails with steep grades. Mountain biking is allowed on all National Forest non-wilderness trails and roads, and on all roads within Calaveras Big Trees State Park, excluding any single tread trails.
Lake Alpine, Spicer Reservoir and Union/Utica Lakes provide excellent boating opportunities. With a maximum speed of 10 mph, water skiing or jet skis are not allowed. Water skiing and personal watercraft sports are available at nearby New Melones Recreation Area in Angels Camp. The smaller Union and Utica Lakes are perfect for canoeing or kayaking. Boats, canoes and kayaks can be rented at Bear Valley and Lake Alpine in the Summer. The Stanislaus River offers exciting rapids and scenic beauty, but can be dangerous.
Some of the nation’s most spectacular sights await you in the back country. Over 150 miles of trails are maintained in the Calaveras District of the Stanislaus Forest and most are in rugged terrain, but there are also easy day hikes. Conditions of hiking trails vary from season to season, depending on snowfall and other factors.
Horseback Riding Excellent opportunities exist for horseback riding, be it day rides or extended pack trips. Equestrians are expected to follow low impact stock use practices and obtain a wilderness permit when camping in designated wilderness areas. Horses and other pack stock are encouraged, but need to be handled skillfully to avoid unnecessary damage to the land. No horse rentals are available.
The area is host to many one-of-a-kind shopping opportunities, where shopping in itself is a recreation. Take time to discover the individualized charm of these shops. In each owner-operated specialty store, from clothing to gifts to home decor, you’ll find just about everything you need and more including personalized service.
Calaveras County offers an ideal climate for vineyards, and the Murphys area is home to more than 26 wineries, most with tasting rooms on Main Street. Many of the wines are award winning at the regional, national, and international level, and have achieved recognition in national publications. Enjoy wine tasting, browsing eclectic shops, antiques and art galleries, and fine dining in Murphys. Main Street also hosts several annual events: Murpys Irish Day, Calaveras Grape Stomp and Street Faire, and the Holiday Open House.