Spring season is upon us! While many people associate the Golden State with sunny skies and beaches, California also has some of the country’s most ripping terrain when it comes to skiing & snowboarding. The best way to hit as much of it as you can is with an Ikon Pass, which will soon be on sale for the 24-25 season. Another Ikon Pass bonus? Get free spring skiing access in 2024 at all California destinations.
Mountain I: Big Bear Mountain Resort
Three Mountain Resorts: Bear Mountain and Snow Summit
Days to Spend: 3
Getting Here: Surf to Snow in Under 2 Hours
Few places in the world offer as much proximity to the mountains, ocean, and cityscapes as Southern California (SoCal). If you are starting your Spring Road Trip in SoCal, you have the opportunity to experience all three and complete the California Trifecta – surfing, skateboarding, and skiing or snowboarding – between sunrise and happy hour, and there’s no better place to start or finish your trip than this three-day itinerary at Big Bear Mountain Resort.
- Big Bear Airport (4 miles / 6 km)*
- Ontario International Airport (58 miles / 93 km)
- Palm Springs International Airport (85 miles / 136 km)
- John Wayne Airport, Orange County (92 miles / 148 km)
- Palmdale Regional Airport (100 miles / 161 km)
- Los Angeles International Airport (118 miles / 190 km)
*Private and charter aircraft only.
Where To Stay: Big Bear has a wide selection of lodging options, from full-service hotels and luxury home rentals to more budget-friendly motels and private cabins. For a full list of lodging properties, go to BigBear.com.* Tip: Lodging rates and availability are usually better Monday-Thursday and non-holiday dates.
*Big Bear Mountain Resort does not own or operate any lodging properties.
Day One at Snow Valley
Your journey begins here. From scenic views and steep peaks to family fun and snow play activities, start your alpine adventure by enjoying Snow Valley located at 35100 CA-18 in Running Springs. Grab a coffee and a quick bite to eat from a local favorite, LuluBelle’s Coffee House and Bakery. From there, head to the hill, throw on your gear, and step up to the chairlifts that start spinning around 8:30AM/9AM. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, this resort has trails for all skill sets. Our beginner terrain offers a comfortable entry point for those wanting to earn their turns. For the more seasoned riders, hit Snow Valley Express as the options are endless. Find your way to The EDGE to hit jibs and jumps in one of our terrain parks, cruise down the hill via Mambo Alley to get back to the main lodge, or traverse across to the iconic Slide Peak zone for more lifts and difficult terrain. Tip: Day lift tickets are valid for same-day use at all three BBMR resorts. Take advantage of the soft snow this spring by riding all resorts in one day if you’re feeling up to the challenge.
Slope side eats on the deck. Refuel your body after a long morning on-hill by stopping by the base area of the resort where you will find an array of dining options from tacos, pasta, burgers, and more. Order a bite to eat from the Chalet Market Place, grab a frosty beverage from Last Run Lounge, then sprawl out on the sun deck while taking in the views. With front-row seats, you’ll be able to eat and sip away while skiers and snowboarders cruise down the slopes.
Excitement for all ages. You don’t have to be a skier or snowboarder to enjoy a fun-filled day on hill. With the new and improved Coyote Creek Tube Park and Snow Play area, adventure seekers of all ages have a chance to play in the snow. From sliding down one of our six tube lanes to enjoying a day making snowballs, there are enough alpine good times to go around so smile big and have fun.
Day Two at Snow Summit
Your trail starts here. Begin your day at SoCal’s premier family-friendly resort, Snow Summit (located at 880 Summit Blvd in Big Bear Lake), with a fresh cup of Starbucks® coffee and breakfast items from Ironwood Coffee. Chairlifts start spinning around 8:30AM/9AM and depending on your skill level, you’ll want to either head to Chair 1 to start on Summit Run or head up to Chair 2 to drop in to Westridge’s famed terrain parks. If you consider yourself a beginner or want to take some warm-up laps, head over to Chair 4 and look for beginner trails that are denoted with a green circle on all trail maps and on-hill directional signage. Tip: On select dates, Ikon Pass holders get early-ups starting at 8AM to access First Tracks. This event is hosted monthly typically beginning in January, though is subject to change based on snow conditions.
