Are you looking for the best places to find snow near Los Angeles? So were we! Now we have found all the best places in Southern California to play and share them here with you.
The beauty of living in Los Angeles is having access to both the sea and the snow. Have you ever wanted to go from the beach to snow in one day? If so, here are the places you can go to make that dream a reality! If you are looking for snow near Los Angeles, there are several great options within 2 hours of the city.
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Best Places for Snow Near Los Angeles
Living in Los Angeles often means sunny skies and beach days, but for a few months of the year we have the best of both worlds with access to snow near Los Angeles as well as access to sunny beach days. Through the years we have explore all the best places for SoCal kids to find snow. Below we share our top spots.
Angeles National Forest
This is my go to recommendation for anyone who is interested in a do it yourself, let the kids run around and play in some snow type adventure. This is also great for the parents who are not interested in driving on snowy roads, dealing with a long car ride or paying for anything other than your parking pass. Less than an hour and 20 miles from our house in eastern LA you can be transported to a winter wonderland. Drive through low hanging clouds to appear on the other side of the mountain in sunny snowy forest. Keep an eye on the weather and head up after snow falls for the best snow play. Spend the day frolicking in powdery snow, building snowmen and making snow angels.
You can go as far as you feel comfortable. Signs will say “Snow Chains Required” but no one had them on and for the most part the roads are typically clear. If you are going in the middle of a storm, make sure to have the chains and be prepared to use them should the road conditions get bad.
To Get There:
Put Chilao Visitor Center or Buckhorn Campground into your GPS and head on out. You will see tons of snow on the side of the road as you get higher into the mountains, so feel free to stop where you want. Make sure you are parking off the roadway in designated parking. We found a great gentle hiking trail that was deserted and covered in fresh snow. The little one had fun making his own sledding routes, making a snowman and hiking in the snow.
Things to Know Before You Go
– Buy your Adventure Pass before you enter the park or at the Visitor Stand before Switzer Falls. The pass is $5 for the day or $30 for a year (or even better, $35 for two cars for a year). Cash only.
– Take snow chains if you have them, or just stop before you get too far into the icy/snowy roads.
– Take snacks, lunch and plenty of drinks as there are very few options within the park.
– Bring a variety of winter gear as the weather can change quickly.
– Fill up before you head into the mountains as there are no service stations once you leave La Canada/Flintridge.
Mount Baldy is one of the closest spots to Los Angeles to play in snow. Often during the winter months, the sides of the mountain are filled with snow, so it is easy to drive up, hop out and play until you are frozen!
However, if you are interested in tubing or sledding, this is also available at Mount Baldy. Check on Livingsocial and Groupon as they often have deals available throughout the winter season for reduced chair lift tickets that get you to the top of the mountain as well as cheaper tickets for tubing at Mt Baldy (and at the other tubing parks in the LA area).
To get to the tubing location, you will need to take the scenic chairlift up the mountain where there is a restaurant and the tubing park. Tubing rates are for 90 minutes, so make sure you have eaten, gone to the bathroom and anything else you need so you can take full advantage of your time on the mountain.
Mt. Baldy is super easy to reach from the east side of LA. From Silverlake it took 1 hr 20 minutes with quite a bit of traffic on the mountainside. Take the 210E towards/past Pasadena. Exit Baseline Road and take a left. Take a right at Padua Street. Then turn right on Mt. Baldy Road heading up the mountain. For free snow play, we liked the area by the ski lift and the area by the campground. (Tip: Go early to miss late afternoon traffic coming up the mountain.)
Things to Know Before You Go
Mt Baldy is also in the Angeles National Forest and requires an Adventure Pass for parking. These can be purchased in advance before reaching the mountain or once you pass through Mt Baldy Village. The pass is $5 for the day or $30 for a year (or even better, $35 for two cars for a year). Several shops in the village sell the pass. No shops or stations to purchase the pass are in the mountain past the Trout pond.
Make sure to bring your own sleds, warm winter clothes, snacks and drinks.
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A bit further afield is Mountain High’s North Pole Tubing Park in Wrightwood. It is just behind the mountains from Mt. Baldy, so about 1 hr 30 min with no traffic. The tubing park at Mountain High Resort is walk on, so no scary lift required! Tubing tickets are either in 2 hour increments or for the full day. Children under 36 inches are not allowed to enter the tubing area. Children between 36 inches and 42 inches must ride with a parent on the inner tubes.
This park has a moving carpet which makes getting back up the hill after each run so much easier! We went, but were not able to get tickets to the tubing park because it sells out early. If you go, you have to get there well before 10 a.m. If you have bad luck like we did, check out what else you can do in the area here. Unfortunately, there is no snow play area, so if you don’t get tickets, you won’t be able to stay and play here.
Also as with other tubing parks, food options are limited, so bring as much as you can to keep the little bellies full.
If your kids are into skiing or what to try it out for the first time, we highly recommend Mt High for first time skiers. It is also perfect for a day trip to ski for a few hours and then head home for bed at the end of the day!
If you feel like heading further up the mountain or the snow hasn’t made it down to the lower elevations, there are several other options up near Big Bear Lake. Just outside of Running Springs is the Snow Drift Tubing Park. It has three levels of hills available for you to tube, which means everyone in the family can find their own level of speed. The biggest negative is that is that there are only stairs leading you up and down the hills. The kids will be exhausted by the end of the day, trust me, which might just turn that negative to a positive! Snow Drift is $20 per person, per hour, cash only. This is a touch more expensive than other options since it is by the hour.
