If you want to spend a winter experiencing snow in California, be assured of a magical trip to the white winter wonderlands in the Golden State.
No, it is not just the stunning alpine lakes like Lake Tahoe, Big Bear, or the world-famous Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks beautiful blanketed in snow. Still, there are many incredible places to see snow in California.
If you have lived here long enough or traveled extensively, among the many things you will notice is that California is exquisitely diverse.
The state encompasses coastal bluffs, rocky cliffs, beautiful beaches, mystic volcanic lava beds, stunning snow-capped mountains, and even desolate deserts.
If you are wondering where it snow in California, you will have to head away from the coast to the higher elevations of the high mountains and the far northern parts, where you will be welcomed by fantastic landscapes washed away by several layers of snow.
Whether you are a seasoned skier, want to have snowball fights with your loved ones, or just prefer relaxing, sipping your hot chocolate as you admire the gorgeous white landscapes, there are many places to see California snowfall.
Get started to plan a California snow holiday this winter. Read on.
WHERE TO FIND SNOW IN CALIFORNIA IN THE SIERRA NEVADA?
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
Are you wondering where in California it snows while being close to San Francisco? You must travel 167 miles, or roughly 3 hours, to get to Yosemite National Park, a wonderful snow-filled land.
Recognised as a World Heritage Site, Yosemite National Park is one of the largest parks in California. It is known for its giant granite cliffs, dense green forests and gorgeous cascading falls.
Visit this fairyland to indulge yourself, especially during the winter or if you enjoy playing in the snow in California.
You can enjoy some of the best views in Yosemite, encompassing massive sequoias draped in snowy ice.
During the winter, Yosemite resembles a stunningly gorgeous bride who is waiting for her groom while dressed entirely in white.
Try out various adventures like skiing in California’s most popular ski resort Badger Pass Ski Area. The Park is also known for its 22 miles of beautiful skiing trails.
Go ice skating at Half Dome, snowshoeing at Mariposa grove, Hiking at Yosemite Valley Loop trail, snowboarding, cross country skiing, and tubing while you are in this utopian world.
If you are up for more excitement, try ziplining to gain a bird’s eye view of frozen lakes in this wonderful Park.
Invite your special someone for a romantic dance in the backdrop of the snow-covered half dome at The Curry Village Ice Skating Rink.
Don’t miss the National Historic Landmark Ahwahnee Hotel with its wooden beam ceilings, which attracts tourists from all over the world in December for its lavish and magnificent Bracebridge Dinner experience.
Isn’t it a perfect setup for a lovely Christmas evening with family and to experience snow in California in December, with English-style feasts with a seven-course menu, live concerts, and a romantic candlelight setting?
I recommend planning a stargazing night at Bass Lake with friends and family for a complete snow experience in California.
Due to the significant snowfall in the winter, you might not be able to visit Glacier Point, but Yosemite is a site that has plenty to offer everyone, so you shouldn’t cancel your winter travel plans.
Make sure to verify the route in advance, especially if you are coming from the east, as Tioga road is frequently closed during the winter months. Highway 140 still makes it easy to go to Yosemite.
WHERE TO STAY?
If you want a uniquely traditional Christmas experience, I recommend staying in the famous heritage and historic Ahwahnee Hotel, which organizes conventional holiday decorations.
Wawona Hotel is another famous historic hotel inside the park.
Another option includes Yosemite Valley Lodge, which provides comfortable accommodation close to Yosemite Falls.
SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK
Are you looking for a fairyland to experience snow in California? Explore Sequoia National Park, near Los Angeles, a fantastic location in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, bordered by redwoods on one side and snowy vistas on the other.
Given that Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park are near one another, a day or two may be needed to experience both locations for the ideal winter holiday fully.
In the winter, the Park, filled with old-growth giants and meadows, frequently receives 40 to 45 inches of snowfall, especially from December to May, and it is a visual pleasure to view the giants’ snow-capped tops.
General Sherman, the giant Sequoia in the world with a 100 feet wide and 275 feet tall trunk, is said to be located in Sequoia National Park and can be accessed via a moderate hiking trail, making this place one of the best places to see snow in California.
If you are a thrill-seeker, check out Wolverton Meadow, the snowy playground of Sequoia National Park, one of the high-altitude parks in California with an elevation of 7,280 feet.
Go snowshoeing here or relax while enjoying the spectacular snowy panoramas.
The General Grant tree, the second-largest tree in the world, aged approximately 3000 years old, will welcome you to the Grant Grove. In the winter, this area resembles nothing less than a scene from Narnia.
Skiing enthusiasts can visit the Pear Lake Cabin, a cosy winter hut designed exclusively for backcountry skiers. Also, try cross-country skiing at Big Stump near Grant Grove Village.
Near Wuksachi Village, you may rent all the equipment for skiing and snowshoeing. So don’t worry if you don’t bring your gear.