High-altitude dining. Snow Summit has 15 on-site dining venues ranging from breakfast and lunch to après. When it’s time to fuel up, swing by a few notable options like Bighorn Smokehouse in the base area to enjoy barbecue with outdoor seating near a fire pit, Asian bowls from Freestyle Bowl, or Garden of Vegan which offers animal-free fare food options. If you’re looking for a liquid pick-me-up, check out Tommi’s on the upper floor of the Main Lodge or the Slopeside Speakeasy next to the base of Chair 2. Tip: Download the BBMR mobile app and use the way-finding feature to locate dining venues, walking paths, restrooms, and more. 23/24 BBMR and Ikon Pass holders receive 10-15% off in-resort dining (excluding alcohol).
Laid-back family fun. Looking for an outdoor activity this winter that’s fun for the whole family? While at Snow Summit, hit the Grizzly Ridge Tube Park to experience the thrill of gliding down the hill as fast as you can in a high-speed snow tube. Restrictions apply.
If you’re traveling with little shredders, read these 10 time-saving tips to make sure your next trip to SoCal’s snow capital is filled with alpine good times from first chair to last laps.
Day Three at Big Bear Mountain Resort
Grab some local goodies and hit the slopes. Located approximately 2-miles from Snow Summit, Bear Mountain is SoCal’s epicenter for progression and development in snow sports, featuring award-winning terrain parks and 748 permitted acres. For a tasty meal before you hit the slopes, check out a cozy, locally owned sit-down spot, the Grizzly Manor Cafe for your breakfast needs. Once en route to Bear Mountain located at 43101 Goldmine Drive in Big Bear Lake, swing by Dank Donuts for an assortment of hand-made specialty donuts, breakfast burritos, and tasty treats for your four-legged fur companions.
Have fun in the sun (deck). Taking laps and hitting the park makes a body go hungry so when you’re ready for a meal break, hit the sun-deck and chow down on a giant baked potato at Spuds or grab a hot dog, or even a hot pretzel, from Hot Dawgs & Hand Rails. As the day winds down, end your day with some can’t-miss après inside the lodge at Methods or at Laybacks Bar on the 13,000 square-foot sun-deck while watching park-goers throw down in The Scene terrain park at the base of the hill. It’s the perfect place to recap the day with your crew while enjoying your favorite beverage.
Hit the town. After you’ve had your fill of fun on the slopes, stop by the Big Bear Village for some shopping, dining, live music, and more! Explore a full list of local attractions and be sure to swing by the BBMR Visitors Center Station on your way out of town to purchase some merch to represent your favorite SoCal mountain resorts. Tip: Check out this Instagram-worthy photo opt spots blog to capture the popular backdrops in Big Bear Lake.
Want to Learn More About Everything Big Bear Lake Has to Offer? Check out the 2023/2024 Visitors Center Magazine.
Driving from Big Bear Mountain Resort to Mammoth Mountain
From Big Bear Mountain Resort, head down towards CA-18 and follow directions for US-395. Highway 395 is a National Scenic Byway for a reason. Words can’t do justice to how magnificent this area is — especially the mountain views. You’ll want to have your camera ready for this portion of the trip.
- CA-18 to Big Bear Lake
- CA-247 South/Barstow Road
- I-15 North
- CA-58 East
- US-395 South
Approximate Drive Time: 5 hours and 15 minutes
Have Some Time to Spare on the Way Up?
On your way out of Big Bear Lake, stop by Café 247, a one-of-a-kind cafe in Lucerne Valley is known for having the best BBQ in the High Desert and all-day breakfast menu. Looking for a lunch locale? When you pass through Bishop be sure to check out the Mountain Rambler Brewery, known for its artisan ales, or Erick Schat’s Bakkery — home or a loaf of The Original Sheepherder Bread® — then head to Keough’s Hot Springs to enjoy the benefits of a quick mineral soak before continuing your quest.
