As the holidays have faded, the shorter days, colder weather, and routine of this season can feel a bit stifling. While summer is often considered the prime time for family vacations, a winter family getaway is just the rejuvenating escape you need. Treat yourself to a well-deserved break and plan a family trip to the High Sierra this season. Whether you fancy a national park all to yourselves or want to try skiing for the first time, the High Sierra offers a host of the best family winter vacation ideas you can imagine.

All Compasses Point To North Lake Tahoe

Granite Place at Boulder Bay Resort – Image appears courtesy: North Lake Tahoe – Photo by: Augustine Agency

Lake Tahoe is one of those rare winter destinations where you can enjoy ice-free waters and still take in a winter wonderland. Kickstart your winter vacation by indulging in high-quality coffee for yourself and delicious hot cocoa for the kids from one of the charming local coffee shops. Once fueled up, rent a pair of snowshoes and embark on an adventure along the stunning lakeside scenery. Or head up high to the great unknown by Snowshoeing Chickadee Ridge.

Image appears courtesy: North Lake Tahoe – Photo by: Jeff Dow

For a more active day of snow sports, explore the Tahoe City Winter Sports Park, where you can ice skate and sled. Alternatively, head to North Tahoe Regional Park for classic snow activities like sledding and snowmobiling. Do your kids have a need for speed? Have them do it in a safe environment by going snow tubing at Granlibakken or disco tubing at Palisades Tahoe. 

This is just the beginning of the fun you can have on a winter family vacation in Lake Tahoe. Dive deeper into the possibilities by checking out North Lake Tahoe’s article on Lakeside Activities for a Winter Family Vacation in Lake Tahoe.

Unreal Adventure In Mammoth Lakes

family skiing at Mammoth Mountain
Image appears courtesy: Visit Mammoth

Mammoth Mountain may cast a big shadow with its lofty 11,053-foot summit, 3,500 skiable acres and over 25 lifts to navigate. But don’t get intimidated. Don’t be daunted by its size. Mammoth Lakes is the perfect destination for a family ski vacation. Whether you’re a first-timer or a beginner, kick off your skiing journey with lessons at the welcoming Main Lodge, known for its laid-back atmosphere.

For an even more relaxed experience, explore Mammoth’s neighboring resort in June Lake – June Mountain.

Back in Mammoth Lakes, you can also immerse yourself in the beauty of the surroundings with activities such as cross-country skiing or snowshoeing at the Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center. With over 19 miles of groomed trails, guided tours, and family-friendly rentals, it’s an adventure for everyone.

Image appears courtesy: Visit Mammoth

No winter vacation is complete without the thrill of sledding and tubing! Head to Woolly’s Adventure Summit to get your fill of excitement. To ensure a smooth and enjoyable winter getaway for the entire family, here are 10 tips to make the most of your time here.

Pick Your Adventure In Tuolumne

Leland High Sierra Snowplay in Tuolumne County
Image appears courtesy: Visit Tuolumne

For families wanting to immerse themselves in a myriad of experiences in a quiet winter setting, a visit to Tuolumne County is in order. Nestled on the western side of the Sierra, Tuolumne County offers easy access to Yosemite through the Big Oak Flat Entrance. During this season, it’s all about immersing yourself in the beauty of Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Reservoir! As the lowest part of the national park, it offers a leisurely hike around the reservoir. You’ll marvel at Wapama Falls and the majestic granite giants.

For some snowy fun, head to Tuolumne County’s High Sierra area. Experience the thrill of sledding at the Leland High Sierra Snowplay area. Or hit the slopes at the Dodge Ridge Mountain Resort. If that’s not enough, Visit Tuolumne County has more Winter Fun and Family trip ideas waiting for you.

Off Season In Yosemite Is Your On Season Of Winter Fun

Snowshoeing around Taft Point
Snowshoeing around Taft Point; Photo by: Local Freshies®

Take advantage of less crowds and traffic and enjoy the opportunity to take in Yosemite’s splendor the way John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt experienced it by visiting in the winter. As the park transforms into a snowy wonderland, especially above 6,000 feet, seize the opportunity to explore on snowshoes starting from Badger Pass. This unique spot is also home to one of only THREE ski areas in the U.S. located within a National Park. With its cozy ambiance, it’s an ideal place to introduce your kids to the joy of skiing.

ice skating curry village yosemite
Ice skating in Curry Village; Photo by: Local Freshies®

Venture into the iconic Yosemite Valley and discover Curry Village, home to one of the most breathtaking outdoor ice-skating rinks in the country. Embrace the serene winter charm of Yosemite, creating memories reminiscent of the park’s historic visitors. For a full list of winter ideas, explore Visit Yosemite-Madera’s list of 7 ways to have winter fun in Yosemite.

Warm Winter Wonderland In Bishop

bouldering with kids
Image appears courtesy: Bishop Visitor Center

Elevate your winter family vacation by heading to Bishop. Nestled amidst towering peaks, Bishop stands out as one of the rare mid-winter destinations offering fun for all seasons. Take advantage of the ideal weather during winter to introduce your kids to the fun sport of bouldering. Spend a relaxing day at Keough Hot Springs just outside town to melt away stress. You can even let your kids experience the joy of fishing on the Owens River. The activities available to you and your kids are nearly endless.

If you crave some snowy excitement, embark on a scenic 45-minute drive to Mammoth Lakes. Here you can let your little ones hit the slopes at the renowned Mammoth Mountain. If that’s a bit far, just 20 miles from town, indulge in snow play or sledding in the picturesque Bishop Creek Canyon. Need help planning your trip? Explore Bishop’s five-day adventure itinerary designed for families. For additional family fun ideas in and around Bishop, check out their Kids’ Corner.

Have It All In Calaveras County

Bear Valley in High Sierra in Arnold California during winter storm
Bear Valley – Image appears courtesy: Calaveras County Visitors Bureau

Discover the perfect family winter getaway in Calaveras County, nestled on the western slopes. Whether you crave the thrill of snow or prefer a snow-free experience, they’ve got you covered! For snow enthusiasts, ascend to the heights of Ski Bear Valley, known as the ultimate skiing sweet spot by Sunset Magazine. Enjoy nearly 1,200 acres of pristine, uncrowded slopes, blanketed with over 360 inches of snow annually.

If you’re looking to escape the snow, embark on one of High Sierra’s most cherished winter hikes. Explore the River of Skulls trail near New Hogan Reservoir or the Carson Creek Trail by New Melones Lake. For additional inspiration, browse Calaveras County’s curated list of Family-Friendly Winter Activities and Kid-Friendly Vacation ideas.

Author: Alex Silgalis

Alex founded Local Freshies® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.

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