Bear Valley Village
Photo © Dick James Photography
Bear Valley Village is a year-round mountain resort community shaped by the early Native Americans who called it home followed by pioneers and immigrants as early as the 1820s seeking gold, mountain men and trappers, and skiers enjoying Mount Reba and the back-country of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Bear Valley Village honors its past with a robust mountain culture that permeates the quaint village.
Located in central Northern California, the village is conveniently accessible via the all-weather historic Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway (Highway 4) corridor. Bear Valley Village is home to a variety of services, shops, restaurants and a wide range of accommodations. Surrounded by two of California's largest federally designated wilderness areas and the Stanislaus National Forest, outdoor activities in Bear Valley are abundant. Winters provide skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. Hiking, fishing, cycling, rock climbing, kayaking, camping and a variety of cultural events make for perfect summer companion activities.
Rest your pioneer spirit and replenish with dinner at the Creekside Dining Room. Next day, take in the views from the Bear Valley Mountain Resort, of which any time of year are absolutely breathtaking - picture perfect. From the southern lot, travelers can view the Dardanelle Range with its signature "sleeping lion" and "elephant" outcroppings. A short drive to the end of the resort brings you to the spectacular Mokelumne Peak and canyon. You won't want to lean over too far!
The huge bedrock mortars, once used by the California Native Americans to grind acorns, rest on each side of the colorful history of Bear Valley. There are tales of notable personalities like Jedediah Smith, who appeared in the area as early as 1827 on a return trip to the Great Salt Lake. Major John Ebbetts, the man after whom the pass was named, recommended this region for Trans-Sierra railroad and is credited for the original route that is now Highway 4.
Early Bear Valley Summer Vacationers - 1890
When Harvey Blood arrived in "Grizzly Bear Valley" gold seekers and immigrants had already passed through while crossing the Sierras. During the 1860s, Harvey Blood and Jonathan Curtis arranged an agreement with the Big Trees ~ Carson Valley Turnpike Co. to finish the route over Ebbett's Pass, to maintain and repair the road, plus collect assessed tolls for wagons and livestock.
A Car Rally at the Blood's Toll Station - 1920
Blood's Toll Station & Hotel were built on the present Bear Valley Meadow site and were run by his wife, daughter Reba and the family Chinese cook. Legend has it that the red-haired Reba would "borrow" freshly baked pies cooling on the windowsill to take to the survey men working on Ebbetts Pass. In appreciation, the men named a prominent mountain after Reba. The Bloods ran the toll station until 1887 when their contract expired.
A Young Reba Blood
The toll road then became a public thoroughfare in 1910 and was incorporated into the State Highway System called "Alpine Highways".
The Bear Valley area was also home to many mountain men and trappers. One who attained notoriety was Monte Wolfe. Actually an ex-con named Archey Wright, Monte trapped the present Mokelumne Wilderness Area for pelts which he sold in Stockton and San Francisco. This end of an era mountain man disappeared mysteriously without a trace. One of his early log cabins is still standing several miles from Bear Valley village, a tribute to a mountain man's life.
Local Trapper and Mountain Man Monte Wolfe
During the winter months in the early 1930's, U.S. Forest Service Ranger, Harry Schimke, began to ski from Camp Connell and Tamarack to Bear Valley and points beyond to measure snow depths and for personal recreation. Harry was instrumental in the development of Mt. Reba Ski Resort three decades later.
In 1952, Bruce and Jim Orvis, and their father William purchased Blood's Meadow (the present Bear Valley Meadow) from Bishop Land and Mining Co. The fourth generation San Joaquin Valley ranchers brought their cattle to Bear Valley to graze in the meadow during the summer. It was Bruce's inspiration and efforts that began the initial development of Bear Valley Village and the Bear Valley Lodge. Maury Rasmussen, who owned a local logging and mill operation collaborated in the development and opening of Mt. Reba Ski Resort in 1967, now referred to as Bear Valley Mountain Resort.