SCENIC SPOTS & STOPPING POINTS
- Lone Pine: Popular town for outdoor enthusiasts heading to/from Mount Whitney, aka the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States (elev. 14,505 feet). The former site of numerous Western films, Lone Pine is home to the Museum of Western Film History and hosts an annual film festival for cinephiles that celebrate the old west.
- US-395 Statues: Check out this eclectic art installation by Jael Hoffman Location: Olchana, CA (approx. 80 miles south of Bishop)
Mountain II: Mammoth Mountain
Days to Spend: 2
Closest Airport: Mammoth Yosemite Airport (MMH) or Bishop Airport (BIH)
Where to Stay: The Mammoth Mountain Inn puts you closest to all the action. Located across from Main Lodge, you are steps away from the slopes with convenient dining options and easy access to skier services. If you like more deluxe digs check out our Luxury Homes Collection properties and get ready to get lavish.
Tip: Use your Ikon Pass holder lodging discount for the best price.
Day One at Mammoth Mountain
Book a morning lesson with one of our experienced Ski School instructors. Not only is this a great way to get your feet under you if it’s been a while since you’ve been on the snow, it’s also the perfect way to get a lay of the land on our big, beautiful mountain.
For a well-deserved refuel, stop by Yodler Restaurant & Bar (steps from Main Lodge and the Mammoth Mountain Inn). Reserve a spot for bottomless fondue on Saturdays where you and your crew will enjoy cheese and chocolate fondue with all the fixins as well as bottomless schnapps, all with a great view of the slopes.
Snag an afternoon time slot at Woolly’s Tube Park to round out your day of snow play. Take as many laps as you can on our lift-assisted snow tube lanes and enjoy the large snow play area and heated deck.
Venture down to The Village in the evening for shopping and dinner. Stop by our all-new Rider Room to see where art and style collide (located next to McCoy’s). Cap off your perfect mountain day with the perfect meal at Yama Ramen or 53 Kitchen & Cocktails
Day Two at Mammoth Mountain
There’s no better, or more beautiful, way to get your body up and moving than cross-country skiing at Tamarack Cross-Country Ski Center. Just a short drive away lies gorgeous views and perfectly groomed trails. Rental equipment is available.
Grab a late breakfast or lunch in the Village and then take the gondola up to Canyon Lodge to keep the snow fun going. Check out our world-class Unbound Terrain Parks as you explore Mammoth and be sure to take a trip to the summit for a stunning view of the area.
Afternoons are for Après and we do it up right. Check out the scene at Canyon Lodge every Friday and Saturday for giveaways, drink specials, and a live DJ. For fun with the littles, venture down to The Village every Saturday for Woolly’s Dance Party, a free event, fun for the whole family. Catching us mid-week? Plan an unforgettable Snowmobile Adventure to round out a day of big mountain fun.
Tip: Reserve activities in advance and use your Ikon Pass discounts for the best savings.
Driving from Mammoth Mountain to June Mountain
- Take Mammoth Scenic Loop OR CA-203 to US-395 North
- Exit CA-128
Approximate Drive Time: 35 minutes
Mountain III: June Mountain
Days to Spend: 1
Closest Airport: Mammoth Yosemite Airport (MMH) or Bishop Airport (BIH)
Where to Stay: The Double Eagle Resort is a quick five-minute drive away from June Mountain and provides both the rustic charm of 2-bedroom cabins or luxury rooms that overlook a gorgeous fishing pond. If you are looking for accommodations centrally located in the village of June Lake the June Lake Motel is not only affordable but also within walking distance from restaurants, shops, and galleries.
Day One at June Mountain
June Mountain is unique in that you ride a chairlift 1000 feet up to get to The Chalet. Rentals, retail, the June Mountain Ski School, cafeteria, and world-famous Antler Bar are all located at The Chalet. With its jaw-dropping views, you’ll want to budget time to relax and take it all in.
