Not all buffets are the same. Some are filled with basic staples like potato salad, chicken, and mostaccioli. Then there are the legendary ones – Alaskan King Crab, Filet Mignon, and made to order crepes. California’s High Sierra during Jack Frost’s reign is like a luxurious Las Vegas smorgasbord. Here are 10 things to do in California in winter.
How Sierra Provides All-Season Fun
The Sierra Nevada’s abrupt rise from almost sea level to thirteen thousand feet creates a quick change in climate as you ascend. This gives visitors and locals alike access to all four seasons of fun for things to do in California in winter. You just have to pick the elevation. If you want to go for a hike or mountain bike mid-winter, just stay lower. Snow play? Head higher.
Take A Hike
In the summer, the lower elevations of the Sierra can get quite toasty, but in the winter, it’s where you want to head for those summer-like activities such as hiking. This is THE time to head to places like Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite National Park. Go for a stroll on the banks of the Owens River or even cast a line (yes, you can fish all winter long)!
Explore Nature Via Snowshoes
On the flipside of the hiking coin, you’ll find snowshoeing. Strapping on a pair of these will allow you to enjoy a winter wonderland in the upper elevations. Relish in some tranquility amongst the Giant Sequoias in Calaveras Big Trees State Park or even in the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park. Take in snow-capped mountains, frozen lakes, and frosted pine trees on your way to one of the most spectacular views in the High Sierra in winter – the Minaret Vista.
Let Gravity Do The Work & Go Downhill Skiing
The Sierra Nevada is also home to more than twenty world class and cozy ski areas to enjoy the bounty of snow that falls every winter. Ski enthusiasts can test their mettle on the steep fall-line trails in places like Kirkwood Mountain, Mammoth Mountain, or Palisades Tahoe. While first-timers will find elbow room and a more relaxed atmosphere at resorts like June Mountain on the picturesque June Lake Loop or Badger Pass up in Yosemite National Park.
Snowballs and Sledding
Snow. Is. Fun. Build it into things like a snowman or a snow castle. Kids can stomp around like miniature Godzillas. Slide on it via a sled or a tube. Heck, you can even have an old-fashioned snowball fight. With that being said, nearly 20,000 kids get injured every year because areas aren’t cleared of obstacles. To ensure you have a great time and reduce the risks, we suggest visiting a designated snow-play area to provide a safe environment. This includes places like Adventure Mountain on Echo Summit or Tahoe Donner just outside the historic town of Truckee.
Pack it in – Pack it out:
If you do go out for some snow-play, keep our slopes clean by picking up trash and taking home broken sleds. In fact, we don’t encourage using plastic sleds because they break so easily. And when plastic enters the surrounding environment, it can impact wildlife and potentially our drinking water.
Rock N’ Climb
Things to do in California in winter especially in the High Sierra doesn’t have to include snowy fun. In fact, this season is home to some of the best times to do activities like rock climbing. How so? Around January, Old Man Winter takes a well-deserved break leading to plenty of sunshine and even warm temps, nicknamed “Juneuary.” In the Eastern Sierra, this is when you want to send it and go bouldering in the legendary Buttermilks. Even on the granite walls of Yosemite you can find plenty of problems to solve at the lower elevations in places like Arch Rock or Cookie Cliff.
Visit A Park
The cooler temperatures and snowy landscapes up high means you’ll have to prepare a bit differently for a visit. Bring extra clothing and check to make sure that certain passes aren’t closed for the season. The benefit though is that the popular trails such as Yosemite Valley or the Big Trees Trail in national and state parks turn into tranquil sanctuaries. It also introduces new and exciting activities like snowshoeing or cross-country skiing to attractions like Dewey Point in Yosemite National Park or even winter phenomena such as ravens snow bathing.