If you are an avid hiker, try the 1.2-mile Big Trees Trail to enjoy the panoramic vistas. Include going up to the top of Moro Rock if you have spare time.
Ensure to check the roads and access to this place since there are high chances of road closures during peak winter months.
WHERE TO STAY?
There are some places that can only be enjoyed in winter in the United States, and Alabama Hills is one of them.
Located at the foothills of the dramatic Sierra Nevada Mountain range, Alabama Hills is one of the best places to visit in California in December.
You will be treated to splendid views of the snow-capped mountain vistas everywhere, and it’s a jackpot for adventure seekers and outdoor lovers.
You can hike or mountain bike on the many trails leading to beautiful views, ideal for all experience levels.
Alabama Hills is one of the most photographed destinations thanks to its distinct landscapes. If you want to capture some gorgeous shots, you will love visiting the Alabama hills in California in December.
Camping in the Alabama Hills is very popular, especially during winter. Star gazing, watching epic sunrise and sunsets, and driving around to see the iconic landmarks are some other activities you can enjoy apart from hiking.
One must-stop is the famous Alabama Hills Movie Road, famous for Instagram-worthy photography.
Check out the famous tourist attractions in Alabama Hills, including the easily accessible geological wonders like Mobius Arch, Lone Ranger Canyon, Nightmare Rock and Boot Arch.
Make sure to bring lots of layers, especially jackets, warm sleeping bags, and many blankets if you plan to go Alabama Hills camping.
WHERE TO STAY?
Instead of camping, if you would rather stay in a hotel or Airbnb or you feel the need for comfort, Lone Pine is the nearest town with many vacation rentals, cabins, and cottages available.
Suppose you are looking for snow in California to admire the fantastic powdery slopes dotting mountain valleys or to indulge in winter sports.
In that case, Mammoth Lakes is one of my favourites and the best places to visit in California in December.
The Mammoth Lakes area is known for its spectacular mountain landscapes dominated by the dramatic High Sierra Nevada.
There are loads of awesome things to do in Mammoth Lakes, with something for everyone – from skiing to snowboarding to hot springs and hiking. You can easily spend a weekend in Mammoth Lakes for a fabulous holiday in December.
Because of the high elevation, snow arrives early at Mammoth Lakes. Did you know? Mammoth Mountain Area gets around 300 inches of snowfall a year at least.
December is the peak ski season at Mammoth Mountain, as you get access to over 3,500 areas of mountain slopes carpeted with snow.
It is home to some of the best ski resorts in California, attracting many families and adventure seekers to the California Eastern Sierras.
You have over 150 gorgeous trails for alpine downhill skiing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, tubing, and snowboarding.
You can take the fantastic Gondola ride to the peak, enjoying the splendid views of the mountainous landscapes on your ride.
There are also plenty of beautiful natural hot springs in Mammoth Lakes, including or near camping sites. After outdoor adventures, there is nothing more relaxing than soaking in these mineral-rich hot springs and enjoying the beautiful views.
You can enjoy fishing, boat trips, hiking, or picnic lunches in any of the stunning glacial lakes around Mammoth Lakes, surrounded by dramatic mountains offering beautiful sunrise and sunset views.
WHERE TO STAY?
I recommend Innsbruck Lodge, located near the Village Gondola, for its secluded and stunning location. This lovely lodge offers apartments with kitchens to simple rooms, and they have an on-site hot tub and spa.
If the popular ones do not appeal to you, check out Sierra Lodge, centrally located, which offers spacious rooms with kitchenettes.
TRAVERTINE HOT SPRINGS
How about a hot spring amid snow? Sounds fascinating, isn’t it?
Travertine Hot Springs is one place where you can relax while watching the splendid mountains blanketed with snow in California.
Located a few miles from Bridgeport, Travertine Hot Springs is one of the ADA-accessible hot springs near Mammoth Lakes in California, making it quite a hotspot for all tourists and locals.
The hot spring is known for its geothermal mineral springs with a temperature of roughly 50 degrees Celsius, making it ideal for spending time in cold winter.
You could see some nudity as the hot spring has a clothing-optional policy, but feel free to bathe in the warm waters and take in the most fantastic snow California offers.
You can find several private springs if you travel a few miles from the spring’s starting place, hidden among the grassy meadows. To gain some wild experience, you may even arrange for free camping near these springs.
WHERE TO STAY?
If you want to base yourself close to a more prominent city centre, I recommend Mammoth Village, as it is the best area and has many excellent resorts and hotels.
Innsbruck Lodge is located near the Village Gondola that. I prefer its secluded and stunning location.
This lovely lodge offers apartments with kitchens to simple rooms, and they have an on-site hot tub and spa. It is worth staying here if you love quieter stays.
The Westin Monache Resort is next to the Village Lodge and beside Mountain Center in the Village, another excellent choice.
