Content Produced in Partnership with Visit California
California is a place of great diversity that includes culture, climate, geography, and attractions. There are beaches for ocean lovers, mountains for snow junkies, and deserts for campers and wanderers. While winter means hibernation season in most states, in many regions of California, winter is actually the best time to play. Heed our recommendations and you will find empty trails and mild temperatures that will be perfect for all your wintery pursuits.
Yosemite National Park
One of the most iconic national parks in America, Yosemite National Park reveals its true allure dusted in a thin layer of snow. As sparkling crystalline water dangles from treetops, and iced over lakes beckon explorers, El Capitan towers over the park surrounded by Yosemite’s winter wonder. The park does get cold, so as long as you're dressed appropriately you should be set for a spectacular adventure. You likely won't see another soul on the trail, so take your time photographing its wonders. Rock climbing is also at its best when the air has a bit of a chill with peak season being November through February. Between the beauty, the climbing opportunities, and the solitude that winter in Yosemite offers, there are few destinations that can compete.
Famous for its blue-green water and alpine crown, Lake Tahoe is one of the best winter destinations in the nation. While the hiking and water sports during the summer months are pretty incredible, the towns, resorts and villages come to life during ski season. World-class resorts are scattered across the towering Sierra-Nevada Mountains like Kirkwood, Heavenly, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Granlibakken, Sugar Bowl, Tahoe Donner, Squaw Valley, Homewood, Northstar, Boreal, and Alpine Meadows. After a long day on the slopes, there are music festivals, concerts, art shows, bars, clubs, fine dining, and tons of retail therapy to keep visitors busy as well.
Death Valley National Park
Don’t be dissuaded by the name, Death Valley National Park is actually a mind-blowing place. The silence feels all-encompassing as the night sky is stippled with stars and the desert landscape alive with creatures alert with energy. When the sun rises, the jade mosaic lights up, glowing a seemingly impossible shade of rose gold. Winter temperatures are much cooler and milder in comparison to other times of the year. Enjoy a day hike on one of the trails that spiderwebs the park or experience the area's true magnificence camping amongst the drifting sand dunes. The end of February marks the beginning of wildflower season, which is prime time to see the desert burst to life with color, an experience as fleeting as it is beautiful.
Redwood National Park
The hunkering giants of Redwood National Park reach into the sky like rust-colored monuments, towering high above the tourists clamoring to catch a glimpse. If it's even possible, the redwoods and glades become even more magical in winter. The colors of the forest become even more dramatic all covered in snow. The silence is as profound and enchanting as a symphony with everything muffled by the winter snowfall. We can guarantee you would never have this kind of setting during the summertime.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
While Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the lesser known national parks in Northern California, this volcanically active region is dotted with bubbling pools of boiling mud and suffused with hundreds of hydrothermal vents that keep the area... steamy. Surrounding the volcano itself, the land is covered in massive chunks of solidified lava from the last time Lassen Peak erupted. Today, you can hike to the top of the volcano for a spectacular view of the surrounding area and its crystal blue lakes, steaming vents, scorched land, and lush wilderness. The park itself is covered in miles and miles of trails that loop several lakes and connect with the Pacific Crest Trail in the north, making it ideal for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in winter.
Joshua Tree National Park
If you love the desert, Joshua Tree National Park should be at the top of your bucket list. The park itself seems enormous and encompasses a variety of different habitats with dusty trails, winding between beautiful rock formations jutting out of the land at odd angles and irregular intervals.