Imagine California, and scenes of sun-kissed beaches and perpetual summers may spring to mind. Yet, the Golden State harbors a snowy side brimming with winter fun just waiting to be discovered.
This guide to 30 best places to see snow in California for winter fun takes you from the frosty summits of the Sierra Nevada to the unexpected snowscapes of Southern California and through the white-washed wonderlands of Northern California.
It’s an invitation to those seeking the thrill of the slopes, the joy of family sledding, or the romance of a secluded cabin retreat.
So, grab your warmest coat, and let’s venture into the lesser-known side of California — where the snow creates a winter canvas for fun, adventure, and serene beauty.
Read on to discover each destination’s unique allure and plan your next snowy adventure in California.
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Map of Best Places to see snow in California
Best Places to see snow in Northern California
Uncover the magic of Northern California’s winter! Explore the top spots where snowflakes create a mesmerizing landscape. 🌨️
1. Mount Shasta: A Majestic Winter Getaway
Mount Shasta stands majestically in Northern California, a beacon for adventurers and nature lovers alike.
Not just a single mountain, Shasta is part of a volcanic range that offers breathtaking vistas and a host of winter activities.
As you approach its towering presence, the world seems to open up to reveal a playground for snow enthusiasts.
Whether you’re here to challenge its slopes or simply to bask in its pristine beauty, Mount Shasta is a winter destination that promises memorable experiences for all.
Fear not the volcano beneath your feet; Mount Shasta sleeps soundly as experts from the US Geological Survey keep vigilant watch, ensuring your snowy escapades are as safe as they are exhilarating.
Where to Stay in Mount Shasta
Top Things to Do in Mount Shasta
- Volcanic Ventures: Embark on a guided snowmobile tour that winds through the alpine wilderness. Feel the rush of cool air against your skin as you witness the untamed beauty of the Shasta backcountry.
- Snowy Solitude: Take a meditative walk through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, where the quietude is only broken by the crunch of your boots on the fresh snow.
- Cultural Excursion: Visit the Mount Shasta Sisson Museum to unearth the historical and geological tales of the region, enhancing your appreciation for this magnificent natural landmark.
- Visit Mount Shasta Ski Park: It opens its arms to skiers and snowboarders alike, offering a unique thrill: gliding down the slopes of a volcano.
2. Lassen Volcanic National Park: A Winter Wonderland
Lassen Volcanic National Park transforms into an enchanting winter wonderland, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in a serene world of snowy peaks and frozen lakes.
The land draped in up to 30 feet of pristine snow from December to March, revealing a quieter, more introspective side of nature’s grandeur.
Snowshoe treks led by park rangers are a highlight, weaving through hushed forests where the silence is as profound as the scenery.
These walks are not only a journey over snow but also an educational glimpse into the volcanic forces that shaped these lands.
The topography here is a natural playground. Behind the visitor center, the terrain rises sharply, offering thrilling sledding opportunities for those with a taste for speed.
Alternatively, families find joy in the gentler, snow-covered slopes surrounding Manzanita Lake.
Just a short journey from the park’s frosty domain, Burney Falls competes with the grandeur of Yosemite’s waterfalls, its icy spectacle amplified by the abundant winter waters.
Where to Stay in Lassen Volcanic Park
Top Things to Do in Lassen Volcanic Park
- Embark on a Ranger-Led Snowshoe Walk: Traverse the wintry landscape with a guide, learning about the park’s geological heartbeat. Take a free ranger-led snowshoe tour.
- Sled Down Varied Slopes: Choose your thrill from the steep descents for the brave or the softer, family-friendly hills for some snowy play.
- Marvel at Burney Falls: Don’t miss the dramatic and frozen cascade, where the season’s high waters create an unforgettable natural phenomenon.
3. Trinity Alps: Northern California’s Snow-Kissed Haven
Venture into the heart of the Klamath Mountains, and you’ll find the Trinity Alps, a pristine winter wilderness that captivates with its alpine beauty.
The Alps are a quiet expanse of snow-blanketed meadows and frosted peaks, providing a more secluded alternative to California’s busier winter resorts.
The crisp air and the soft crunch of snow underfoot on a cross-country skiing excursion set the stage for a day of serene exploration.
The vast landscape offers a natural snowshoeing canvas, where each step is accompanied by breathtaking views and the occasional whisper of wildlife.
For those with a passion for winter fishing, the Trinity Alps are home to a number of frozen lakes teeming with trout, presenting a unique ice fishing experience amidst the tranquil surroundings.
Photographers, too, will find their haven here, as the winter light casts a silver glow over the rugged terrain, creating a perfect frame for the untouched beauty of this northern California treasure.
Where to Stay near Trinity Alps
- Cabin with Backyard Space – half Mi to Trinity Lake!
- Rustic Trinity Center Cabin with Deck Near Fishing!
Top Things to Do in the Trinity Alps
- Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing: Traverse the snow-covered landscape of the Trinity Alps, where trails for skiing and snowshoeing abound, offering peace and solitude amidst the towering trees and silent peaks.
- Winter Fishing on Frozen Lakes: For a serene and reflective winter activity, try ice fishing on the alpine lakes known for their trout.