Things to Know Before You Go
To go to Running Springs/Big Bear, continue on 210E until you see the exit for Big Bear. Everything is clearly signposted from this point. You will see Snow Drift on your right after you pass the turn off for Running Springs town.
Big Bear Snow Play Options
Head a little further up Big Bear mountain and you have two other snow tubing parks that can also be visited during a day trip. Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain and Big Bear Snow Play are the go to parks in the town. Both parks have snow tubing as well as other activities (go karts, video games and Alpine has the toboggan sled track). Both parks are $40 per person for unlimited rides throughout the day (6 and under free). Cash only, so come prepared or use their on site ATMs. Both of these parks also have the magic carpet ride that carries visitors back up the hill after each run. This is worth the admission price itself! Alpine Slide also has a small bunny hill on the far left where small kids will enjoy going up and down the tiny hill on their own. Don’t go there first though as you may never get them off it!
Don’t forget there are also great options for ski resorts here too if you want to ski for the day.
If driving up and down the mountain in one day is too much for you, consider making a weekend trip of it. There are tons of great options from VRBOs to hotels.
Things to Know Before You Go
Driving up the mountain to Big Bear in winter requires that drivers have snow chains with them in case of inclement weather. While we have never needed them, I would definitely recommend getting snow chains if you are going during a winter storm. So far the roads have always been clear for us, but you just never know! They do sell chains once you get up to Running Springs area and probably as well in San Bernardino before you head into the mountains. Be prepared for traffic if you go during the weekend or right after a storm.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
In the San Bernardino National Forest, you can’t go wrong with a visit to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. From Los Angeles, a visit to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a bit of a trek for a day trip, but it can be done! If you happen to be staying in Palm Springs, even better as you can get from the desert floor to the snowy mountains in less than 20 minutes!
Hop aboard the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for a breathtaking ride to the snow-capped peak of Mount San Jacinto. Once you reach the top, kiddos can go sledding (be sure to bring your own sled), have snowball fights or even build snowmen. There are also cross country ski and snowshoe rentals for even more fun on the mountain. While here, pop into Peaks Restaurant, Pines Cafe or Lookout Lodge for some food and hot chocolate.
Other Ideas for Snow Play Near Los Angeles
Even though we think the places listed above are the best places for snow play near Los Angeles, there are a few other options, such as play in the snow days within Los Angeles itself. Kidspace offers yearly snow days where kids can bundle up (or not depending on the weather) and play in snow between Christmas and New Years.
Mt Pinos and Frazier Park
Other options include heading up to Mount Pinos and Frazier Park up the 5 where there is often snow to play in if there has been rain in Los Angeles. During COVID the neighborhood has gotten strict after snowfall, limiting admission to the town to residents only. Check with the local authorities to find out if any restrictions are in place before heading up.
Mammoth Mountain & June Lake
The ultimate in winter getaways for those in SoCal is a trip up Hwy 395 to Mammoth and June Lake. While this is our favorite place in summer for hikes, it is also amazing in winter! Here you can snowshoe, go cross-country skiing, take ski lessons at either Mammoth or June Lake resorts or just enjoy a winter wonderland all around you in and out of town.
If you are looking for a weekend escape without the crowds of Big Bear, consider renting a cabin at Lake Arrowhead. Lake Arrowhead village is adorable and a great base for winter fun. While there aren’t any
During the winter holidays, SkyPark is transformed into a North Pole-themed park. During this time the area is filled with Santa and Mrs Claus type activities, but once they head back to the North Pole, the area returns to its roots as an adventure playground offering ice skating, snowshoeing and snow play. Located just a bit from Lake Arrowhead this is a great day trip for those who are staying there.
Sequoia National Park in Winter
One of our favorite snowy escapes is Sequoia National Park in winter after a snowstorm. The massive sequoia trees look magical with a dusting of snow. Here you can snowshoe, hike or go to the dedicated snow play area for some extreme sledding and snowman building fun. There are great rentals down in Three Rivers or if you book in advance you might be able to snag a stay at the lodge within the park.
What to Bring For Snow Play Near Los Angeles
The weather is less predictable in the mountains. Even if it’s warm out, it can get cold in the snow and in the shade. Bring waterproof boots, gloves and pants for the kiddos if you can. Must haves for sure are hats, sunglasses and thick coats with layers underneath.
If you do not have water proof clothes, head to Big Bear where you can rent pants, snow bibs for kids and buy cheap snow boots at a variety of shops. We had good luck with Leroy’s just past Alpine Slide. It gets packed, so plan to be there for at least an hour!
If you want to attempt un-sanctioned off course sledding, buy a sled before arriving (Although they are available in the village at Mt Baldy and Big Bear). The cheap $10 sleds won’t last long on the rocky terrain unless there is a thick pack of snow. Bring some duct tape if you want to keep repairing it to last throughout the day.
Food & Drinks
There are few options for eating in the mountains. More options are available in Big Bear and Wrightwood. To have the most flexibility in spending time in the mountains, bring snacks and a picnic lunch. At the ski lifts there is a soda machine and a few snacks inside the lift ticket office.
At the other snow tubing parks, food is also limited. There is a small cafe at Alpine Slide, but it’s not great and it’s expensive. Best bet is to bring plenty of your own food so you don’t have to waste time waiting in long lines for mediocre food. Stop off in town for a home cooked meal before heading back down the mountain.
Have you found any other great places to play in the snow near Los Angeles? Has anyone been up near Lake Arrowhead? If so, share them with us below!
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