It’s time for winter season‘s most anticipated “best of lists” for toy’s, gifts, recipes and Orange County can have their winter wonderment with our list of best places to play in the snow. So Cal has the best beaches, incredible weather, grand entertainment and within a few short hours you can drive and discover amazing places to play in real snow with the entire family.
Lake Arrowhead/Big Bear Snow Play
Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain
800 Wildrose Lane, Big Bear Lake, CA
Southern California’s only authentic, world-famous Alpine Bobsled Slide is found at Big Bear’s Magic Mountain Recreation Area.
The fun starts with a scenic chairlift and incredible views of Big Bear Lake, then Riders can navigate individually controlled sleds through fast high banked turns and down adrenaline filled straightaways. Come visit the Mineshaft Coaster, the newest attraction, and control your racing speed down a mile long track.
Big Bear Snow Play
42825 Big Bear Blvd., Big Bear Lake, CA
Big Bear Snow Play is winter magic with Glow Tubing after dark down colored lit lanes. There’s lots of speed here, especially with the longest snow-tubing lanes in SoCal. A game changing convenience is the Magic Carpet Lift to the top of the hill, so all your energy is just for the big race down.
Grizzley Ridge Tube Park at Big Bear Mountain Resort
Big Bear Mountain Resort
800 Summit Blvd., Big Bear Lake, CA
Big Bear Mountain Resort is home to Bear Mountain and Snow Summit. Grizzly Ridge Tube Park is located inside Snow Summit and offers high-speed tubing, Activities include Magic Carpet lifts to the top of the tube park, zipline, and free-style snow play. Grizzly Park is great for all ages and snow enthusiasts.
Free & Legal Snow Play Areas
(Adventure pass required for parking)
- Aspen Glen Snow Play Area/Mill Creek Road: During the winter months, the area around the Aspen Glen picnic area becomes a popular winter wonderland to sled, build snowmen and make snow angels.
- Big Bear Lake Snow Play Area
- Barton Flats Snow Play Area: The Barton Flats snow play area along State Highway 38 is a favorite destination for building snow men, snow angels and tossing snowballs.
- Maple Hill Trail property/Maple Lane (Baldwin Ln, Big Bear, CA 92314): Snow play during the winter.
- Rim of World Snow Play Area: Visitors can go sledding, build snowmen, and make snow angels.
- Along State Highway 18, from Crest Park Picnic Area to Switzer Picnic Area
- Along State Highway 18, East of Santa’s Village to just East of Heaps Peak / Allison Ranch Road
- Along State Highway 18, from Green Valley Lake Road to the east highway gates in Snow Valley
Skypark at Santa’s Village
28950 California Hwy 18, Skyforest, CA
Visiting Santa’s House is a dream for children and a sweet nostalgic time for adults. Enjoy ice skating, exciting sledding and see live holiday shows. Skypark at Santa’s Village is a winter wonderland of snowplay, rock climbing, zipline, archery, ax throwing and more.
Snowdrift Snow Tubing Park
34600 State Highway 18, Running Springs, CA
At this family friendly park, you’ll find beginner, intermediate, and advanced slopes. It’s Southern California’s oldest and largest tubing park with lots of room and easy snowy slopes for merry downhill rides.
Snow Valley Mountain Resort Snow Play Area
35100 State Hwy. 18, Running Springs, CA
Snow Valley’s Learning Center offers lessons for the entire family. Considered the region’s “best beginner location”, Snow Valley Snow Play Area boasts the only chairlift sledding area, hooray!
Wrightwood Snow Play Areas
Mountain High, Wrightwood
24510 CA-2 Wrightwood, CA
Mountain High is only a 90-minute drive from downtown L.A. but feels like a world away. It’s a newly renovated snow destination. Enjoy skiing, snowboarding, tubing and snow play.
Wrightwood Highway (free snow play)
Info at Mountain Hardware
1390 Highway 2, Wrightwood, CA
Some of the most wonderful places to play in the snow in Wrightwood are right off the edge of the highway. Stop in at Mountain Hardware for a parking pass, map, and local conditions first. Discover great snow locations like Inspiration Point, Grassy Hollow Visitor Center, Peavine Campground, Apple Tree Campground, and the Arch Picnic Area.
Yeti’s Snow Play at Mountain High Resort
24510 State Hwy 2, Wrightwood, CA
This place has winter fun written all over it. Come for great sledding, and free-style snow play. Take a scenic sky chair lift and have fun spotting the friendly Yeti playing down below. The whole family can race together down the tubing lanes.
Palm Springs Snow Play
Palm Springs/Arial Tram
Snow in the desert does exist! Come on up and enjoy the breathtaking view at the top of the Palm Springs Ariel Tramway during the winter months. While everyone is stuck in traffic on the way to popular resorts, here is something special unknown to many in the OC. Family fun and plenty of fresh snow is waiting at the top of the tram ride. Everyone, every age loves a snowball fight.
