The Area


Recreation opportunities abound in the area surrounding Five Bears Cabin.   Although Blue Lake Springs is a popular destination for visitors in Summer and Winter, those in the know appreciate the beauty of the area in the Spring and Fall.

There is something for everyone here.  These are a few of our favorite things:

(And check for “Deals” on!)


Playing in sand at Lodge Lake
Duck crossing
Summertime at Lodge Lake
The pool at Snowflake Lodge
Flick and Float – Outdoor Movie Nights at Snowflake Lodge

Snowflake Lodge is our neighborhood association’s recreation center.  It is open year-round and is about a 10 minute walk from the cabin.  Check out the summer activities in the Summer Recreation Handbook on their website (we also have a copy at the cabin).  You will need to take our Guest Pass (which is located on the cabin’s keychain) and pay a guest fee.  There are two lakes – Lodge Lake and Fly-In Lake (located nearby), a pool, tennis courts, basketball courts, ping pong, shuffle board, bocce ball, horseshoes and a snack bar.  Daily and weekly family passes are available for purchase.  For the 4th of July, they stock the lake and hold a fishing derby.  Outdoor bingo and movies are shown on Saturdays and certain weekdays during the summer; check the Summer Recreation Handbook for specific dates and movies.

Our neighborhood restaurant at Snowflake Lodge is open on Friday and Saturday nights for dinner and also hosts special events on certain holidays.  You will want to make a reservation using our Lot and Unit Numbers found on the Guest Pass.  BYOB (no corkage fee!) and treat yourself to a delicious meal.


There are many excellent dining options right here in Arnold!  Sarafina’s Italian Kitchen always draws crowds, and is joined by relative newcomer Dogwood.  More casual options include Snowshoe Brewing Company, El Vaquero, Arnold Chinese and The Ranch House Café.  And for super casual (and take out), there are Subway, Giant Burger and Round Table Pizza.  Our local market – Big Trees Market – is well stocked if you would prefer to eat at home.


Murphys is a small, gold-rush era town you will pass through about 20 minutes before reaching the cabin.  It is full of historic architecture, boutiques, restaurants and wineries/tasting rooms.

Compared to Wine Country, Murphys is quaint and accessible.  Wine aficionados appreciate Hatcher Winery and Newsom Harlow.  We like Lavender Ridge because they pair their wine tastings with cheese and host fun events.  Also, we frequent Val du Vino and its sister winery, Allegorie for their welcoming atmosphere and arts & crafts gallery.  Ayrial Vieux is (like Coppermine) off of Murphys Main Street, located on a street off of Murphys Grade Road.  It is a limited production, artisan vineyard and winery, producing wines from grapes grown on their estate.

Winemaker for a Day Event at Lavender Ridge
Lunch in Cellar at Lavender Ridge’s Winemaker Event

In comparison, Ironstone Winery ( has an enormous tasting room with a 42’ stone fireplace, set among gorgeous gardens.  We go for the beautiful setting and, for kids, it’s a great place to run around.  Ironstone has a deli so you can buy drinks & food and then picnic on their grounds.

Playing at Ironstone

Historic downtown Murphys has a town square with a gazebo, playground, picnic area, lawns, a creek and a bocce ball court.

Gazebo in Murphys Community Park
Murphys Playground
Lazy Summer Days at the Creek in Murphys Community Park
Floating down the Creek

For dining in Murphys, we like Grounds (breakfast), Alchemy Restaurant (lunch) and V Restaurant and/or V Bistro.  In nice weather, we like to eat outside at the Murphys Hotel.   Grab a cup of locally-roasted coffee at the Gold Country Roasters, visit Nelson’s Candies to experience an old fashioned candy shop, and treat yourself to a scoop of delicious homemade ice cream at JoMa’s.

Special events in Murphys include Irish days in March, the Grape Stomp in October, the Jumping Frog Jubilee & County Fair (in Angels Camp) in May and multiple weekend wine festivals.


The slopes less traveled
Learning to Ski
Ski Bear

Check out the best places to sled in the area:

Snow sports in the winter, outdoor adventures in the summer.

Bear Valley Adventure Park in Summer



On top of the Big Stump
In the nook of a Big Tree
Feeling small

Whitewater Rafting

Whitewater Rafting

Oars offers a Class IV+ 1 day whitewater rafting trip on the North Fork of the Stanislaus River through Big Trees State Park.  This adventure is not for beginners and has a minimum age of 14 (16 during high water).  You can contact Oars for trips at other locations for different experience levels and ages.  We did a 1-day trip with Oars to the South Fork of the American River and all 5 of us (at the time, our daughter was 9 and our boys were 12) had a blast.



The Cave at Natural Bridges
Playing in Stream at Natural Bridges

About a mile hike down to an amazing waterway running through caverns that look like they belong in South America (or Disneyland!).  Bring a raft to cruise from one side to the other.



Lake Alpine

Lake Alpine

 Spicer Meadow, Utica and Union Reservoirs

White Pines Lake

For fishing, kayaking and enjoying the natural beauty of the lake.  The area was originally a lumber mill, so you can stop in to the Sierra Nevada Logging Museum for a little local history.


Enjoying Ring Pops at the Stanislaus River

A few minutes east up Highway 4 from Arnold is the neighborhood of Big Trees Village.  Wind through the neighborhood for an insider’s path to the Stanislaus River for camping, fishing and swimming.  Take Boards Crossing Road 5 miles down to the Stanislaus River.  This path is a free river access, but the road is closed in the winter.



Many artists and craftspeople call this area their home.  Murphys Art Gallery features the work of local painters (including Sarah Evans’ oil paintings and Martha Wallace’s watercolors), and occasionally photographers and wood workers.  You can view Bill Poulson’s stunning art glass at Poulson Art Glass ( in the Cedar Center in Arnold along with his wife Bobbette Budworth’s glass works.  Timeless Home Gallery in Arnold ( sometimes holds pop ups to showcase their furniture.  There are numerous festivals and fairs throughout the year in Murphys, Arnold and Bear Valley that feature the work of local and visiting artists.

Check out Linda Trent’s hand-crafted jewelry ( alongside beautiful home decor at Nd&Z in Murphys.

If you appreciate handcrafted pottery, you won’t want to miss Quyle Kilns (  Look for an old red pick-up truck along the stretch of Highway 4 between Arnold and Murphys.  Pamela Quyle runs the operation which has been in her family since the 1950s.  They locally mine and process raw clay, produce handmade pottery and feature the work of skilled potters such as Tim Hanrahan and Marcus Tikotsky.  Pamela offers visitors a fascinating tour of her facility, which includes the kilns, the pigment room and the clay manufacturing machinery.



Another quaint, gold-rush era town.  This one has saloons (don’t miss the Sarsaparilla: and, in summer, fun activities such as panning for gold, horse-drawn carriage rides and candle-dipping (some of these are only offered on weekends).

Panning for Gold in Columbia
Candle Making
Old Stagecoach in Columbia

Moaning Caverns

You can walk or rappel down in to the cavern, and ride their twin zip lines


Big Trees Market

A well-stocked market here in Arnold.  No need to bring food from home!

Ebbetts Pass Sporting Goods The guys here have a lot of information on local outdoor activities, so I would suggest stopping by if you want to find out about places to fish or hike.