- Explore Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park: Take a break from the snow and step into history at the Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park, home to the oldest continuously used Chinese temple in California. This unique site offers an insightful look into the cultural heritage of the gold rush era and the Chinese community that thrived there.
- Winter Photography Expeditions: Capture the stark beauty of the Trinity Alps’ winter landscape, where the light and shadow play across the snow, creating a photogenic wonderland.
4. Redding to Burney Falls: A Scenic Route to Winter Splendor
Embark on a magical winter drive from Redding, heading northeast to the spectacular Burney Falls, located within the McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park.
This route offers travelers the chance to witness the transformation of the Northern California landscape into a serene winter wonderland.
As you depart Redding, the scenery shifts from urban to the snow-dusted forests and rolling hills of the Shasta Cascade region.
The closer you get to Burney Falls, the more pronounced the snowy blanket becomes, covering the earth in a pristine white layer that sparkles under the winter sun.
Upon arriving at Burney Falls, you’re greeted by the thunderous roar of the 129-foot waterfall. In winter, the mist from the cascading water freezes on surrounding vegetation, creating a delicate icing that adds to the falls’ enchantment.
The surrounding area, often capped with snow, offers a tranquil and refreshing setting for hiking, photography, and simply enjoying the stillness of winter.
Where to Stay near Burney Falls
Top Things to Do from Redding to Burney Falls
- Scenic Winter Driving: Enjoy the beauty of the snow-covered landscape along Highway 299, taking in the sights of the Intermountain area before reaching the falls.
- Hiking at Burney Falls: Take the loop trail around the falls for stunning views and a peaceful hike through the snow-laden forest.
- Photography: Capture the breathtaking contrast between the cascading falls and the icy surroundings, a perfect subject for any winter-themed photo collection.
- Snow Play: Find spots along the route for snowball fights, building snowmen, or simply leaving your footprints in the untouched snow.
This trip not only offers a chance to see one of California’s most beautiful waterfalls but also allows for an immersive experience in the quiet and peace that only a snowy landscape can offer.
Best Places to See Snow in Sierra Nevada
The Sierra Nevada calls to all seeking the serene beauty of snow-covered peaks. Discover the ultimate snowy retreats! ⛄️
5. Truckee: A Hub of Winter Magic and Mountain Charm
Truckee, with its quaint downtown and proximity to some of the best ski resorts, captures the essence of a winter escape in the Sierra Nevada.
In the colder months, this historic town is transformed into a snowy haven, complete with local spots like Johnson Canyon, where families delight in simple joys like sledding and snowman crafting.
For those seeking more structured snow play, Tahoe-Donner offers tubing with monitored lanes, ensuring a fun and safe descent for all ages.
A stone’s throw away, Northstar Resort welcomes skiers and snowboarders to its pristine slopes, promising a premium mountain experience.
After your snowy adventures, you can unwind at the village’s open-air ice rink. It’s a friendly spot where you can enjoy live music and cozy up next to fire pits, perfect for relaxing after a day on the slopes.
Where to Stay in Truckee
Top Things to Do in Truckee
- Snowy Escapades at Johnson Canyon: Revel in the joy of winter with classic snow play activities in a setting favored by locals.
- Tubing at Tahoe-Donner: Slide down the mountain in a thrilling, family-friendly environment, perfect for making lasting memories.
- Skating and Après-Ski at Northstar: Glide across the ice and unwind with good music and great company at Northstar’s picturesque village rink.
6. Soda Springs: A Winter Wonderland for Every Family
Nestled within the snowy crests of the Sierra Nevada, Soda Springs beckons as a family-friendly winter destination with an allure all its own.
As the season wraps the landscape in a soft white blanket, Soda Springs offers an enchanting retreat where the focus is on winter joy and family fun.
At Planet Kids, youngsters can experience the thrill of snow tubing and skiing in an area crafted just for them, ensuring smiles and laughter abound.
The historic Soda Springs Mountain Resort, known for being one of the oldest in the nation, presents an intimate skiing experience with a homey feel that is perfect for beginners and families looking to bond over gentle slopes and comfortable chairlift rides.
Those looking for a magical winter walk can embark on snowshoeing adventures through serene trails, where the silence of falling snow is only broken by the crunch underfoot and the laughter of loved ones.
Where to Stay in Soda Springs
Top Things to Do in Soda Springs
- Delight in Planet Kids: Let your little ones discover the joy of snow in a safe and magical setting.
- Adventure in Tube Town: Get the heart pumping with exhilarating tubing suitable for older children and adults.
- Learn and Play at Woodward Start Park: Embrace the learning curve of winter sports with expertly designed beginner programs.
7. South Lake Tahoe: Glitz, Glamour, and Glistening Slopes
South Lake Tahoe stands out with its blend of natural beauty and city amenities, straddling the Nevada-California border.
Renowned for its vibrant nightlife, complete with casinos and gourmet dining, the area also offers some of California’s most picturesque skiing vistas.
Imagine standing atop a ski run, looking down over the crystalline blue of Lake Tahoe, surrounded by powdery snow—a view that’s as thrilling as the ride down.
For those who prefer leisure over adrenaline, a scenic gondola ride offers a tranquil way to soak in the mountain’s majesty.