This pretty place comes with condos comprising spacious rooms and balconies offering beautiful views. The property features a heated outdoor pool and hot tubs. Book a stay here.
Juniper Springs Resort, located in Mammoth Lakes, is ideal for a winter trip as it is close to the ski lifts and winter activities.
Close to Lone Pine town is the beautiful Mount Whitney, one of the favourite destinations among thousands of mountain climbers and hikers that make it to the top every year.
You can either plan a visit to Mount Whitney, basing yourself at Lone Pine, a pretty town with many amazing things to do and see, or stay at one of the resorts near the mountain.
Located about 4 hours from Las Vegas, Mount Whitney looks fantastic when thick layers of snow decorate the forests and the nearby valleys around the mountain.
There are a few ways to experience this vast mountain, and although climbing to the top of the mountain is more straightforward in summer, many people also love climbing to the summit during winter.
You will need a permit and a lot of experience climbing in the snow if you plan to attempt the hike to the summit during winter, though.
For less experienced climbers, there is the Mount Whitney trail, which is shorter and easier to reach. You will witness the magnificent views of the snow-covered Sierra mountain ranges, which will be worth your hike.
Note that some roads get closed, including Whitney Portal Road, during the winter, so you’ll have to walk to the trailhead along the route.
Lake Tahoe is a winter paradise area surrounded by the panoramic slopes of snow-capped mountains and is gifted with lovely turquoise waters with a comparatively mild environment.
It is situated at the Nevada-California border and is a 2-hour drive from Sacramento which attract crowds from across the globe to enjoy snow in California.
Lake Tahoe averages 215 inches of snow per year and can reach 500 inches at its highest cliffs, making it the best place to play with snow in California in December.
The abundance of snowfall makes this stunning freshwater lake a haven for thrill-seekers. You will be rewarded with many activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, ice climbing, tubing and sledging.
Thankfully, there are many well-equipped ski resorts, with Heavenly, Palisades Tahoe, and Northstar California being the most well-known.
If you want to spend some quality time with your family and children, there are casinos, great dining restaurants, and shopping malls there.
If skiing isn’t your thing, don’t worry; you will get into the winter spirits by taking a gondola ride to the top of a cliff near the South of Lake Tahoe, partaking in other water sports, or going on a winter hike.
If you have some spare time, consider visiting the well-known Emerald Bay State Park, which is close to this lake.
Since November and December are the busiest months for skiing and snowboarding, they frequently draw large crowds. Winter passes will be in high demand during these months, so reserve them well in advance.
If there isn’t enough snow, or if there isn’t any snow at all, the resorts have the equipment to make huge snow masses so you can play in them.
You can also rent a cabin and plan a campfire night near the lake for a perfect windy winter.
WHERE TO STAY?
The Lake Tahoe area has many top ski resorts. Among the most famous and fabulous ones is Charming Mountain Cabin about 7 Mi to Heavenly Resort, which gets booked quickly, thanks to the excellent facilities and location.
For a private beach and great amenities, check out Tahoe Lakeshore Lodge & Spa.
If you are looking for a skiing and snowboarding place near San Francisco Bay area, check out Sugar Bowl located near the Lake Tahoe region.
California has a long history of skiing, and Sugar Bowl is where the state’s first chairlift and ski gondola were first introduced.
Sugar Bowl receives an average of 500 inches of powdery snow per year, so if you are in search of places that snow in California, I recommend you should visit this place, blessed with cosy slopeside accommodations.
Sugar Bowl is also quite close to the Interstate-80 highway and has many skiing trails and hiking areas making it a hotspot for snowshoers and skiing enthusiasts to enjoy snow in California in December.
You will be rewarded with several strawberry fields while on your way to Sugar bowl.
Soda springs is a fun-filled, very laid-back place and is a perfect destination to spend the winter holidays with family in California.
Located on the North side of Lake Tahoe and at a 45-minute distance from Nevada County, Soda Springs is one of California’s oldest ski areas.
Soda Springs, a 200-acre lovely mountainous area, is one of the best spots to find snow in California since most of the resorts face North and are blessed with an average annual snowfall of 150 inches, which may reach 600 inches during the peak winter months.
If you are travelling with family and appreciate seeing kids experience icy adventures in the learn-to-ski area or watching them ride the tubing carousel, check out Planet Kids and Tube town.
If you only want to check out one lake in the Mammoth Mountain area, let it be Convict Lake, located south of the town.
This alpine lake is known for its beautiful location in the Sherwin Range section of the Sierra Nevada, the beautiful turquoise waters, and the Eastern Sierra’s surreal backdrops.
It is one of the best places to enjoy beautiful snow in California and is a popular spot for camping and stargazing.
There is an exciting but sad history behind the name Convict Lake. In 1871, a group of convicts escaped from a prison in Carson City in Nevada to areas near Convict Lake.
