Connecting four unique West Coast icons, California’s sweeping landscapes set the stage for a winter of endless discovery. Get ready to grab the crew, load up the car, and crank up that playlist. With vast amounts of skiable territory and plenty of open road in California to explore, the next adventure is always the best adventure.
When time is of the essence and adventure is a must, a trip to Big Bear is in order. Just a short 2-hour drive from Los Angeles – depending on traffic and route – Big Bear is one of the city’s closest snow-bound adventures. The location of the first-ever dedicated terrain park – built way back in 1991 – this SoCal mountain has been creating, challenging, and evolving the mountain experience ever since.
Between Big Bear and its next-door neighbor, Snow Summit, there are ample turns for all adventure seekers. For park riders, dial up the airs with the only Super Pipe in Southern California, located at Big Bear Resort. For those seeking more family friendly fun, carve out turns on the Snow Summit side of things with both night riding and the Grizzly Ridge Tube Park.
ON THE ROAD TO BIG BEAR MOUNTAIN RESORT:
PRE-GAME ROAD FULE: CLEARMAN’S NORTH WOODS INN or POMONA VALLEY MINING CO
Before hitting the open road in California, kickstart the adventure and get stoked on the rustic western Big Bear spirit with a stop at San Gabriel’s Clearman’s North Woods Inn or the Pomona Valley Mining Co. Each unique in LA’s diverse range of eclectic eateries, both venues dish up hearty plates of winter-ready fuel for the road and an ambiance to match.
RIM OF THE WORLD HIGHWAY – CA 18
Sometimes, the journey itself is something to savor. While there are several routes to get to Big Bear, traveling the Rim of the World Highway includes soaring vistas and neck-turning views. Strap in, tune your playlist, and just enjoy the ride.
SNOWSHOE THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL
As memorialized by Hollywood in the movie Wild, the Pacific Crest Trail is a unique icon all its own. Markedly less traveled in the winter months than it is in the summer, this particular section that runs through Big Bear is a favorite for snowshoeing. Here, you can challenge the crew with rising mountain trails or take it easy with valley strolls. Be aware, you may need an Adventure Pass at PCT trailhead access points. And, whenever enjoying the backcountry, also go prepared.
Leave the congested Los Angeles scene and head towards a gleaming So Cal jewel, Mammoth Mountain. Set against the backdrop of the eye-popping Minaret peaks, Mammoth combines quintessential beach vibes and massive mountain terrain.
The trip from the inland empire to Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain is a non-stop (but often worth stopping) cruise north on the 395. Along the way, take your time to seek out quaint general stores, magnificent natural landscapes, hunger-busting cuisine, and three of California’s incredible national parks.
Once at Mammoth Mountain, dive into the highest lift-served skiable terrain in California. Just off the beaten path, the Hemlocks are in-bound, hike-accessed trails. This enhanced natural terrain offers up some of the best powder pillows around.
If you’re traveling to June Mountain, be ready to embrace a slower, slightly less hectic pace, while still finding daydream worthy terrain and snow. Being just 30-minutes further north from Mammoth Mountain, June boasts fresh tracks even on its busiest days. On the mountain, keep an eye out for Glenn Plake—and his colorful trademark mohawk. You may even see the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame athlete heading off into side-country excursions.
ON THE ROAD TO MAMMOTH & JUNE:
A centerpiece of the Alabama Hills, take a 5-minute drive down a dirt road, and then a 10-minute walk to the arch, to find Mobius Arch. At just the right angle, you can capture the arch framing an excellent view of Mt. Whitney in the distance.
COPPER TOP BBQ
“Food Makes Friends” is the signature saying at Copper Top BBQ in Big Pine, and it’s an honest appraisal. Drawing together a community of BBQ lovers from hundreds of miles in every direction, these plates of heaping, delectable meat are often met with a smile and a kindly, thankful nod. When people come together over killer BBQ, making friends is second nature.