Heavenly Mountain Resort is a centerpiece here, known for its extensive ski terrain and as a paradise for snowboarders. When you’re not carving down the slopes, try snowshoeing or enjoy the rush of a snowmobile.
For a taste of Olympic history, a short drive will take you to Palisades Tahoe, the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics.
Palisades Tahoe is revered for its expansive terrain and spirited village atmosphere, providing yet another flavor of the rich Lake Tahoe winter experience.
Practical Tip: If you’re heading to the area during peak times, remember to book your lift passes well in advance—especially for renowned spots like Kirkwood or Palisades Tahoe, where the powder attracts skiers from around the globe.
Where to Stay in South Lake Tahoe:
Top Things to Do in South Lake Tahoe
- Ski or Snowboard with a View: Heavenly and Kirkwood ski resorts offer unparalleled slopes where every turn comes with sweeping views of Lake Tahoe’s crystal waters.
- Take to the Sky on the Gondola: Experience the majesty of the Sierra Nevadas from the Heavenly Gondola, providing awe-inspiring views even for those not hitting the slopes.
- Indulge in the Après-Ski Scene: Embrace the high life with casino visits, gourmet dining, and vibrant nightlife, turning every evening into a celebration of the day’s adventures.
8. Donner Memorial State Park: Where History Meets Natural Splendor
Nestled in the Sierra Nevada, Donner Memorial State Park stands as a testament to the pioneering spirit and a sanctuary of natural beauty.
The park offers visitors a chance to delve into California’s rich history while enjoying the tranquil mountain scenery.
Where to Stay near Donner Memorial State Park
Top Things to Do at Donner Memorial State Park
- Visit the Donner Party Monument: Pay tribute to the pioneers of the ill-fated Donner Party with a visit to the monument that tells their story.
- Explore the Donner Memorial State Park Museum: Learn about the local history, geology, and the native flora and fauna of the region.
- Hike the Trails: Traverse the park’s trails that offer stunning views and a chance to spot local wildlife.
- Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing: In winter, the park’s landscapes transform into a snowy wonderland perfect for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing adventures.
9. Echo Lake: A Serene Snow-Capped Retreat in the Sierra Nevada
Echo Lake, nestled in the high Sierra Nevada and a short distance from Lake Tahoe, offers a serene winter escape with its frozen landscape and snow-blanketed forests.
Whether you’re seeking tranquility away from the busier resorts or looking for a base to explore the surrounding wilderness, Echo Lake is a picturesque choice.
Where to Stay near Echo Lake
Top Things to Do near Echo Lake
- Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing: The area around Echo Lake is ideal for those who enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, with trails offering stunning views of the frozen lake and snow-dusted trees.
- Ice Fishing: For those who enjoy the quiet thrill of fishing, the frozen surface of Echo Lake provides a unique ice fishing experience in the right conditions.
- Photography and Nature Walks: The pristine beauty of the area is perfect for photographers and nature enthusiasts looking to capture the serene landscapes or simply enjoy them on a quiet walk.
- Winter Accessibility: Access to Echo Lake in the winter may require snowshoes or skis, as the roads leading up to it are often covered with snow and not always plowed.
- Local Regulations: Always check for local advisories and regulations, especially regarding ice safety if you’re planning on venturing onto the frozen lake.
While Echo Lake may not have the extensive amenities and accommodations of nearby South Lake Tahoe, its charm lies in its simplicity and the close connection to the surrounding natural beauty.
It’s a place where the stillness of the snowy landscape is likely to resonate with those looking for a more peaceful and introspective winter experience.
10. Hope Valley: A Pristine Alpine Getaway
Tucked away in the Sierra Nevada, Hope Valley offers a tranquil escape with its winter-clad meadows and quiet, snow-draped forests.
It’s a place where cross-country skiers and snowshoers weave through trails, fishers enjoy the solitude of the icy Carson River, and stargazers gaze into clear, dark skies.
Close to the skiing action at Kirkwood but far from the crowds, this valley is perfect for those seeking a balance of thrill and peace.
At the Hope Valley Sno-Park, families enjoy snowmobiling and dog sledding, while Hope Valley Outdoors offers equipment for a day on the slopes.
For a warm respite, the Grover Hot Springs State Park provides natural mineral pools, open year-round by reservation.
Cozy up in cabins or the Kirkwood Mountain Resort and wake to views of frost-kissed pines and tranquil winter mornings.
Where to Stay in Hope Valley
Top Things to Do in Hope Valley
- Cross-Country Skiing: Traverse the Valley’s extensive network of trails and revel in the alpine serenity.
- Snowshoeing Adventures: Step into snowshoes and discover the quiet beauty of the backcountry.
- Winter Fishing: Challenge yourself with fly-fishing in the cold streams for a unique and rewarding experience.
- Stargazing: After a day in the snow, look up to appreciate the clear, starry night skies that Hope Valley is known for.
- Hot Springs: Unwind in the natural hot springs at Grover State Park after a day in the snow
Hope Valley offers a tranquil alternative to the more commercialized and busy areas, and it can be a highlight for visitors seeking a more intimate connection with nature during the winter season.
