One of the many great things about living in Southern California is that you’re just a short drive to the local mountains. You could potentially splash on the beach and build a snowman all in the same day, giving your family plenty of opportunities to connect with nature, even in this big city. Appreciating the natural world is an excellent tool in teaching kids about empathy and compassion.
A stress-free trip is key to making the most of your getaway, so we have some simple tips to ensure a memorable experience with snow near Los Angeles.
Top 5 Tips for Planning a Trip to the Local Mountains
1. The Drive: Road Conditions, Chains, & Altitude
Be sure to check road conditions and closures for the local mountains before you go, and keep in mind that conditions can change as you’re driving. A quick trip can turn into a 5-hour drive because of traffic or other incidents. If you’re flexible with your timing and go a reasonable speed on the mountain, then the trek is much more bearable. If possible, avoid driving up the mountain Friday afternoon or Saturday morning and avoid driving down Sunday.
It’s also vital to understand road conditions. Know the difference between R-1, R-1, and R-3 conditions, and take them seriously. R-2 requires you to be physically in possession of chains, even if you have a 4WD vehicle. R-3 requires chains on ALL VEHICLES, no exceptions.
Altitude sickness is real. Make sure everyone is drinking plenty of water. We recommend packing Pedialyte or Liquid IV packets that dissolve in water if you plan to stay more than a single day.
If there’s decent snow cover, you’re going to see all kinds of wacky stuff; by that, we mean people hopping out at turnouts and climbing over the plow ridge into the snow with their sleds. There are plenty of sledding and tubing options you can hit up without going off-roading or breaking the bank for tubing tickets. Hiking trails and campgrounds open for day use typically have great spots to sled that are safe and away from the roads. Ensure that wherever you choose to stop is an actual parking lane and that you keep your car inside the white lines.
People who live in the local mountains year-round don’t always love the influx of day-trippers as they tend to leave behind trash and items like broken sleds. Just like camping, make sure whatever you carry in gets carried. It’s a great lesson for kids in kindness and consideration.
3. Skiing & Snowboarding
If you ski or snowboard and it’s time to take the kids on the mountain, we recommend “ski/snowboard school.” Check with the ski/snowboard resort you’re going to for details. SnowSummit and Mountain High are both excellent spots for newbies and kids to learn. Make sure your kids have sunscreen, goggles, and know they need to keep their gloves on.
4. What to Pack
These are some of the essentials for a day-trip to the local mountains:
- Be sure to bring plenty of water, Pedialyte or liquid IV for altitude
- Motion sickness meds for the car sick prone
- A change of clothes that are easily accessible for every single person in the car
- Some old towels, a couple trash bags
- A few car snacks but not a ton, it’s a really windy drive so you won’t want the kids eating the whole time for obvious reasons
- Chains (check road conditions)
- Bring chapstick, sunscreen and snow boots for all
- Sleds, you can get inexpensive saucers at Big5
- An ice scraper for your windshield
- If you’re staying overnight, bring your warm jammies and don’t forget to pack your moisturizer, night cream, lip exfoliator and lip balm
5. Where to stay for an overnight
We highly recommend the VRBO route when visiting the local mountains overnight. Having a kitchen, living room with a fireplace, and in some cases, a huge back yard the kids can build snowmen in wins every time. That little bit of extra personal space goes a long way. Look for the places that are marked “family-friendly” or include “great for families/kids” those are usually stocked with lots of board games and, for whatever reason, seem to be the best-stocked kitchens. Always read the reviews!
Best Places to Experience Snow Near Los Angeles
Here are some of the most popular places to see snow near Los Angeles, check out our full guide to snow play in the local mountains here.
Mountain High in Wrightwood is one of the closest winter resorts to Southern California that doesn’t require mountain travel. You won’t find an easier journey to the mountains anyplace for Los Angeles snow than at the Angeles National Forest, about an hour and a half from L.A. and Orange County. Tubing, snowboarding, and skiing, as well as scenic chair rides and lessons are available.
Mammoth Mountain is the perfect spot for a family getaway to one of the best places for snow near Los Angeles. With skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and lessons, you’ll find something for kids (and grown-ups) of all ages. For your snow-loving kids, a season pass can also make an excellent experience gift.
Lake Arrowhead Village is tucked away in the woods, with the charm of Swiss chalets and a wide range of modern facilities. The Village is home to a variety of charming specialty businesses as well as outlet stores including Jockey, Bass, Famous Footwear, and Coach, to name a few. There are also a number of convenience stores, such as Stater Bros, dry cleaners, florists, and a post office.
Big Bear Lake ski resort, with its terrain parks and learner slopes, and family-friendly Snow Summit ski resort are two of its most well-known attractions. The streets of Big Bear Lake Village, the commercial district, are lined with boutiques, gift shops, and restaurants. Mountain routes can be found in the rocky San Bernardino National Forest, which surrounds the city.
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