Hwy. 4, Calaveras Big Trees, Bear Valley and Lake Alpine offer a world apart!

The Murphys Hotel anchors historic Main Street in Murphys, CA. It's also a fine place to spend the night or dine!

Murphys, Calaveras Big Trees, Bear Valley and Lake Alpine – all on Hwy. 4 – offer a world apart!

Groves of redwoods, some up to 250 feet tall, grace Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Docent-led tours, camping and cabins for rent make this a marvelous destination!

Last week, I shared our favorite summer destinations on the Hwy. 108 corridor above Sonora; this week we offer recommendations for fun along Hwy. 4, from Murphys east to Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Bear Valley Resort and Lake Alpine.

Murphys has long been a favorite town on our state’s Gold Rush tour-route, noteworthy for its historic preservation, places to stay and dine, and growth in wine tasting rooms and cute shops along its old Main Street.

From Murphys east to Arnold, one can find numerous dining options; in Murphys, favorites include the highly rated Alchemy Restaurant and the historic Murphys Hotel.  Both towns offer a variety of hotels/motels and B&Bs for overnighting.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park is just east of Arnold. Home to towering redwoods, the largest is the Louis Agassiz tree, located in the South Grove, over 250 feet tall and 25 feet in diameter six feet above the ground! The largest tree in the North Grove is the Empire State Tree, over 18 feet in diameter; in about any other state, this gem of a park would receive national park status! The park offers cabins for rent, camping among the redwoods and walking tours led by Rangers to offer big tree’s insights.

Bear Valleyfamily fun expands with a host of lodging and adventure packages with activities including “Glamping” options, an Adventure Park, swimming, hiking, biking, kayaking, a Kid’s Club, archery, outdoor movies, live music and more.

New Glamping tents, with a stunning view into Mokelumne River Canyon, are new at Bear Valley Resort this summer. The accommodations offer most of the comforts of home in a stunning setting.

Bear Valley’s new Glamping tents are fully furnished with rugs, heaters, chairs, tables, lamps, complete bedding and a welcome basket.  The units are powered by renewable energy to provide many comforts of home.  Ideal for couples, the tents offer an authentic mountain getaway with packages that include wine tasting, music events, meals activities and a spectacular view of Mokelumne Canyon.

A section of Bear Valley’s parking lot offers parking for RV camping with access to Bear Valley showers, bathrooms and a guest lounge.

Kids and adults enjoy the ropes courses at Bear Valley Resort!

For those seeking challenging activities, the Bear Valley Adventure Park adds several new features.  In addition to a bungee trampoline, a ropes course, a rock-climbing wall and swimming pool, a pass to the park includes access to an aerial suspension bridge, swinging tire traverse, cargo net wall, “Ninja style challenge course”, climbing ropes, rope and seat swings and archery shooting gallery.

Mountain biking has long been popular in and around Bear Valley; new are eco-bikes available for rent, electric powered mountain bikes sourced by solar energy. Trust me, eco-bikes make mountain biking a lot more pleasant when faced with 10-15% grades on rocky trails!

Mountain bikers have always enjoyed the trails in and around Bear Valley; new this year are Eco-bikes for rent; bikes with an electronic assist!

A new Adventure Club offers activities for kids ages 4-12. Counselors will lead kids through adventure including active play, arts and crafts and education about their surrounding natural environment.  Kids can explore, learn about the native people, the Gold Rush, plants and local ecology. The Adventure Club will be available on weekends from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m, with lunch provided.

The newly renovated Bear Valley lodge hosts a variety of evening activities including campfires and s’mores, outdoor movies and music events. Bear Valley Village is home to a variety of services, shops and restaurants. A variety of dining choices include the mid-slope Day Lodge; in Bear Valley Village, the Lodge offers light fare in the Grizzly Lounge, steaks and seafood in the classy Creekside Dining Room and pizza and pasta in the Trattoria for families with big appetites!

Summer hikers head out on a trail within the Bear Valley Resort area.

“We’ve put together a tremendous roster of lodging, activity and event options for the summer designed to complement Bear Valley’s scenic location in the Sierra,” said Tom Hinojosa, Bear Valley Summer Recreation Director. “There’s so much to do in this area, and so many new ways to enjoy what is already a terrific year-round destination.”

Bear Valley’s free shuttle will service Bear Valley Village, Lake Alpine and Bear Valley Mountain to assist visitors desiring to venture out to the scenic reservoir covering 180 acres, or the scenic vistas and mountain bike trails located just minutes from the Bear Valley Lodge. The shuttle service includes a trailer to accommodate bikes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. The Adventure Park and shuttle service runs on weekends from 11:30am to 7pm, July 2 through September 3.

Bear Valley, surrounded by two of California’s largest federally designated wilderness areas, offers abundant outdoor activities. The ski and board area offers 1,680 acres of varied terrain, more than 70 trails and 1,900 vertical feet.  Hiking, fishing, cycling, rock climbing, kayaking, camping, glamping, adventure park, mountain biking and a variety of music concerts and cultural events make for lively summer activities.

Lake Alpine is just east of Bear Valley, and offers a pristine high-Sierra lake at almost 7,400 feet elevation!

Lake Alpine, just east of Bear Valley at an elevation of 7,388 feet, is a spectacular high-Sierra gem, offering fishing, hiking, the Lake Alpine Resort and nearby camping in a variety of campgrounds.

How to get there: Take Highway 4 east to reach Murphys, Calaveras Big Trees, Bear Valley and Lake Alpine. Bear Valley is about 95 miles and two hours from Stockton.

For more information: Bear Valley Resort, bearvalley.com, (209) 753-2301; Calaveras Big Trees Park, parks.ca.gov/?page_id=1146, (209) 795-2334; Lake Alpine Resort, lakealpineresort.com, (209) 753-6350; Visit Calaveras, gocalaveras.com, (800) 225-3764.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

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    Tim Viall

    Viall is a local travel writer who retired in late 2012 after 10 years as executive director of Stockton, CA's, Emergency Food Bank and six years with the Downtown Stockton Alliance. Previously, a 21-year career in daily newspapers helped shape his ... Read Full
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