The sheriff and the team engaged in a long-drawn fire exchange, after which most of them were captured but sadly resulted in the sheriff’s death. Mount Morrison, the mountain peak above the lake, is named after the sheriff.
You can easily spend at least a day in the lake as there are tons of things to do and enjoy.
Hiking is one of the popular activities around the lake. It is an easy 3-mile loop that will lead you to witness stunning views of the lake.
Do not miss this hike if you are here in the fall, as the golden, yellow, and orange foliage transforms the beauty of the lake and around tremendously.
Another gorgeous destination deep in the heart of the Eastern Sierra known for its stunning location is June Lake, a tiny mountain village.
The mountain receives around 270 inches of snow during winter. Although it’s not much compared to other places, the higher elevation makes it one of the beautiful places to enjoy snow in California.
It is one of the best places to visit in California in winter if you are looking for a relatively inexpensive resort town for snow and winter sports with your families.
The June Mountain ski area is one of the hotspots for families heading here for winter fun when the ski slopes start welcoming tourists in mid-December. Here skiing is free for kids.
If you are a beginner skier, the flat Highway 158 is an easy route and suitable for snowshoeing.
If you are an advanced skier, you can join guided tours with mountain experts to try backcountry skiing.
Ride the ski lift to the top to enjoy fabulous views of four lakes set amidst the magnificent snow-blanketed mountains of the Eastern Sierra.
You can also enjoy other winter sports, including snowboarding, ice climbing, snowmobiling, sledging, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.
Admire the mountains forming a majestic backdrop for the spectacular alpine lakes from many viewpoints.
Stroll through the main streets decked up with lights, at the centre of which is the pretty lit Christmas tree.
Pack winter clothing with layers, good water-proof hiking shoes, and snow boots.
WHERE TO STAY?
One of the underrated and secluded places in the Sierra Nevada mountain range is Kirkwood, a resort town that receives a lot of snow in the winter thanks to its elevation of about 8000 feet.
If you want to steer away from expensive, crowded or famous mountain resorts, Kirkwood is worth visiting.
Kirkwood is part of the Tahoe region, located south of Lake Tahoe. But it receives fewer people compared to other mountain ski resorts nearby.
You can try snowshoeing, skiing, and snowboarding on the slopes of the mountains at Kirkwood. There are a few hiking options if you want to explore the mountains on foot.
If you are wondering where does it snow in California, you should visit Truckee, one of the coldest cities in the US.
Located to the North of Lake Tahoe and a 40-minute drive from Reno, Truckee is quite a popular destination to play with snow in California.
Fortunately, if you live in the Bay Area, you can plan a weekend trip to Truckee because it is only 180 miles away.
An average year brings approximately 200 inches of snow to this beautiful city, making it an ideal place for skiers and snowboarders to enjoy snow sports.
Enjoy water sports in the freshwater Donner Lake, a true gem of Truckee, and soak in the stunning views of the snow-capped mountain ranges surrounding the lake.
Ski or snowshoe through Donner Memorial State Park while admiring the vistas of snowy shorelines.
Since Squaw Valley Ski Park is one of the biggest ski areas in the US and is only a 20-minute drive from Truckee, I recommend including it on your trip to find snow in California.
Try snowshoeing down the Donner Ridge if you are up for a little more adventure, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Donner Pass at the end of your excursion, making your snowshoeing adventure one to remember.
Truckee is blessed with state-of-the-art resorts, the most well-known of which are Olympic Valley, Alpine Meadows, and Northstar, making it one of the best places to go to the snow in California.
Northstar even offers a night skiing lunar tour, a unique experience which you should not miss while you are at Truckee.
The open-air ice rink during the cold winter months in Truckee has an exclusive fan base.
There are many tours led by trained guides in the Tahoe-Donner area, and some may even provide rental equipment for sledging and tubing. The snow lanes are relatively gentle and paved, making them ideal for beginning skiers.
Whether it’s backcountry skiing or snow biking, Truckee provides unique experiences if you are looking for the best place to see snow in December.
Located close to the Bay area, Bear Valley, also popularly recognised as Skyline Bear Valley, is a winter vacation hotspot where you can enjoy snow in California.
Blessed with an average annual snowfall of 350 inches and much of its terrain facing North with a maximum elevation of 8500 feet, Bear Valley is one of California’s most famous skiing areas.
Base yourself at Tamarack Arnold or Camp Connell, both around a three-hour drive from San Francisco, if you want to experience the most fantastic snow in California in December.
Visit the Bear Valley Ski Resort for skiing, tubing and other winter adventures.
Many trailheads near the resort for snowshoeing and sledging, some of which are easily accessible via parking areas.
Enjoy the bliss of snow-covered meadows and lush pine forests in the Lake Alpine Snow Park. Ensure you buy the snow park pass nearby the Bear Valley Ski resort before heading to the snow park.