11. Bear Valley and Arnold: Sierra Nevada’s Snowy Retreats
Nestled in the heart of the Sierra Nevada, the adjoining areas of Bear Valley and Arnold offer a seamless winter wonderland experience.
Bear Valley is known for its ski resort that caters to all, from families seeking gentle slopes for their first runs to experts chasing the thrill of challenging terrain. Its laid-back ambiance is complemented by plentiful snow, ideal for creating that perfect powder day.
Arnold sits just a stone’s throw away, serving as the perfect cozy town to unwind after a day in the snow.
This charming community is the ideal staging ground for snowshoe walks among ancient sequoias at Calaveras Big Trees State Park, ensuring your trip is imbued with both adventure and natural wonder.
Where to Stay in Bear Valley
Top Things to Do
- Explore the Slopes of Bear Valley: Known for its family-friendly atmosphere, Bear Valley is the go-to destination for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. With a variety of runs ranging from beginner to expert, it’s a winter sports haven.
- Snowshoeing Adventures: For a change of pace, strap on some snowshoes and explore the serene landscapes. Bear Valley offers trails that showcase the quiet beauty of the Sierra Nevadas under a blanket of snow.
- Visit Calaveras Big Trees State Park: Bask in the majesty of the giant sequoias, a serene spectacle in the snow-covered Calaveras Big Trees State Park.
12. Yosemite National Park
Embraced by the chill of winter, Yosemite National Park is a realm reminiscent of a Narnian landscape, where the giant sequoias don a cloak of snow, and the bustle of crowds gives way to tranquil solitude.
This enchanting season paints the park in shades of calm and frosty splendor, making it a personal favorite time for many to visit.
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Where to Stay in Yosemite National Park
Top Things to Do in Yosemite National Park
- Witness the Frozen Beauty of Yosemite Falls: Marvel at the iconic waterfall as it often freezes, creating a spectacular ice formation known as a “snow cone” at its base.
- Snowshoe Among Giant Sequoias: Trek through the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, where the massive trees stand sentinel over a silent, snowy landscape.
- Capture the Winter Light on Camera: Photographers can find a unique opportunity in the Valley, where the low winter sun casts dramatic light on El Capitan and Half Dome.
- Experience the Firefall Phenomenon: If conditions are right, watch as Horsetail Fall glows orange at sunset in mid-February, resembling a stream of flowing lava.
- Stargaze Under Clear Winter Skies: With minimal light pollution and often clear skies, winter nights in Yosemite are ideal for stargazing.
- Skate Beneath Half Dome: Experience the unique thrill of ice skating in the shadow of Half Dome, a rare and whimsical activity for a national park.
- Ski the Slopes of Badger Pass: Carve through the powder at Badger Pass Ski Area, a family-friendly destination with slopes for all skill levels.
- Revel in the Bracebridge Dinner: Indulge in the pageantry and festive atmosphere of the Bracebridge Dinner, an annual event held in December that transforms The Ahwahnee into an old-English manor for a sumptuous feast.
Venturing into Yosemite in winter is magical but demands preparation. Chains or winter tires, along with all-wheel drive, are not just recommended but required when entering the park during these snowy months.
13. Mono Lake: An Ancient Alkaline Oasis
Mono Lake, an otherworldly expanse dating back over 760,000 years, enchants visitors with its eerie beauty and the stoic tufa towers that rise from its alkaline waters.
In winter, the lake takes on a surreal quietude, as the surrounding high desert landscape is blanketed in snow, offering a stark yet beautiful contrast.
Birdwatchers gather here to observe the migratory birds that make the lake a temporary haven, while photographers find the crisp air and the soft winter light perfect for capturing the unique landscape.
Where to Stay near Mono Lake
Top Things to Do at Mono Lake
- Tufa State Natural Reserve: Wander among the iconic tufa formations along the lakeshore.
- Birdwatching: Experience the annual migration of thousands of birds stopping at this vital ecosystem.
- Explore the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area: Visit the Scenic Area Visitor Center to learn about the high desert ecosystem and the natural history of the Mono Basin.
14. June Lake: The Quintessential Mountain Hamlet
June Lake, often referred to as the ‘Switzerland of California,’ offers a serene winter retreat with its loop of four glacial lakes and the ski slopes of June Mountain.
This hidden gem is perfect for families and those seeking a quieter alternative to the nearby bustling resorts.
The community celebrates the season with charming local events, while the mountain itself provides a range of winter sports opportunities without the typical crowds, allowing for a more relaxed ski or snowboarding experience.
Where to Stay in June Lake
Top Things to Do in June Lake:
- Skiing at June Mountain: Enjoy uncrowded slopes suitable for all levels.
- Snowshoeing Around the Lakes: Breathe in the crisp mountain air on a peaceful snowshoe hike.
- Local Winter Events: Immerse yourself in the community with winter festivals and gatherings.
15. Mammoth Lakes
Nestled in the Eastern Sierra, Mammoth Lakes is an alpine haven known for its mammoth-sized skiing terrain and stunning natural beauty.
Winter brings a blanket of snow that transforms the area into a white paradise, beckoning snow sports enthusiasts from all over.
Where to Stay in Mammoth Lakes:
Top Things to Do in Mammoth Lakes:
- Ski or Snowboard on Mammoth Mountain: With over 3,500 acres of skiable terrain, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area offers a challenge for every level of skier and snowboarder.
- Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing: Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center provides an extensive trail system through serene forests and meadows.
- Snowmobile Adventures: Explore the vast, snow-covered wilderness on a guided snowmobile tour.
- Après-Ski in The Village: Enjoy the lively après-ski scene with an array of shops, restaurants, and nightlife options.
16. Convict Lake: A Picture-Perfect Winter Escape
Just a short drive from Mammoth Lakes, Convict Lake is a serene, crystal-clear body of water framed by steep mountains and alpine forests.
It’s particularly striking in the winter when snowfall accentuates its dramatic landscape.
Where to Stay Near Convict Lake
Top Things to Do at Convict Lake
- Winter Photography: Capture the breathtaking scenery of the lake with its surrounding snow-capped peaks.
- Ice Fishing: Try your luck at catching trout in the well-stocked lake during the winter months.
- Snowshoeing: Trek around the lake’s perimeter or explore the backcountry trails that offer solitude and natural beauty.
- Relax and Recharge: Absorb the peaceful atmosphere of Convict Lake with a stay in one of the cozy cabins by the water.
17. Shaver Lake: A Historical Haven Turned Snowy Playground
An hour northeast of Fresno, Shaver Lake is not just a hub for generating electricity for Los Angeles but also a focal point for wintertime fun.
Perched at an elevation of 5,000 feet, this lake is a picturesque spot that dons a snowy cap in the winter months, providing a scenic backdrop for outdoor activities.
The area around Shaver Lake is a treasure trove for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing enthusiasts, with 12 miles of trails winding through tranquil forests and serene meadows.
The crunch of fresh snow and the crisp mountain air offer an invigorating escape from the everyday.
These dedicated snow parks above Shaver Lake on Highway 168 are the go-to places for sledding and tubing, where laughter echoes amidst the snowy slopes and creates an atmosphere of pure joy.
But Shaver Lake’s allure extends beyond the trails and sledding hills. It remains an angler’s delight throughout the year, with the prospect of fishing amidst the tranquil winter setting.
And for visitors wanting to stay overnight, the lake is surrounded by camping spots that offer a chance to sleep under a canopy of stars, enveloped by the quiet beauty of a snow-laden landscape.
Where to Stay in Shaver Lake
Top Things to Do in Shaver Lake
- Snow Play: The Shaver Lake area offers various snow parks perfect for building snowmen, snowball fights, and sledding.
- Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing: Hit the trails around Shaver Lake for a quiet and scenic winter workout.
- Cabin Time: Rent a rustic cabin for a cozy retreat after a day of winter fun.
- Local Cuisine: Warm up with hearty meals at the local eateries, known for their welcoming atmosphere and delicious comfort food.
Each of these locations offers its own unique slice of Sierra Nevada winter wonder, providing countless opportunities for creating lasting memories amid the snow and scenery.
18. China Peak Mountain Resort: Sierra Nevada’s Winter Sports Destination
Nestled in the Sierra Nevada, a mere stone’s throw from Shaver Lake, China Peak Mountain Resort stands as a beacon for snow enthusiasts.
At an impressive elevation that guarantees a snowy paradise, this resort is fashioned for both the adrenaline-seeker and the peace-chaser.
China Peak offers a wealth of winter activities, with slopes that cater to every skill level, from the first-time skier to the seasoned snowboarder.
Its well-groomed trails promise a smooth ride down the mountain, while the untouched backcountry areas beckon the adventurous at heart.
For those not inclined to race down slopes, the resort’s picturesque setting is perfect for quieter pursuits. Snowshoeing trails meander through the alpine scenery, offering a serene commune with nature.
And when the sun sets, the resort transforms into an enchanting winter haven, with the cozy fires of the lodges inviting guests to share stories of their day’s escapades.
Beyond the slopes, China Peak is a hub of vibrancy, hosting events throughout the season that bring together a community of winter sports enthusiasts.
It’s not just a destination; it’s an experience, wrapped up in the crisp, clean air of the high mountains.
Where to Stay Near China Peak Mountain Resort
Top Things to Do at China Peak Mountain Resort
- Skiing and Snowboarding: Tackle a range of runs that will challenge and delight all levels of skiers and snowboarders.
- Backcountry Adventures: Explore the off-piste areas for an exhilarating experience amidst the pristine beauty of the Sierra Nevada.
- Apres-Ski: Unwind in the resort’s lodges with a hot drink, hearty meal, and the camaraderie of fellow winter sports aficionados.
Practical Info: China Peak Mountain Resort is a comprehensive snow-covered retreat that embodies the thrill of winter sports along with the tranquility of mountain life.
Whether you’re carving down runs, exploring the backcountry, or simply enjoying the mountain ambiance, China Peak is an essential destination for a quintessential California winter.
19. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park: Giants in Winter
Sequoia National Park, alongside its sister park Kings Canyon, is an exceptional winter destination.
The snowy blanket draping the massive redwoods offers a stunning visual contrast that’s particularly breathtaking during the colder months.
At Sequoia National Park, the winter season turns Wolverton Meadow into a delightful snowy retreat where visitors can engage in snowshoeing, snowman building, or the age-old tradition of snowball throwing.