Whether it’s your first day on the slopes or you’re looking to get your little guys started, our top-notch instructors teach the FUNdamentals to give you the confidence to go bigger and faster in no time. Book a lesson in advance and get ready to shred. Once you get the lay of the land, hop on J6 and fly up to the top of Rainbow Peak where then traverse down to J7. Trails branch out in 150 degrees from the top of J7 offering up a multitude of terrain, aspect, and pitch and the grooming is impeccable.
Tip: The perfect location for families, kids 12 and under ski/ ride FREE at June Mountain.
A day at June Mountain is an uplifting, soulful adventure. As you make your way back down to the parking lot it’s almost like a return to civilization and in this case, it’s one with a world-class brewery. June Lake Brewery is famous for its West Coast IPAs, Blonde Ale, and award-winning Deer Beer Brown Ale. Owned and operated by June Lake locals, JLB goes hand in hand with the June Mountain experience. Ohanas395 is a food truck on-site offering up Aloha-infused soul food in the Eastern Sierra. If you’re looking for more upscale dining Talons at the Double Eagle is the spot.
Driving from June Mountain to Palisades Tahoe Resort
- US-395 North
- US-50 West
- Highway 89
The drive between June and Palisades Tahoe via Highway 395 is one of the most beautiful drives in the country. You’ll cross from California into Nevada near Topaz Lake, and we recommend fueling up your car in Gardnerville or Minden to get a better gas price. Are you missing Schat’s Bakery already? You’re in luck: They just opened another location in Minden for you to stop at.
Approximate Drive Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Mountain IV: Palisades Tahoe Resort
Days to Spend: Three – and you’ll want one of them to be a Thursday!
Closest Airport: Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) The resort does not offer a shuttle service, but recommends booking with North Tahoe Express for seamless transportation.
Where to Stay: The Village at Palisades Tahoe Hotel. Ikon Pass holders save up to 25%.
What makes Palisades Tahoe so special? Beyond the 6,000 skiable acres and sunshine nearly 300 days a year, it’s the resort’s proximity to one of Northern California’s most spectacular places: Lake Tahoe. Sweeping views of the stunningly blue lake make for a one-of-a-kind experience – one that you won’t soon forget! In spring, you can get the best of both worlds: Skiing in the morning and hanging out lakeside in the afternoon. Multi-sport days are just one of many reasons Palisades Tahoe is known as the Spring Skiing Capital.
Day One: The Village at Palisades Tahoe
Spend your first day at the Palisades side of the resort. When you leave your room in The Village at Palisades Tahoe, you’ll be right in the heart of all the shopping and dining, and just a few steps from the slopes. While you enjoy a coffee from Coffeebar or a burrito from Wildflour, prep for the day by checking out our blog, where we post weekly conditions reports. (If you go to Wildflour, you’ll probably also want to grab a few of their famous chocolate chip cookies for later!) You can also pick from healthy, delicious breakfast options at the brand-new Sun Bowl Poke & Acai restaurant.
If it is your first time visiting, you’ll want to book a customized tour with The North Face Mountain Guides. This is not a lesson; this experience is for ripping skiers and snowboarders who are comfortable on most terrain and want to get a true locals’ insight to the mountain. The North Face Mountain Guides is an especially good option if you’re in a group – and your group gets priority lift line access, entering through a line reserved for our Ski & Snowboard School. Plus, full-day participants receive a free Tekno Hoodie or Fortpoint Flannel.
Is it Thursday? If so, don’t miss all the great deals we have for Ikon Pass holders on Thursdays, including 30% off snowtubing. Plus, enjoy perks like a free hot wax, discounts at retail shops and restaurants, and an additional 10% discount on Friends & Family Tickets.
Spring Pro Tips for Palisades:
- In spring, the bike path along the Truckee River is usually clear of snow. You can rent bikes and bike between The Village at Palisades Tahoe and Tahoe City. Along the river, the path is totally flat and paved the whole way.
- Check our Events Calendar for signature spring events at Palisades like WinterWonderGrass, Cushing Crossing, and Tahoe Truckee Earth Day.