I advise renting a snowmobile from Bear Valley Snowmobile, which offers well-kept vehicles, to explore the majority of the Bear Valley region and for the best snow experience in California.
HUNTINGTON LAKE(CHINA PEAK)
The Sierra Nevadas dominate the list of the best places to visit for snow in California, thanks to the many gorgeous high-altitude mountains.
China Peak, at 8,700 feet, receives over 300 inches of snow, blanketing the surrounding forests in thick layers of powdered snow opening up the slopes for adventure seekers and nature lovers seeking gorgeous views during winter.
Also located close to Fresno, China Peak Mountain Resort near Huntington Lake is best explored over a long weekend if you plan to unwind in the cosy cabins or want to enjoy hours of skiing in the massive, 1200 acres of skiable terrain overlooking beautiful views.
There are trails suitable for all levels of ski experience, so you can choose your fun accordingly. Apart from skiing, you can enjoy snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and sledging.
WHERE DOES IT SNOW IN CALIFORNIA SOUTH?
Located amidst the San Bernardino Mountains in the San Bernardino National Forest, one of the fascinating destinations for enjoying a winter getaway in California is Lake Arrowhead.
Wondering where there is snow in California, Lake Arrow will fill your bucket list for California snow well. Since Lake Arrowhead gets about 40 inches of snow a year, there is a high chance that you will see some snow during a winter trip to Lake Arrowhead.
Lake Arrowhead is close to Big Bear Lake, so you can easily do the two together for added fun. It is one of the popular destinations among families and outdoor lovers visiting the lake throughout the year.
But winter transforms the landscapes around Lake Arrowhead at over 5000 feet high, making it one of the best places to visit in winter in California with kids, but there’s something for everyone.
This beautiful mountain lake in Southern California, located only an 80-mile drive from Los Angeles, offers many fun winter recreation activities.
December until February is the best time to hit the slopes and enjoy fun outdoor activities, including snowshoeing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, or ice fishing on your trip.
Make sure to visit California’s oldest and biggest snow tubing park, Snowdrift Snow Tubing Park, where sledging is a popular snow activity.
One of the top attractions in Lake Arrowhead loved by the kids and the adults are the pretty SkyPark at Santa’s Village, a charming Christmas-themed outdoor activity park at Sky forest, where your kids can meet Santa Claus.
There is much more to add to the Christmas spirit here, from attending the festivities, checking out the shops for delicious eats, and attending carols and workshops.
Skypark is also home to mountain bike and hiking trails. You can also enjoy archery, ice skating, ziplines and rock climbing.
If you want to try cross-country skiing, the Rim Nordic Ski area is nearby.
BIG BEAR LAKE
Big Bear Lake, located in southern California, is known for being a wonderland, attracting thousands of visitors every winter, especially families that come for an adventurous getaway.
Big Bear Lake is one of the best places to visit in California in December to witness snowfall, the gorgeous San Bernardino mountains encapsulated by snow offer plenty of activities to enjoy.
There are plenty of awesome things to do in the winter, whether you want to be adventurous activities like skiing to tasting the delicious Christmas bakes and hot chocolate cosying up to a fireplace.
Stroll through the streets of the small downtown area, home to many excellent restaurants serving delicious cuisines, and shop for unique souvenirs at the boutique shops.
Since Big Bear Lake freezes by the end of November, it becomes the hot spot for ice skating, ice fishing, snowmobiling, and sleigh ride around the lake.
You can enjoy cross-country skiing and snowboarding at the two famous mountain slopes, Snow Summit and Big Bear Mountain Resort.
If you want to do something at a slower pace, enjoy horseback riding through the snowy trails or hike along the many trails that pass through beautiful landscapes and stunning views.
You can also enjoy snowshoeing, sledging and high-speed adrenaline-kicking tubing at the famous Grizzly Ridge Tube Park.
You can also learn skiing at Snow Summit resort, although you’ll have to book your spot quite early during the peak days.
Plan a day trip to neighbouring Lake Arrowhead, a 45-minute drive away, which is also a fabulous destination for a weekend getaway.
In December, visit Santa’s Village on your way to Lake Arrowhead.
WHERE TO STAY?
Dream Getaway with Secluded Spa is a stunning holiday home featuring a balcony with mountain views, a garden and barbecue facilities, located close to Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain. Find out more here.
Located very close to Mount San Jacinto is Palm Springs, which is one of the beautiful snow destinations in California, an excellent choice for families if you want to plan a trip between November and March.
Whether you want to experience modern architecture, enjoy shopping, or indulge in thermal baths and adventure activities, there is something for everyone in Palm Springs, making it a popular holiday destination among families.
If you are here on the first Saturday of December, you will be welcomed by the colourful and crowded Palm Springs Festival of Lights Parade, where you will see the giant floating balloons as the city is in a festive mood.
