With more than 60 kilometers of perfectly groomed trails, Bear Valley Cross Country area is an expansive—and impressive—Sierra secret. Paul Petersen and his wife, Dianne, have been running this ski center for 32 years and know the lowdown on all the trails. Rent equipment on-site and settle into the tracks. For a moderately challenging 5-kilometer loop, kick and glide to Equipe Hut (pictured). The first section of the trail is a mellow ski through a meadow, followed by a few short ascents that get the heart pumping. The work is worth it: at the mid-point, Equipe Hut has some of the best views in the park; the Dardanelles and Central Sierra spread across the skyline, making a spectacular backdrop for your snack break. Sign the guest book, refill your water bottle and enjoy the winding descent back to the main meadow.
BONUS: Stop for some tasty chili in a bread bowl and hot chocolate at the Meadow Café warming hut. It's a short 1-kilometer ski from the main trailhead. Follow your nose to the smell of burgers sizzling on the barbecue.
There is a $22 trail fee to use Bear Valley Cross Country area ski tracks. Rental packages (skis, boots, poles) are available onsite for $20.