Snow Play in SoCal: Best Places to Go Sledding with Kids Near Los Angeles and Orange County

During the winter in Southern California, there are a lot of places to play in the snow and go sledding. Depending on where you live, they are only a 1-2 hour drive away. Here are the top places to take your children for a day (or a weekend) in the snow.

1. Angeles Crest Highway

If you live Los Angeles, this is probably the closest place to go for snow. It’s a long stretch of highway that winds through the mountains of the Angeles National Forest. There are multiple places to stop on the side of the road to play in the snow, with a few parking lots and picnic campgrounds. The further you drive up, the more snow there will be.

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2. Mount Baldy

Just before you reach Mt Baldy Ski Resort is a big area for snow play and sledding. It’s nearest to San Antonio Falls Trail and Manker Campgrounds. There is a big meadow and small valley that’s fun to play in. The street widens and there are lots of parking spots, but they fill up quick.

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3. Wrightwood

Located on the back side of the Angeles National Forest, Wrightwood is a small mountain town that has lots of places for snow play and sledding. While driving up, there are a few places off the side of the road, and some that have parking lots. Then after driving past the town, you head into the Angeles National Forest and there are campgrounds and picnic areas to play in. However, it does get a bit crowded when trying to drive past Mountain High Ski Resort which is near the town.

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4. Big Bear Lake

This is probably the most popular destination in Southern California for snow. With a beautiful lake, a bustling downtown, 2 ski resorts, and lots of hills for sledding, it’s the ideal place for a winter retreat. It is a longer drive, and due to its popularity, can get fairly crowded.

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5. Idyllwild

Located in the San Jacinto Mountains near Palm Springs, this mountain town is a little further of a drive. There are parks and campgrounds in the surrounding area that are great for sledding and snow play.

Snow Play Tips

When you’re headed up to the mountains for snow play, here are some things to remember so you have the best experience possible.

  1. Head up early. Late mornings and weekends tend to be really busy because everyone wants to play in the snow. So you could get caught in traffic on the one lane up to the mountains. Try to head out early in the morning or on weekdays.
  2. Brings snacks and water. Restaurants may be limited and busy in mountain towns, so it could be hard to get food. If you’re going up for just the day, consider bringing snacks with you and eating out when you get down from the mountain.
  3. Go to the bathroom. It can be difficult to find restrooms in some parts of the mountains, so be sure to make a stop right before you head up the mountain.
  4. Get snow chains. This isn’t always needed, but be sure to check the weather reports. If you’re driving up shortly after it’s snowed recently, they may require you to have snow chains on before you can proceed.
  5. Stay off private property. Some places may look like open hills or fields, but are actually people’s backyards. Be careful where you play and make sure to respect residents’ homes. There are incidents where police have been called on trespassers.
  6. Don’t leave trash. It ruins the space for the residents and other visitors. Pick up after yourself, and don’t leave behind sleds or broken pieces of sleds.

The best time to visit the mountains for snow play are immediate after a snow fall. Snow can fall as early as December, and will typically last through March, though does start melting and getting icy, so February is usually peak month for sledding and snow play.

But in any case, the great thing about living in Southern California is you can experience the snow for a weekend or just a day, its only a 1-3 hour drive away, and you can return to the the wonderful mild SoCal winter.

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