There are many incredible things to do in and around Palm Springs. Begin your city tour by checking out the modern architecture in downtown Palm Springs, which is also an excellent spot for shopping.
Stroll through the Moorten desert botanical garden and Palm Canyon Drive, the main shopping street decorated with Christmas lights in December.
Drive around the many neighbourhoods in Palm Springs to admire the holiday lighting and decorations.
There are also plenty of hiking trails and other recreational opportunities such as fishing, ATV riding, or horseback riding.
Hop on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to take in soaring views of the desert and find snow on Mt. San Jacinto, which gets about 25 inches of snow in California during the winter months.
It is also one of the cool places for winter camping at 8,500 feet.
At the summit, you can hike, snowshoe, and cross-country ski. Equipment can be rented at the Winter Adventure Center.
You can also take jeep tours to explore the nearby desert areas
The trails to Indian Canyons, a sacred nature preserve and true desert oasis, or Tahquitz Canyon are popular. You can also join a tour of the San Andreas fault.
There are many day trips from Palm to choose from. You can drive to the famous Joshua Tree National Park, where you can see stunning rock formations and the namesake Joshua trees.
Also, plan a trip to Anza-Borrego State Park for hiking and camping.
WHERE TO STAY?
There are many incredible things to do in Julian; the small mountain town tucked away in the pretty Laguna Mountains, known to all for its juicy apples, ciders, and pies.
Whether you are looking to experience a small mountain town charm or country friendliness in Southern California, want to feel like you have traveled back in time to the 19th century, or you are looking for a holiday filled with lots of eating and drinking, it is possible to do all these in Julian.
Located 60 miles northeast of San Diego and about a 3-hour drive southeast of Los Angeles, Julian is one of the popular day trips from both cities.
It is one of the few places to see beautiful snow in California in San Diego County.
At over 4,000 feet, the small town of Julian is blanketed in the snow during winter. For the best chances of experiencing snowfall, January and February are the best months to be in Julian to see snow in California in this region.
Although you can’t expect to do skiing, snowshoeing or ice skating at about 30 feet of snow that Julian receives, this town offers you the nor-rush, slowed-down vibes, allowing you to have a relaxing holiday surrounded by snow-blanketed panoramas.
Check out the cider mill and wineries in the historic downtown area.
There’s also an old gold mine you can check out if you’re interested in California’s Wild West past.
If you are looking for more activities in Julian, check my detailed guide to the best things to do in Julian.
WHERE TO STAY?
BEST HOTELS IN JULIAN
APARTMENTS, RESORT AND SPA
Oakzanita Springs Camping Resort Cottage 4 – If you are looking for a rustic stay with your family, I recommend Oakzanita Springs Camping Resort Cottage, located in Descanso in the California region, known for its well-made suites and located in an excellent place. Check details and availability here.
Quiet Mind Mountain Lodge, Retreat & Spa – This 4-star hotel has luxurious amenities, including a pool and playrooms. All lavishly decorated suites come with a patio. Check details and availability here.
If you want a short drive that will take you to witness snow in California during winter in San Diego county, Mount Laguna, close to Julian, at 6,000 feet, is one of the beautiful destinations.
It receives the most snowfall in the San Diego area and is an ideal destination for a family trip over a weekend.
Skiing is not done here since the snow is not enough, but you can play in the snow in the mountains, and choose the trails for snowshoeing and sledging.
FRAZIER MOUNTAIN PARK
Another popular small town that attracts snow lovers is Frazier Mountain Park, one of the best places to enjoy snow in California if you want to go somewhere closer to Los Angeles,
There are many areas for families to make snowmen and play around, which is the best way to enjoy winter if you love snow.
If you are okay without skiing or snowshoeing, you will love your time at Frazier National Park. It is named after Frazier Mountain, the 8,017 feet, broad, pine-forested peak in the Los Padres National Forest in northeastern Ventura County.
It is the sixteenth-highest mountain in Southern California and is one of the less-tourist places to enjoy the beautiful meadows of Cuddy Valley, go sledging, and snowboarding.
You need to head north on Highway 5, which can be covered in thick layers of snow, so carry chains and also get an Adventure Pass.
If you want to venture further, also check out the snow areas near Mount Pinos in the Los Padres National Forest, which need another few days to be explored.
LOS PADRES NATIONAL FOREST
Located close to Santa Barbara, roughly 7 miles away, Los Padres National Forest is an easy-to-reach place to
One of the easily accessible and popular destinations for nature lovers is Los Padres National Park.
Encompassing over 8,000 square kilometres, Los Padres boasts of rugged forests, mountains, gorges, waterfalls, and beautiful countryside covering a huge portion of this part of California that stretches inland along the state’s coastline from Los Angeles to Big Sur.
