The Best Places to See Snow Near LA and San Diego

Head to SoCal’s best mountain destinations for skiing and snowboarding, or to chuck snowballs at your friends.

There are no official snow days in LA, no school closures or surprise whiteouts, but there are unofficial snow days—the first clear Saturday after it rains might as well be a holiday for powder hounds, when the air is impossibly clean and you round a bend on the freeway and catch a glimpse of the snowline creeping lower on the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains in the distance. That’s the time to head for the hills and start climbing towards the snow. To help you get up there, we’ve rounded up our favorite frosty Southern California destinations, from snow-powered adventure sports in Mammoth Mountain to the eclectic woods of Idyllwild to family-friendly Big Bear, and beyond.

Snowy road in Angeles Crest
Angeles Crest Highway

Angeles Crest

San Gabriel Mountains
It may sound a little sad to transplants who grew up with snowy winters, but there is a tradition among some Northeast LA-area youths to grab a couple of coolers and drive up Angeles Crest Highway after the first big rain of the winter, find some snow and fill the coolers with it to bring back down the mountain for an LA snowball fight. The winding, scenic Angeles Crest Highway is an easy gateway to snowy adventures, with hiking trails and plenty of turnouts where you can pull over and stomp around in fresh-fallen snow, and if you happen upon the right hill there’s even some sledding to find.
How to book: As long as you have a car, you can book it—this is an ideal day trip after rain. The road and the early turnouts can get crowded on weekends, so you may want to pick up a breakfast burrito from Lupe’s Place, sandwiches from Berge’s, or coffee and pastries from Constellation, and prepare to head a little farther up the mountain. Might be wise to pick up some chains for your tires too, but don’t worry—you can still return them the next day if you don’t end up needing them.

Idyllwild dog walking in snow
Go Idyllwild


San Jacinto Mountains
The low-key funky mountain town is just a couple hours southeast of LA, and it makes for a fantastic weekend getaway from the city. There’s no skiing nearby, so it’s less developed and corporate than other resort-based communities in the LA-area mountains, with a much more chill energy. There’s still plenty to do there with lots of culture, natural wine, local craft beer, and independent art. There’s no shortage of outdoorsy winter fun, either—Idyllwild is great for hiking, sledding, and snowshoeing.
How to book: There are lots of great places to stay in Idyllwild, from relaxing lodges and B&Bs like The Grand Idyllwild or Strawberry Creek to super funky themed spots like the themed rooms at Hicksville Pines. There are also lots of individual cabins available through the various vacation rental apps.

Yosemite in snow
Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Sierra Nevada Mountains
California’s most-visited national park is best known for summer activities, hiking and climbing and dips in the always-freezing Merced River, but winter is an underrated delight in Yosemite. The gorgeous granite walls of the Yosemite Valley look even more beautiful under a dusting of soft white snow, and hiking becomes a whole new adventure when you add a layer of ice. One huge advantage of winter in Yosemite is the relative calm that off-season visits bring, with fewer people and more room for Muir-style contemplation of nature’s splendor. That also means more active wildlife—the lower traffic yields space for black-tailed deer, hawks, hares, and coyotes to roam the park.
How to book: Staying in the park itself is ideal, but reservations can be tough to get, even in the off-season. Try your luck through Yosemite’s official reservations website, but if that doesn’t work you may want to look into third-party cabins, like the ones at Yosemite West, which are inside the park but a short drive away from the valley floor. Many of them boast gorgeous views and plenty of modern comforts, but minimal cell service.

Mountain High
Mountain High

Mountain High ski resort is just outside the town of Wrightwood, a quick hour-and-a-half drive from LA. It pulls in many Southern Californians looking to get an easy snow fix. Flexible lift ticket options are available from half day, from 12–4 pm ($94-$109) to a whole day, from 8:30 am–4 pm ($109-$119) and—on the weekends—even nighttime, from 5-10 pm ($49–$59). If snow sliding isn’t your thing, you can still activate your sense of adventure with a day of zip lining or retail therapy by perusing nearby antique shops in town.
How to book: You’ll save a few bucks if you purchase tickets online and in advance, and the same is true for rentals and lessons; walk-ups are at least $10 more expensive. Check out,, and Airbnb for local lodging.

