As the snow begins to fall on the upper reaches of the Sierra Nevada Mountain, it isn’t time to stop traveling but an opportunity to experience California’s roof in a different way. Here’s 10 places to visit in California during winter in the High Sierra and why this is THE time to experience them.


downtown Truckee on a sunny winter day
Photo by: Scott Shots Photography, Courtesy Visit Truckee-Tahoe

For those looking for an easy destination to fly into, look no further than the Historic Town Of Truckee. Only thirty minutes from Reno-Tahoe International Airport, it’s the perfect basecamp for those wanting a winter getaway without the hassle. Spend a week or better yet a month experiencing what Truckee has to offer, and shop like a local with the Sustainable Truckee Gift Card! Build a snowman or go sledding in one of the snowplay areas around town. Go skiing at one of the seven world-class resorts within a 45-minute drive of town. Do your best Olympic Nordic skiing impressions at the LARGEST XC ski resort in North America, Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Resort. And then when you need to work, Truckee offers an assortment of options to help you work remotely.

Oakhurst & Yosemite

snowshoeing in Yosemite National Park
Image appears courtesy: Visit Yosemite | Madera County – photo by: Local Freshies

Summer may be the most popular time to visit Yosemite National Park, but exploring it during the winter offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the park just as John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt did. And with the serenity of having it almost all to yourself. With fewer visitors around, you’ll also have the perfect chance to capture that Instagram-worthy photo of Yosemite you’ve always dreamed of.

Strap on your skates and gracefully glide onto one of the country’s top-rated ice skating rinks, as recognized by USA Today. This time of year, you can witness exclusive natural phenomena that are unique to the season, like the stunning snow cone forming at Yosemite Falls.

For those looking to explore a different facet of the Sierra, consider booking a Jeep or snow-track tour with Yosemite Adventure Company. And if that’s not enough to satiate your winter adventure spirit, here are seven more exciting ways to enjoy the beauty of Yosemite during the winter season.

Bear Valley

Bear Valley in California High Sierra
Photo by: Skyline Bear Valley Resort -Image appears courtesy: Alpine County Chamber of Commerce & Visitor’s Center

As the crow flies, halfway between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park you’ll find a quiet piece of the High Sierra. A destination that harkens back to a different era. – Bear Valley. Situated at an elevation around 7,000 feet, this slice of heaven receives upwards of 350 inches of snow annually. Within this cozy valley, you’ll find one of the hidden ski resorts in the High Sierra – Skyline Bear Valley Resort. Within its boundaries, you’ll find 75 trails and 1,700 skiable acres of terrain to ski or snowboard to your heart’s content. What this area is really known for is its cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Bear Valley Adventure Company offers groomed trails as well sledding and tubing hills. Along the way visit trailside huts, a café, and even picnic tables across its 3,000 acres and 70+ kilometers of trails.


bouldering in winter in Bishop California
Photo by: Brian Roccoforte
– Image appears courtesy: Bishop Visitor Center

Even though the Sierra sees substantial snowfall, it’s still California, and there’s places to visit during winter that receive almost none like Bishop. In fact, winter in Bishop offers the ultimate “Choose your own adventure story” basecamp experience. During this season, it transforms into an all-season wonderland, where you can tailor your activities to your liking.

Start your day with a thrilling skiing session and wrap it up with a leisurely road biking excursion in the afternoon. The following day, embark on a scenic hike and try your hand at bouldering in the Volcanic Tablelands. As the locals like to put it, the mountains are draped in pristine snow, while the valley basks in the warmth of abundant sunshine. If this is your first trip or your hundredth, take a deep dive into how to embrace winter in Bishop. We guarantee you’ll find out that this isn’t a great time to visit but an amazing one.

South Lake Tahoe

A man snowshoeing above Emerald Bay looking out to the bay in the winter time
Image appears courtesy: Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority

Depending on who you talk to, South Lake Tahoe as a winter getaway means something different for each and every person. It’s a powder mecca for some. Families view it as a snow play paradise, and a canvas for creating cherished memories. For others, it’s a destination where every vacation hour is maximized like nowhere else.

In the daytime, you can embark on a snowmobile tour or enjoy a leisurely cruise on a paddleboat. As night falls, attend a captivating show, try your luck at gambling, or dance the night away at a nightclub. But no matter who you ask, it’s the towering, snow-covered peaks, the ice-free expanse of Lake Tahoe, and the generous doses of sunshine that make South Lake Tahoe one of THE places to visit in California during winter.

With such an abundance of potential activities, it might be challenging to decide where to begin. Consider starting with these eight quintessential experiences that embody the essence of Lake Tahoe. Or explore Visit Lake Tahoe’s list of the myriad of winter activities waiting for you.