A snowy trek through the Giant Forest leads to the General Sherman Tree, an astonishing titan among trees, stretching 100 feet around its base.
For those seeking adventure, a six-mile journey uphill will bring you to Pear Lake Cabin, a haven for backcountry skiers nestled in the winter wilderness.
Meanwhile, Kings Canyon National Park becomes a serene snowy expanse perfect for winter visits.
The park is the proud home of the General Grant Tree, celebrated as the “Nation’s Christmas Tree” and revered as the world’s second-largest tree, with a history spanning 3,000 years.
The nearby Grant Grove also offers an inviting landscape for snowy play and exploration.
Where to Stay near Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
Top Things to Do in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks:
- Giant Forest Museum: Start your visit with an informative overview of the park’s history and the natural environment.
- General Sherman Tree: Witness the world’s largest tree by volume, especially awe-inspiring with a dusting of fresh snow.
- Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing: Trek through the Grant Grove area or the Big Trees Trail with snowshoes or skis.
- Moro Rock in Winter: For those who are well-prepared, a climb up Moro Rock offers panoramic views of the snow-covered High Sierra.
20. Mount Whitney: The Peak of Winter Splendor
Mount Whitney stands as the highest summit in the contiguous United States, and it’s a striking sight in the winter.
Access to the peak itself is usually reserved for experienced mountaineers during the colder months, but the surrounding area still offers much for winter visitors.
Where to Stay near Mount Whitney:
Top Things to Do around Mount Whitney:
- Alabama Hills Recreation Area: Explore the lower elevation of the Alabama Hills, where winter conditions are milder and the rocky landscape is dotted with snow.
- Lone Pine Film History Museum: Learn about the Western films shot in the area with the stunning Sierra Nevada as the backdrop.
- Mount Whitney Trail: While reaching the summit in winter is a serious mountaineering endeavor, the lower parts of the trail can still be accessible for day hikes or snowshoeing excursions, offering beautiful winter vistas.
- Eastern Sierra Interpretive Center: Stop by to learn about the local geography, flora, and fauna, as well as to get updates on trail conditions and safety information for winter excursions.
Visiting these parks in winter offers a tranquil experience, far from the bustling summer crowds, where the silence of the snowy forests and the beauty of the high mountains can be appreciated in their full glory.
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21. Lake Arrowhead
Nestled in the majestic mountains of the San Bernardino National Forest, Lake Arrowhead offers an idyllic escape with its crystal-clear lake and picturesque surroundings.
Known as “The Alps of Southern California,” this tranquil retreat boasts a unique blend of natural beauty and upscale amenities.
This stunning locale transforms into a Christmas card scene come winter, especially in the quaint Skypark at Santa’s Village, nestled in the neighboring Skyforest.
The area is a haven for snow enthusiasts, with opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding in a backdrop of towering pines and firs.
The charming Lake Arrowhead Village is the heart of the community, where cozy restaurants and boutique shops offer a warm respite from the chilly outdoors.
Whether you’re indulging in a hot chocolate by the fireside or exploring the frosty environment, Lake Arrowhead provides a perfect balance of relaxation and activity.
Where to Stay in Lake Arrowhead
Top Things to Do in Lake Arrowhead
- Skypark at Santa’s Village: Delight in a holiday adventure park where families can enjoy ice skating, climbing, and a meet-and-greet with Santa.
- Snowdrift Snow Tubing Park: Experience the thrill of tubing at California’s longest-established snow tubing park.
- Arrowhead Queen Tour Boat: Take a scenic boat tour of Lake Arrowhead, offering views of impressive lakeside homes and natural beauty, even in winter.
22. Big Bear Lake
Big Bear Lake, situated in the heart of the San Bernardino Mountains, becomes a snowy paradise in the winter months.
It’s the perfect retreat for those looking to indulge in winter sports or simply cozy up by a fireplace with stunning views of the snow-blanketed landscape.
The area is home to two major ski resorts, Snow Summit and Bear Mountain.
Bear Mountain Resort is renowned for its expansive 748 acres dedicated to winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, and tubing. The resort is particularly noted for its impressive half-pipes and specialized terrain parks.
In contrast, the companion resort, Snow Summit, caters to those seeking a classic skiing experience with its array of conventional runs. This resort is known for its family-oriented atmosphere, making it a favored choice for visitors at Big Bear Lake.
Off the slopes, Big Bear Lake’s village invites visitors to unwind with its alpine architecture, quaint shops, and an array of dining options that cater to all tastes.
The lakeside setting provides a stunning view, especially when the surrounding peaks are capped with snow.
Where to Stay in Big Bear Lake
Top Things to Do in Big Bear Lake
- Skiing and Snowboarding: With two premier ski resorts, Snow Summit and Bear Mountain, skiers and snowboarders of all levels can enjoy the well-groomed trails and parks.
- Snowshoeing: Explore the tranquil side of Big Bear by trekking through its scenic trails and meadows with snowshoes.
- Village Shopping and Dining: Big Bear Lake Village offers a charming atmosphere for shopping and dining, perfect for unwinding after a day in the snow.
- Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain: For a unique winter thrill, take a ride on the alpine slide, which offers a bobsled-like experience down a mountain track.
