The Bear Valley and Lake Alpine region of Alpine County has a rich history, and today hosts thousands of visitors, many who take part in the wide recreational activities available throughout the year.
This area was originally named Grizzly Bear Valley by a survey party exploring the possibilities of a major highway and railroad line in August of 1855. The party was led by O.B. Powers, in his report, he says they named it Grizzly Bear Valley because of “an abundance of bear signs”. Highway 4 was designated a National Scenic Byway in October 2005 by the US Department of Transportation.
John Ebbetts is not known to have ever traversed Ebbetts Pass. He is said to have pointed in the general direction of Ebbetts Pass from Antelope Peak. But Ebbetts Pass is not visible from Antelope Peak. And if he was pointing in this direction, he was more likely referring to Border Ruffian Pass, which was the route of choice (called the Big Tree Road) until the silver rush made a new route necessary. A surveyor named Goddard was a friend of Ebbetts; after Ebbetts died in a boiler explosion during an illegal steam boat race, Goddard suggested naming the new route after Ebbetts.
Development of the Bear Valley Village and nearby ski area began in the early 1960’s. Located on the site of Blood’s Toll Station, homesteaded by Harvey Blood a hundred years earlier, development began with the purchase of 480 acres in 1952 by the Orvis family, prominent San Joaquin Valley ranchers.
In 1955, 20 acres on the north side of the valley were subdivided, marking the beginning of today’s Bear Valley community.
The Bear Valley Mountain Resort, originally named Mt. Reba, opened in December 1967, while the construction of homes, condominiums and commercial facilities began about the same time. Nearby Lake Alpine, a manmade reservoir, offers a rustic lodge, cabins, restaurant and store, as well as a large concentration of camping facilities.
Today, Bear Valley is a recreational paradise, offering a multitude of summer and winter sports, and is close to foothill golf courses and the Calaveras Big Trees State Park. The community is also home to the oldest cultural event in Alpine County, the Bear Valley Music Festival, held every July/August.