ERICK SCHAT’S BAKKERERŸ
Take a step back in time and pick up a loaf of bread at Erick Schat’s in Bishop. Boasting a spelling of bakkererÿ that is steeped in old immigrant Dutch heritage, this roadside bakery lives up to its name by featuring old-school, preservative-free, turn-of-the-century bread that is baked in stone ovens. Baking right around 25,000 loaves of bread per day, everything on site is made from scratch, right down to the baking yeast.
Just miles north of Bishop, the Owens River Gorge is remarkable for many reasons. Known for its unique, rich mineral-based color palette, this area is also renowned for sport climbing, bouldering, and fly fishing. Pick your favorite past time, or a new hobby, and carve out some time to explore the Owens River Gorge.
WHITMORE HOT SPRINGS / WILD WILLY’S HOT SPRINGS / LOCAL LEGENDS
As you cruise closer to Mammoth, the options for soaking in hot sulfur springs grow. Seek out the Whitmore Hot Springs, Wild Willy’s Hot Springs. Both are well known and easy to access. Alternately, if you’re feeling like a treasure hunt, get friendly with the locals and seek out one of the options that are off the beaten path. We promise, the search is worth it, and the result is just as relaxing.
To the north, road-trippers can escape the crowded metro bay area and discover the immense open spaces of Tahoe’s finest, Palisades Tahoe. Where Olympic Valley’s spirit of adventure makes it one of North America’s most renowned ski resorts, Alpine Meadows, standing just next door, is known for its down-home feel, approachable hospitality, wide-open bowls, and breathtaking lake views. To get there, lock into I-80, get up to speed, and keep an eye out for these stops that will top off your 3.5-hour road trip.
Upon arriving at Palisades Tahoe, strap in and dig into one of the most renowned ski destinations in the Lake Tahoe-area. With 6,000-plus acres to explore, there’s a veritable smorgasbord of tasty lines and big-mountain terrain to ride. For an unmatched view, head up the back bowls at Alpine Meadows from the Sherwood lift. What you’ll find is wide open terrain and ranging pitches, all with unique views of Lake Tahoe.
ON THE ROAD TO PALISADES TAHOE:
JELLY BELLY CANDY COMPANY
Get things started with a certified sugar rush from the Jelly Belly Candy Company factory store. The free, ¼ mile self-guided tour above the factory unlocks a bird’s eye view at the candy-making process. Along the way, engage with interactive exhibits and games, and browse the one-and-only Jelly Belly Jelly Bean Art Gallery. Once you know how the bean is jellied, take a spin through the Jelly Belly Candy Store and load up on limited jellybean flavors for the road.
THE JOHNNY CASH TRAIL
When the sugar rush ends, stop at the Johnny Cash Folsom Lake Trail, located just outside Sacramento. Lace-up your running shoes and get the blood moving on this brand-new pedestrian trail, beautifully inspired by the architecture of nearby Folsom Prison. Eventually, this 6.3-mile loop will feature eight larger-than-life public art pieces, each celebrating a piece of the Johnny Cash story, his connection to Folsom Prison, and his infamous musical career. As the bumper sticker says, “God Bless Johnny Cash.”
IKEDA’S COUNTRY MARKET
When the post-run hunger starts to hit, turn into Ikeda’s Country Market, located just off I-80 in Auburn. Keep the stop a short quick-strike mission to load up on pies of every flavor, from sweet fruits to savory pot pies, by the slice or whole. As this stop will prove, pie makes for the perfect travel snack for those on the go.
DONNER PASS SUMMIT TUNNELS
Discover a unique, historic man-made wonder just outside the town of Truckee. The Donner Pass Summit tunnels are a well-earned stop for intrepid hikers and snowshoers. Featuring multiple spectacles to explore – tunnels #6, #7 and #8, and the Snow Shed – carve out time for a hike through these dark landscapes. With dramatic lighting pouring in through endpoints and cracks in the wall, the stop is an uncanny experience.
It’s the season of adventure, and the open road in California is calling. But before you pack up the car, be sure to familiarize yourself with every destination’s COVID-19 related procedures and policies.