Southern California is known for its sunshine and year round warm weather. In fact, many move here just for that reason. Though the majority of the area does enjoy a relatively warm and comfortable winter, our mountains still offer plenty of opportunities to play and experience some cold weather and snow. Here are a few spots within hours of Los Angeles that many locals frequent in the winter.
San Jacinto State Park
When the weather brings about rain in Southern California, some of the highest mountains will experience snowfall first. Sitting above 8,500ft is the great Long Valley area of the San Jacinto State Park, just above Palm Springs. It is the last leg of the notoriously difficult Cactus to Clouds trail, with a view John Muir called “the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth!"
Here snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and other snowy adventures are available via the Adventure Center, just a short Tram ride to the top of the mountains. Snowshoes can be rented at the Adventure Center based on availability, and cross country equipment is only rented out during the week. If you do plan to explore the valley, be sure to check in at the Long Valley Ranger Station for more detailed information.
This is a wonderful alternative to those who are looking to get away but also not wanting to brave the traffic and crowds also aiming to reach the local slopes.
Mt Baldy, San Gabriel Mountains
Mt. Baldy is another prime area with less crowds and family friendly options close to LA. With access via the Baldy Ski Lifts, you can head to the activities at the notch, or opt to stay at the bottom of the mountain. Tubing is available at the Notch during winter months, as are snow sport lessons and rentals. The only downside is that the slopes are only open when there is enough snowfall.
Mountain High, Wrightwood, CA
Mountain High is conveniently LA's closest resort, with a road that is easier to access than many others. Snow is kept on the slopes when the temperatures are right, and this is a perfect location for individuals looking to beat the traffic, as well as to learn or continue to practice their skills on the slopes.
Tubing is also a fun option, as well as exploring the beautiful mountain town of Wrightwood.
*Note: The Angeles Crest Hwy (Hwy 2) connects through here, but is often closed during snowy or icy conditions. Check road conditions before you attempt to travel through this Hwy.
Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead
The most well known and visited winter resort in Southern California is located in the San Gabriel Mountains, in the towns of Big Bear, below Lake Arrowhead. Big Bear Mountain Resort consists of two mountains: Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, both of which have slopes for all levels, beginner to advanced.
Located in higher elevations, snowfall is often expected, but for the most part the resort is always prepared to ensure there is always snow on the slopes.
*Winter conditions warning: Every year many locals often decide to venture out and try their hand at winter hiking/camping. The mountain trails in the snow are beautiful and a rare sight, but they can also be very dangerous. They should only be done with the correct equipment, knowledge, and training needed to survive winter and backcountry conditions. Calls, rescues, and injuries have gone up over the past years. Explore always, but explore safely.