San Diego Snow Play
Laguna Mountain Lodge
10678 Sunrise Hwy, Mt. Laguna, CA 91948
Located just one hour east of downtown San Diego, this unspoiled location is one of San Diego’s best kept secrets in the heart of the Cleveland National Forest. Stay a weekend at the 12 room Motel & 17 cabin city-like chalet on Mt. Laguna.
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
13652 Highway 79, Julian, CA
You’ve heard of this marvelous city of apples, but there’s snow up here in Julian, too. For a ten-dollar park entrance fee you’ll find perfect places to play in the snow, discover trails, and can have a slice of Julian’s World-famous Apple Pie. This adorable mountain town also has plenty of free legal turn outs on your way in to catch some snow play.
19952 State Park Drive, Palomar Mountain, CA 92060
Locates in the Cleveland National Forest there are places to sled at the top of the mountain, near Palomar Mountain General Store (State Route 6 (S6)), Palomar Observatory or the Palomar Mountain State Park.
San Jacinto Mountains/Riverside
Pine Cove, Idyllwild, McCall Park, Hurley Creek Park and Mountain Center Snow-Play Areas offer limited parking, restrooms, sometimes even showers, and space for snow-play.
Mount Baldy Snow Play
Mt. Baldy Resort
8401 Mt. Baldy Rd., Mt. Baldy, CA 91759
Mt. Baldy is the closest snow play area to Los Angeles. The best way to enjoy a snow play day at Mt. Baldy is to purchase the tubing park package that includes a round-trip scenic ride on the Sugar Plum chairlift and a 90-minute exhilarating tubing session.
Angeles National Forest/San Gabriel Mountains
The slopes are commonly used for sledding and tubing and cross country skiing and snowshoeing. The trailhead is open if Angeles Crest Highway (CA-2) is open for winter activities.
Tejon Pass/Grapevine Snow Play
Frazier Park (free snow play)
3801 Park, Dr., Frazer Park, CA
If you’re literally looking for something off the beaten path and free for snow play, you’re in luck. Turns out there are several cool places to find snow play right along the highways in the Frazier Park area. There is no need to buy tickets to a ski resort, but it also means BYOSS; Bring your own snow stuff.
Sledding/Tubing/Snow Play Areas
- Mt. Pinos Ranger District
- Chula Vista Trailhead
- Chula Vista Walk-in Campground
- McGill Campground
- McGill Exploration Trail Mt. Pinos Ranger District
- McGill Trail – 21W02
- Mt. Pinos Campground
- Mount Pinos: Accommodates approximately 75-100 vehicles.
- Cuddy Valley/Frazier Mountain Trailhead: There is a large paved parking lot with pull-through stalls for vehicles with trailers or motor homes and a vault toilet at the trailhead.
- Chuchupate Ranger Station (Lockwood Valley Road): Accommodates parking for
approximately 50-60 vehicles.
Worth the Drive Snow Play
Woolly’s Tube Park and Snow Play, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area
9000 Minaret Rd. #200, Mammoth Lakes, CA
Yes, it’s far but it’s so beautiful when you get here. If the slopes are a bit too ambitious for your party, then Woolly’s is your place. It’s a perfect snow play mix of ample space, proper snack bar with yummy hot chocolate, heated deck and much more.
It’s always wise to keep an eye on the weather and be sure to check if there is snow in the forecast. Not all destinations require chains but bring along the proper tire chains just in case. The weather can change on a dime, and it will definitely cost more than that to purchase new tire chains for your trip home. Refer to the website of your location for up-to-date fees, operating hours and changes.
Rock Creek SNO-Park
Rock Creek is located on the west side of Highway 395 at Rock Creek Road. Between Bishop and Mammoth.
This is Southern California’s only SNO-PARK that is available to visitors for winter activities including cross-country skiing, snow play and dog sledding.
Be sure to check the Snow Report for the closest snow in your area. Hours and availability depend on weather, snow conditions, and other factors, so make sure you check with the snow play facility to confirm they’ll be open before you head up to the mountains.
And don’t forget to check out all the holiday man-made snow play areas in Orange County including Winter Fest OC, Villa Park Winter Wonderland, Costa Mesa Holiday Snowland, Lake Forest Snowfest, Los Alamitos Winter Wonderland, Santa’s Village By The Sea and the Rossmoor Winter Festival. Here are all the OC Winter Holiday events.
|California Ski Resort Opening Dates||Snow Summit vs. Bear Mountain|
|Lake Arrowhead||Big Bear|
|Skypark At Santa’s Village||Southern California Winter Vacation Ideas|
Cindy is an OC native fond of PCH road trips to places like Santa Rosa or Carmel. She’s a mother of three spending her free time baking apple pies, cooking green enchiladas, and listening to 80s music. She’s a beach girl at heart and Cancun is her go to paradise.