Twain Harte

Leland Snow Play Area in winter with tubing
The Leland snow play in the High Sierra above Twain Harte – Image appears courtesy: Visit Tuolumne

Since its inception in the 1930s, Twain Harte was initially established as a summer retreat. However, as the snow graces the landscape, it transforms into the perfect winter basecamp. Nestled at 3,600 feet above sea level, it conveniently sits just below the snow line.

For an exhilarating winter experience, venture up Highway 108 to the High Sierra, where you can enjoy powder-filled skiing or snowboarding at Dodge Ridge Mountain Resort. Alternatively, embrace the thrill of snow tubing at Leland High Sierra Snowplay. If your legs need a respite, explore the serene surroundings of the California State ParkRailtown 1897 State Historic Park. Lovingly referred to as “The Movie Railroad,” it’s played a role in iconic films like Back to the Future III and Unforgiven. During this season, the ambiance is more tranquil, providing you with the perfect opportunity to explore the historic roundhouse complex of the Sierra Railway, featuring three original locomotives.

For additional inspiration on activities in and around Twain Harte, check out Visit Tuolumne’s article titled “Winter Wanders and Gems of Tuolumne County.”

North Lake Tahoe

couple snowshoeing on the shore of Lake Tahoe
Photo by: Chris Bartkowski – Image appears courtesy: North Lake Tahoe Tourism

Lake Tahoe is undeniably vast, boasting a shoreline that stretches 72 miles. Along this expansive lakeshore, a variety of communities, each with their own unique character and charm, can be found. In North Lake Tahoe, set your sights on the 12 unique towns that make up the destination.

In Tahoe City, wander through its walkable downtown, immersing yourself in the local atmosphere. Discover specialty shops such as Alpenglow Sports which is the ultimate outdoorsy haven. For a touch of indie cinema or captivating adventure documentaries, the Tahoe Art Haus awaits your exploration. To further expand your love of film, check out the Tahoe Film Fest, which runs from Nov. 30 through Dec. 3.

To witness the breathtaking beauty of North Lake Tahoe adorned in a pristine white snow blanket, head to Kings Beach State Recreation Area. For some delicious dining with lakefront views, check out Jason’s Beachside Grille in Kings Beach.

And for those seeking thrills on the slopes, North Lake Tahoe has you covered as well. Experience the exhilaration at resorts like Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe Resort, Granlibakken Tahoe Ski Area or Palisades Tahoe, carving your way through the winter wonderland.


Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Photo by: Preethi Chandrasekhar – Image appears courtesy: Calaveras Visitors Bureau

Are you looking to combine a romantic winter getaway alongside some snowy fun? Just a few miles west of Bear Valley you’ll find the quaint hamlet of Arnold. Halfway between historic Gold Rush towns and the snow-filled fun of the High Sierra. Sample award-winning wines one day in Murphys. Then go for a snowshoe hike amongst the Sequoias in Arnold’s Big Trees State Park. It’s the epitome of everything you want to do at your fingertips. And then finish off the day with pampering time at Elements Day Spa in Murphys for a couples massage with a champagne spritz and time in their infra-red sauna.

Mammoth Lakes

Night Of Lights Christmas Traditions In The High Sierra
Image Appears Courtesy: Mammoth Mountain

When it comes to excitement in the snow, Mammoth Lakes is king. From opening day to New Years’ Night of Lights and the US Grand Prix, this mountain town sees winter as a time to celebrate. Alongside the “fireworks”, Mammoth Lakes is also a great place for solitude. Go for a stroll through the Hot Creek Geological Site. Take in some fresh mountain air via a pair of cross-country skis in the Mammoth Lakes Basin. Or just embrace the scene with a hot cocoa or a cup of coffee at one of the many local coffee shops in town.

June Lake

The town of June Lake on a stormy winter day
The town of June Lake on a stormy winter day – Photo by: Local Freshies

The tranquil counterpart to Mammoth’s vibrant energy, June Lake emerges as a winter destination for those wanting a heaping spoonful of solitude. The moment you drive into the canyon, it’s as if you’ve been transported to the serene landscapes of the Swiss Alps, with towering peaks embracing you from every angle. Adventure beckons right from the heart of the village.

For a truly immersive experience, rent a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis from Ernie’s Tackle Shop in town and venture into the untouched wilderness that surrounds you. Families can extend their journey a few miles beyond the Double Eagle Resort on Highway 158, where the road closes in winter. Embark on a snowy road expedition, treating yourself to breathtaking views of Silver Lake and Carson Peak.

Ski enthusiasts or those seeking peaceful slopes need not look far. June Mountain looms just above the town, offering 1,500 acres and 2,560’ vertical feet of snow sliding fun. And if that’s not enough, explore Local Freshies’ article highlighting six compelling reasons to make June Lake your winter destination.

Looking for a cozy winter romantic getaway? Be sure to read our article 7 Mountain Towns for Romantic Winter Getaways in California High Sierra.

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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