Mt Baldy Resort
Mt Baldy Resort

Mt. Baldy
Mt. Baldy Resort is a small ski hill that’s only an hour from LA—though that can nearly double in traffic. It’s the shortest commute to the chairlift from most parts of LA and it has some of the best natural terrain after a storm, but it tends to open a little later in the season than the other local resorts due to its lower base elevation. There are more skiable acres than Mountain High, so there’s literally more room for learning. A big plus for families coming to the mountain is that non-skiers can take a scenic chairlift ride starting at $25 and go snow tubing for $58 on the weekends.
How to book: A dynamically priced day lift ticket purchased in advance ranges anywhere from $35–$68 throughout the short season, available online. Local lodging is relatively scarce, but check out,, and Airbnb to see what you can find.

Big Bear Mountain Resort
Big Bear Mountain Resort

San Bernardino National Forest
Big Bear is among Southern California’s most popular snow destinations, with a wide range of activities, restaurants, and places to stay centered around the mountains and the lovely Big Bear Lake. It is a particularly family-friendly destination, with options like tubing at Big Bear Snow Play and bob sledding at Alpine Slide. Visit Big Bear Alpine Zoo to take a gander at animals, and for hiking try the Pinenut trail, the Alpine Pedal Path trail, or the steep Castle Rock trail. If you prefer to ski, there are several options for you, including the connected properties of Big Bear Mountain Resort, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit. Bear Mountain is a little more advanced, with a state of the art terrain park, and Snow Summit is a little more gentle for beginners.
How to book: Check out,, and Airbnb for local lodging. Lift tickets for skiing and snowboarding are best bought in advance, and range in price from $109 for night sessions and off-days to $155 for peak times.

June Mountain
June Mountain

June Lake
Long considered the local’s mountain for Mammoth and June Lake residents, June Mountain is an unsung hero for its smaller crowds and family atmosphere. It’s a five-and-a-half-hour drive from LA, and offers 1,500 skiable acres. Kids ski free, making it very attractive for families looking to shred powder together. The hill also has a good amount of viable tree riding for advanced riders who like to duck in and out of the groomers, as well as terrain parks and an ultra-impressive run with huge jumps and a super pipe for pro riders. Explore the town of June Lake for some extracurricular activities, as it’s a charming hodgepodge of independent restaurants, craft shops, coffee shops and retail.
How to book: Purchase tickets, which range from $139-$179 in advance online for the best savings. Find local lodging options on the June Mountain Resort website.

Mammoth Mountain
Mammoth Mountain

Mammoth Lakes
LA’s best ski-vacation destination is a five-and-a-half hour drive from Los Angeles. It offers 3,500 skiable acres of varied terrain, with multiple terrain parks for all levels and two or three half pipes in the peak season. Their ski lifts are some of the most efficient (read: fast) in all of California, and the whole mountain—including the peak, 11,000 ft up—is epic when there’s a good amount of snowfall during the season. Other fun options available for the family include snowmobiling trips, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. There’s also a relatively new tubing track for more downhill fun. There are many lodging and dining options in and outside Mammoth Village, but you’ll want to stay close: there’s great après-ski and dining right in the Village, too.
How to book: Mammoth is on the Ikon pass network, which will yield the best savings should you have the foresight and commitment to purchase one. Individual lift tickets range from $179-$189 each and walk-up tickets on holidays costing as much as $219. Explore Mammoth’s lodging collection on their website.

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Esther Tseng is a Los Angeles-based writer and snowboarder. She's contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine and more.

Ben Mesirow is an Echo Park native who writes TV, fiction, food, and sports. At one time or another, his writing has appeared in The 
LA TimesLitroMcSweeney’s Internet TendencyLos Angeles Magazine, and scratched into dozens of desks at Walter Reed Middle School.