Finally, grab a cozy dinner at one of the restaurants in The Village at Palisades Tahoe. Find a firepit by Fireside Pizza Co. and enjoy hearty pasta dishes or fresh-baked pies, or get a booth at Tremigo Tahoe, a newer joint that serves authentic Mexican food. You’ll want to try the molcajete and the margaritas.
Day Two: Alpine Lodge & Tahoe City
Start your day by jumping on the Base to Base Gondola, which takes you from The Village at Palisades Tahoe to the Alpine Lodge. At Alpine, you can get breakfast from Treats, which is located in the breezeway of the lodge, or from Mogrog Café, which is at the base of the Subway chairlift.
For the best snow conditions, follow the sun throughout the day. If the Lakeview chairlift is open, that’s a good spot to hit mid-morning. Plus, it is called Lakeview for a reason. You’ll want to have those cameras ready! This is a can’t-miss spot for a family or group photo with the Lake prominently featured in the background.
No mountain does spring après quite like Alpine. There are numerous spots to pick from to enjoy an afternoon beverage. We have two on-mountain bars, The Chalet or Ice Bar, which have sunny seating areas and their own unique charm. The most popular spot, though, is the sundeck of the Alpine Lodge. This huge deck has great views of the mountain and tons of seating. You’ll be in the warm sun and close to all the amenities you might need: Meadows Café, Alpine Bar, the rental/demo shop, bathrooms, and more.
Sledding is a popular activity for folks visiting Lake Tahoe, but there is not a sledding hill at Palisades or Alpine. You’ll want to head to Granlibakken for that, which is about 15 minutes away in Tahoe City. Plus, then you can check out the cute town there, which has numerous restaurants and shops, a movie theater, a visitors center, and more. Don’t forget to cross Fanny Bridge to see trout swimming through the dam!
Spring Pro Tips for Alpine:
- Consider grabbing a hot wax on your skis or board before heading out for the day. It is helpful when snow conditions can get sticky by late afternoon.
- Are you a park rider? Tiegel Terrain Park at Alpine (or Gold Coast Park at Palisades) are the places to be in the spring.
- Check our Events Calendar for signature spring events at Alpine like Snow Golf or the Golden Egg Hunt.
Day Three: Truckee & Lake Tahoe
The historic town of Truckee is a can’t-miss spot if you’re in the North Lake Tahoe region. For breakfast, visit The Cornerstone Bakery for warm drinks, delicate desserts, and scrumptious baked goods. Then, coffees in hand, you’ll want to just walk around the town to enjoy old western architecture and one-of-a-kind artisan boutiques. Plus, both the Truckee River and the train tracks run right through the center of town, so you’re likely to see a Union Pacific or Amtrak train chug on by. If you’d like to walk along the river for longer, you can also get to the paved Legacy Trail from downtown.
If Reno, Nevada is your final destination, take the scenic route along the lake when you drive out. Follow Highway 89 past Palisades Tahoe resort to Highway 28, which goes around Lake Tahoe. If you want to get a little beach time in, Commons Beach is right in Tahoe City, or you can check out Kings Beach State Recreation Area, which also has a playground, ice cream, and all sorts of restaurants and shops right nearby.
Once you’ve passed Kings Beach, you’ll cross state lines and be in Nevada. Head up Highway 431, also known as Mt Rose Highway, for epic views of both the Lake and the high Sierra. There are multiple places to turn out, and you could also stop for a hike. There are several hikes that leave from the Meadows, including Chickadee Ridge, Incline Peak, and the Tahoe Meadows Trail. You’ll know when you get there: The mountains open up into a wide-open, grassy area and other cars will be parked along the side of the road. Snowshoes usually aren’t required in springtime.
In Reno, you can see the famous Reno Arch, and if you want to add another sport to your roster, you can actually climb the climbing wall above the arch. That’s right: The Whitney Peak hotel has a huge outdoor climbing wall that towers above downtown Reno, making for great photo opportunities. For food and shopping suggestions in Reno, you’ll want the full scoop, and you can read Palisades Tahoe’s Visitor’s Guide for Reno, Nevada blog here.