Did you know? Since it is only a 10-minute drive from Santa Barbara, it is one of the best day trips from Santa Barbara you can plan to see snow in California in winter.
You can stop by to admire Pine Mountain Ridge and Piedra Blanca mountains.
Los Padres offers many hikes of all difficulty levels, so you can easily choose to do at least a few of them. One of the popular trails includes the hike to the top of Mount Montecito, a mile-long easy trail.
Check with the rangers before you start your hikes as some of them may be closed due to snowfall.
Camping is another popular activity among the visitors, with two dozen campsites offering plenty of options to enjoy stargazing and get cosy amidst the stunning snow-carpeted landscapes in the Los Padres National forest.
Just one hour from San Diego and Palm Springs tucked away in the San Jacinto mountains, is Idyllwild, an idyllic mountain town ideal for seeing snow in California during January.
It is one of the best winter towns in Southern California, thanks to its higher elevation of over 6000 feet and its laid-back vibes, it is one of the best winter getaways in California for families, where you can enjoy staying in rustic cabins surrounded by gorgeous views of the white wonderland.
A winter hike is a great way to explore the region, and there are many trailheads close by that can allow you to explore this mountain getaway. Bring some snow boots!
For the best chances of seeing snow, plan a visit to Idyllwild during January, when it receives about 30 inches of snow.
Although you cannot indulge in snow sports like skiing or snowshoeing, Idyllwild is a perfect choice if you only want to be surrounded by magical-looking white landscapes.
The best way to enjoy the snow in Idyllwild is by going on hikes into the forested mountains around the town. You can try rock climbing and mountain biking as well.
One of the top spots is the Idyllwild Nature Center to discover more about the local wildlife.
January is the best month for snow in Idyllwild. But if you want to experience some Christmas spirit, December is when you can see the holiday lights and shops that make cookies, hot chocolate, and special souvenirs you can take home.
One of the underrated destinations for seeing snow in California is around Shaver Lake, an artificial lake on Stevenson Creek in the Sierra National Forest in Fresno County, an hour away from Fresno city.
Nestling amidst a thick canopy of forests, this high-altitude lake at over 5000 feet becomes a winter playground come winter as snow envelopes the landscapes creating perfect backdrops for snow sports and white winter getaways for families.
Twelve miles of trails open here in winter, where you can have fun skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling and snowshoeing.
You can find parks for snow tubing and high-speed sledging close to the lake, which offer stunning views from above the lake.
Many pretty trails lead to beautiful views around the lake if hiking is what you love doing in the snow.
No matter what you do, you will love your time at this offbeat destination for a white winter holiday.
Mount San Antonio, famously known as Mount Baldy, is one of the most popular ski destinations among families and adventure seekers in Los Angeles county for a quick weekend ski trip.
The peak of Mount Baldy is a famous winter wonderland whether you want to play in the snow, sign up for winter adventures, or simply absorb the beautiful views.
Although it is possible to make a day trip, you need to spend at least a weekend in Mount Baldy as it is one of the best snow places in California.
One of the famous attractions here is the Mount Baldy Ski Lift, the Sugar Pine chairlift, which is the steepest ski resort in Southern California, at over 8000 feet.
Apart from the thrilling ride up to the top, you will be rewarded with splendid views of the snow-carpeted San Gabriel Mountains and the views of San Diego, LA and San Bernadino.
You can enjoy the snow tubing park if you take the Sugar Pine chairlift. Since the lift tickets get booked quickly, booking them online in advance while planning your trip is best to save the extra costs.
Mount Baldy Resort is a popular family-friendly resort that hosts many events, holiday lights and celebrations around Christmas. Here, you can enjoy skiing or snowboarding.
A few trails are open to rich views if you want to hike in the snow. If you are a seasoned hiker looking for an adventure, check out Ice House Canyon trail, a 10-mile challenging but gratifying loop offering some of the region’s best views of winter snow.
If you are looking for a ski resort town for a winter getaway with your kids near Los Angeles, Wrightwood is one of the best places to choose, as it is about 1.5 hours from LA.
Known for its ski resort, Mountain High Resort, Wrightwood, pleated away in a valley in the San Gabriel Mountains, is one of the best places to visit for snow in California.
Mountain High, located at about 6600 feet, has better terrain compared to Big Bear and Snow Summit, which means about a hundred inches of snow, which remains throughout the winter months.
You will have plenty of snow to play, relax, hike, or indulge in snow activities ideal for beginner skiers as the slopes here are gentle.
For sledging, head to nearby North Pole Tubing Park. If you want vast areas of snow to play in, Angeles National Forest, which offers beautiful views is a great choice.
WHERE DOES IT SNOW IN CALIFORNIA NORTH?
Mount Shasta, a winter wonderland, is a four-hour drive north of San Francisco and rises 14,000 feet above Northern California’s pine forests.