- Experience Year-Round Adventure: Beyond the snowy slopes, Big Bear Lake dazzles with ziplining, horseback riding, and Segway tours. For a unique view, take a jeep or helicopter tour, available throughout the year.
23. Julian: A Snowy Retreat in San Diego County
Nestled above 4,000 feet in San Diego County, Julian is a charming enclave where snow graces its historic streets when the weather permits.
Rooted in the California Gold Rush, Julian has since become synonymous with its bountiful apple orchards, yielding mouthwatering apple pies renowned throughout the region.
Where to Stay in Julian
Top Things to Do in Julian
- Indulge in a Slice of History: Visit the Julian Pie Company to taste the legacy of Julian’s apples in their famed pies.
- Sip and Savor the Local Flavors: Explore the cider mills and wineries scattered across the historic downtown, offering a taste of the local heritage.
- Step Back in Time: The Eagle and High Peak Mines offer a glimpse into Julian’s golden past, with tours available for the intrepid explorer.
- Winter Activities: Check Julian’s live webcam post-snowfall for a spontaneous snow day adventure, offering an atypical Southern California snow experience.
Travel Tip: Snow is more likely in January and February. For those planning a post-snowfall visit, it’s wise to verify road and town conditions via Julian’s live webcam to ensure a smooth journey.
24. Mount Laguna: San Diego’s Snowy Haven
Perched at an elevation of 6,000 feet, Mount Laguna claims the title for the highest snowfall in the San Diego region, making it a magnet for those seeking a snowy escape.
Just a 40-minute drive from the sun-kissed shores of San Diego, Mount Laguna offers a crisp, wintry contrast to the city’s usual beachy ambiance.
Where to Stay in Mount Laguna:
Top Things to Do in Mount Laguna
- Snowshoeing and Sledding: Embrace the chill with numerous trails for snowshoeing, or slide through the snow-dusted pines in one of the many sledding spots.
- Scenic Winter Trails: For those who prefer a winter walk, the area boasts a network of trails offering serene views and a peaceful connection with nature.
Practical Info: Visitors should acquire an Adventure Pass for their vehicle to access park amenities. Passes are readily available for $5 at local 7-Eleven stores or any REI outlet.
Mount Laguna is the place to trade palm trees for pine trees and sandy beaches for snowy peaks, even if just for the day.
25. Palm Springs: Desert Snowfall at the Top of Mt. San Jacinto
Palm Springs offers a unique winter wonderland experience that contrasts sharply with its warm, sunlit valley floor.
While temperatures hover around a pleasant 70°F in the city, a short tramway ride transports you to a snowy escape atop Mt. San Jacinto.
Where to Stay in Palm Springs
Top Things to Do in Palm Springs
- Palm Springs Aerial Tramway: Take a scenic ten-minute ride to the snow-capped peaks, leaving the desert landscape for a snowy mountaintop adventure.
- Winter Sports on the Mountain: Once at the summit, dive into activities such as hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing. Equipment rentals are available at the Winter Adventure Center for your convenience.
- Winter Camping: For those looking for an overnight adventure, pack your camping gear and prepare for an extraordinary winter camping experience at an altitude of 8,500 feet.
Practical Info: The snowy season at the peak typically spans from November to March. You can join in the local fun by entering the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway’s annual snow-guessing contest to win a trip to this snowy haven.
Palm Springs’ combination of desert warmth and accessible mountain snow makes it a one-of-a-kind destination for those who love the sun but crave a taste of winter wonder.
26. Idyllwild: A Snowy Retreat in the San Jacinto Mountains
Perched one mile high in the San Jacinto Mountains, the quaint town of Idyllwild offers a picturesque setting with a cozy, small-town atmosphere and a delightful dusting of winter snow.
This Southern California gem is the perfect retreat for those seeking both alpine activities and relaxation.
Where to Stay in Idyllwild
Top Things to Do in Idyllwild
- Idyllwild Nature Center: Dive into the local ecosystem and learn about the wildlife that thrives in the national forest surrounding the town.
- Snow Adventures: For snow enthusiasts, the areas around Idyllwild Nature Center, Idyllwild Park, McCall Park, and the expanses of Mt. San Jacinto State Park offer ample opportunities for play in the snow.
- Idyllwild Brewpub: After a chilly day outdoors, warm up with a hearty burger and a locally crafted beer beside the welcoming hearth of Idyllwild Brewpub.
Practical Info: January is the prime time to enjoy the winter wonderland that Idyllwild becomes. The town’s pet-friendly nature adds to its charm, and yes, the honorary canine mayor, Max, epitomizes this friendly spirit.
For a serene escape that combines the tranquility of snow-covered pines with the warmth of community, Idyllwild is a destination that invites you to indulge in its wintry enchantment.
27. Running Springs: Snowy Slopes and Alpine Adventures
Running Springs, nestled in the heart of the San Bernardino Mountains, is a haven for winter sports enthusiasts and families looking for a snow-filled getaway.
Just a short drive from the bustle of Southern California, this area is rich in winter recreation and alpine charm.
