By Rachael Mattice
Tis the season for savory feasts, family gatherings, reflecting on goals and a low-grade sunscreen. Winter in Southern California is moderate and can often still equate to bathing suit weather, even with the strongest of prayers from four-season lovers.
For those cursing the sun, sporting heavy-duty sweaters and sipping hot tea while dreaming of white flurries falling from the sky, there are several winter wonderland destinations to visit while staying within the state border. The diverse topography of California isn’t just home to sandy beaches, but also dense forests, tall peaks and cozy mountain towns that offer romantic getaways, kid-friendly activities and adventurous sport outings for a Jack Frost-filled winter of fun.
Idyllwild, Wrightwood, Lake Arrowhead
Travel Time: 1.5-2 hours by car
Length of Stay: Weekend
Southern California is home to a few popular snow-filled stops that can be traversed and booked for any regular weekend getaway. Idyllwild, a quaint community nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains in Riverside County, is home to sweet cedars and a population of under 4,000. Locally-owned shops and restaurants fill the streets, making it the perfect stop for a hot cup of cocoa, building a snowman or taking photos of the scenery.
For those looking to downhill ski or snowboard, mountain communities like Wrightwood are preferred. Located only 15 miles off of Interstate 15 in the San Gabriel Mountains, visitors enjoy common activities such as camping, fishing, hiking and skiing. Wrightwood is home to access points such as Mt. Baden Powell, the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail and Angeles National Forest, the latter offering plentiful opportunities for sledding and other snow play.
Lake Arrowhead is the largest unincorporated community of the three Southern California “hot spots” within the San Bernardino Mountains and offers several resort hotel accommodations for optimal rest and relaxation. Rent a cabin from the trendy Saddleback Inn and Grill and enjoy rustic décor and a warm fireplace after a day out exploring in the wild.
Central and Northern California
Mammoth Lakes, Lake Tahoe, McCloud
Travel Time: 5.5, 8.5, 10.5 hours, respectively, by car
Length of Stay: Three or four days
Travelers with flexibility or a few vacation days to burn might want to consider booking a trip up north.
The majestic Mammoth Lakes is a popular year-round hub, but fills up quickly for the winter months. Cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snow biking, snowcat tours, snowmobiling and ice climbing are in abundance in this winter playground. Lee Vining Canyon is a picturesque location for experienced ice climbers and is located 30 minutes north of Mammoth Lakes. Climbing guides such as Sierra Mountaineering International or California Alpine Guides offer introductory courses for new wildlings looking to climb their first frozen wall.
Northeast of San Francisco lies Lake Tahoe and surrounding Truckee and Squaw Valley villages. Conditions are ideal for skiing and swooshing through white powder while laid-back travelers might find comfort in the nearby casinos or with horse-drawn sleigh rides in South Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is also home to many artists and rejuvenation stations like Fifth Element Healing Center and Atelier for those looking to attend regular gallery showings or a wellness retreat.
McCloud is a small town accessible through the Mt. Shasta Cascade region of California, connecting visitors to nearby McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park and Lassen Volcanic National Park. Much like many of the other winter destinations, this Northern California secret includes breathtaking views for snowboarding, skiing and even dog sledding, but offers a lot of reasonable prices and packages.
Whether it be by car, train or plane, a snow-laden escape is within arm’s reach for Californians this winter.
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