You should add Mount Shasta to your itinerary if you are planning a day trip from Redding or Sacramento to enjoy the snow in California, especially if you are going between November and April.
Don’t miss the popular California skiing location Mount Shasta Ski Park, situated in the Cascade Mountain Range about 6 miles south of Mount Shasta.
The Park has 425 acres of skiable terrain and is 5,500 feet above sea level with a maximum elevation of 6,900 feet.
The terrains here receive about 300 inches of snow per year, a significant amount compared to other snow places in California. If you are planning a trip in California in December, Mount Shasta is a great choice.
Mount Shasta also has 14 stunning snow trails accessible via two locally operated ski lifts and is one of the best snow places in California for adventures like skiing, snowshoeing and ice climbing.
Several trails in Mount Shasta are suitable for all types of skiers and snowshoers, making it one of the popular places to see snow in California.
Check out the 2.8 miles Castle Dome snowshoeing trail nearby Castle Crags State Park, a considerably easy course.
For more experienced snowshoers, I recommend the Bunny Flat trail, a 6.5-miles less-traveled trail with plenty of adventure.
You can go ice fishing and enjoy the stunning mountain views in Castle lake, situated a mile away from the parking lot.
Take up dog sledge rides and snowboarding if you are looking for more adventures in the snow.
Make sure the access roads to Mount Shasta are open before you make travel plans because they may be closed some days after a significant snowfall.
WHERE TO STAY?
This historic bed and breakfast, in the shadow of 14,162-foot Mount Shasta, Mount Shasta Ranch Bed and Breakfast, is the most famous hotel offering spacious rooms, excellent ambience and amenities, perfect for couples and families. Check out more here.
LASSEN VOLCANIC NATIONAL PARK
Lassen Volcanic National Park, located near the Sacramento Valley in the Cascade Range and about 2.5 hours from Reno, Nevada, is one of California’s frequently overlooked National Parks.
If you are thinking of heading up north for some California snow, Lassen National Park is an amazing spot.
The Park features Cinder Cone and Lassen Peak, where the latter is considered to be the largest plug dome Volcano in the world.
When snow covers the lovely lava dunes here in the winter, the area transforms into a winter wonderland, making it the ideal site to enjoy snow in California along with the views of Lassen peak.
The Park receives snowfall almost half of the year, and you can find at least an inch of snow-covered land which slowly develops to 30 feet of snow especially from December to March.
This is one of the best places to play with snow in California in December and enjoy adventurous activities like sledging, cross-country skiing and the free ranger-led snowshoe tour.
Head to the southwest area of the Park which has steep slopes and usually receives about 400 inches of snow a year. You may bump into some experienced sledders.
Make a snowman or go snowshoeing on the Loomis Plaza trail at Manzanita Lake’s more peaceful incline while admiring the snow-capped Lassen Peak in the backdrop.
Try the Kohm Yah-mah-nee trail at the south entrance of the Park, quite near to the visitor centre if you have spare time.
Visit the area around Lake Helen on Lassen Peak, which receives 600-700 inches of snow annually, making it one of the best places to see snow in California.
Burney Falls is a spectacular cascade you should not miss while visiting California. Check out the Sulphur Works hydrothermal area to relax in hot springs while admiring the snow in the backdrop if you have spare time.
There might be road closures or accessibility issues which may go up to several days when there is a significant snowfall. So ensure to check this beforehand.
SNOW IN CALIFORNIA MAP
TOP TRAVEL TIPS & RESOURCES
Booking Flights: To score flight deals, search on Jet Radar, Kiwi, or 12go.Asia (for Asia planning). Book and fly mid-week, taking red-eyes flights or those in the early mornings for better deals and lower prices. Avoid check-in bags on a budget airline.
Booking Trains: The best websites for booking trains anywhere in Europe are Rail Europe and TrainLine. Both are easy to manage online and track your journeys.
Booking Cars: For the best prices and easy handling of renting a car for road trips and day trips, I’d recommend Discover Cars or Rental Cars, available throughout the world.
Accommodations: I typically use HotelsCombined or Booking.com to book hotels. There are special getaway deals with amazing discounts(over 50%!) for this year on Booking.com, and you can find them here.
I use Hostelworld and Agoda to book hostels as the deposit is low, easy change/cancellation is available and reviews are excellent on both. Depending on the destination, I love staying in VRBOs/homestays.
Travel Insurance: No matter whether it is a short trip or longer trips abroad, I strongly recommend buying travel insurance for international trips. I recommend either World Nomads or SafetyWing for international travel insurance.
Tours: Being a solo traveler, one of the best ways to optimize my time, budget, and super importantly, meet amazing people from all over the world is by joining tours, especially food tours, walking tours, day trips, culture, and history tours.
You will get a local’s perspective, the best opportunities to experience places and people closely. I book using GetYourGuide, Klook, Viator, and Voyagin.
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