Where to Stay in Running Springs
Top Things to Do in Running Springs
- Snow Valley Ski Resort: Dive into winter fun at this family-oriented ski resort, known for its excellent beginner slopes and the convenience of a chair-lift serviced sledding hill.
- Backcountry Skiing: More experienced skiers can carve their paths on the challenging backcountry trails that the region boasts.
- Rim Nordic Ski Area: Explore Southern California’s sole destination for cross-country skiing, featuring an extensive network of groomed trails perfect for skiing and snowshoeing adventures.
Practical Info: Founded in 1924, Snow Valley takes pride in its heritage with a sling-lift designed by renowned engineer Jack Northrop. Alongside Snow Valley, the Learning Center provides lessons for those looking to improve their skiing or snowboarding techniques, ensuring visitors of all skill levels can enjoy the slopes.
Running Springs offers a delightful mix of winter activities, providing everything from gentle slopes for beginners to thrilling trails for the adventurous. It’s an idyllic spot for a winter escape within reach of Southern California’s sun-kissed shores.
28. Mount Baldy: Los Angeles County’s Winter Gem
Just a stone’s throw from the city’s sprawl, Mount San Antonio, widely known as Mount Baldy, stands as the crown jewel of Los Angeles County’s winter sports scene.
This alpine escape is perfect for Angelenos craving a swift retreat into the snowy embrace of nature.
Where to Stay Near Mount Baldy
Top Things to Do at Mount Baldy
- Skiing and Snowboarding: Carve out your own path down the slopes at Mount Baldy Resort, where trails cater to both beginners and seasoned skiers.
- Tubing: Slide into fun at the tubing park, where laughter and thrills are abundant for all ages.
- Scenic Chairlift: Head to Mount Baldy Resort and enjoy a scenic chairlift ride to the summit for breathtaking panoramic views of the San Gabriel Mountains.
- Ice House Canyon Trail: For avid hikers, the Ice House Canyon trail is a rewarding expedition. Starting just a stone’s throw from the Mt. Baldy Visitor Center, this looped trail presents a rigorous but visually stunning winter hiking experience.
Practical Info: Mount Baldy Resort is the most accessible ski area for those in the Los Angeles area, making it an ideal spot for a weekend winter getaway.
Before heading to the trails, stop by the Mt. Baldy Visitor Center to pick up an Adventure Pass for parking.
Whether you’re carving down the resort’s runs or conquering the Ice House Canyon trail, Mount Baldy provides a snowy sanctuary for both adrenaline seekers and nature lovers alike.
29. Wrightwood: A Snowy Haven for Los Angeles Families
Wrightwood, California, is a beacon for families from Los Angeles looking to indulge in a wintry escapade.
With its inviting ski resorts and multitude of snow play areas, it offers the perfect snowy day out without the hassle of a long journey.
Where to Stay in Wrightwood
Top Things to Do in Wrightwood
- Mountain High Ski Resort: This nearby resort caters to beginner skiers with its forgiving slopes and boasts incredible vistas of the Mojave Desert.
- Sledding Adventures: While Mountain High focuses on skiing, North Pole Tubing Park is the place for family-friendly sledding fun.
- Angeles National Forest Snow Play: Just a short drive west, the forest provides a picturesque backdrop for snow play. Purchase an Adventure Pass for parking, then venture into the wintry pine woods at Inspiration Point or Grassy Hollow.
Practical Info: Wrightwood is the go-to snow destination for families from the city, offering both skiing and snow play within easy reach. Remember to get your Adventure Pass for parking in Angeles National Forest areas. Whether you’re looking to glide down gentle ski slopes or enjoy a snowball fight among the pines, Wrightwood promises a delightful snowy adventure just a short drive from Los Angeles.
30. Frazier Park: A Snowy Gem Just Outside Los Angeles
Nestled just over an hour’s drive north of Los Angeles, Frazier Park transforms into a winter wonderland, attracting those eager to revel in the snow. Here’s a brief guide to enjoying this seasonal delight while respecting the local community.
Where to Stay in Frazier Park
Top Things to Do in Frazier Park
- Snow Play: Venture to the meadows of Cuddy Valley, where pristine snow beckons visitors for sledding and play.
- Sledding Spots: With several parking options like Frazier Mountain Trailhead, the area is well-equipped for those bringing their sleds for a day of fun.
- Scenic Adventures: The area offers not only snow play but also stunning vistas that are a photographer’s dream.
Practical Info: If you’re planning a trip to Frazier Park for snow play, remember to purchase an Adventure Pass and carry tire chains.
Parking can be found at designated spots such as the Mt. Pinos vehicle meeting area, but make sure to park correctly to avoid fines or towing.
While the influx of visitors can sometimes be overwhelming for locals, being considerate by not blocking roads and disposing of trash properly will ensure a warm welcome.
Discover the magic of snow close to the city at Frazier Park, a beautiful retreat that promises a memorable snowy excursion with just a short drive from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.
Similar Articles From Travel Realizations
Discover the wintry heart of California in these 30 enchanting snow destinations.
Whether carving down powdery slopes or cozying up in a cabin among snow-laden pines, each locale offers a unique frosty charm.
So, embrace the chill, pack your sense of wonder, and venture out to California’s snowy playgrounds for an unforgettable winter tale. Your perfect snowy adventure awaits!
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