The Best Places to Visit in California in the Winter in 2022

California is finest identified for sunny climate and exquisite seashores, however in case you don’t go to the mountains and the deserts within the winter months, you’re doing it improper!

The Golden State is a lot greater than only a summer time vacation spot. As a California native and fanatic, I’m right here to inform you that these are a few of the finest issues to see and locations to go to throughout the winter:

1. Demise Valley

death valley

The most well liked desert on the earth isn’t the place to be in the course of July, nevertheless it’s completely excellent for the winter months, when a lot of the remainder of the US is underneath a layer of snow. It’s the perfect time to go mountain climbing in the Golden Canyon, absorb a surprising sundown at Zabriskie Level, marvel on the colours of Artists Palette, and in case you’re fortunate, even see a wildflower bloom in the desert, which might occur from late February onward. Make sure you take a look at the Badwater Basin as nicely, a novel geological characteristic on the lowest level within the US.

The stargazing can be unimaginable, however bear in mind to bundle up, as a result of the temperature swing within the desert from day to nighttime will be excessive, significantly within the winter.

2. Ski within the Sierras

In case you’re into snowboarding, you most likely have heard of Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Mountain. Each are world-class ski resorts with unimaginable powder, relying on the 12 months. This 12 months specifically has been extremely good for snow!

In case you’re not an alpine skier, the mountain areas even have snowshoeing and generally skating as nicely. They’re each set in beautiful areas, with tons to do close by as nicely. Mammoth is near the following merchandise on this checklist, together with the Alabama Hills, and Tahoe is a big space that spans all the best way into Nevada, with plentiful snowmobiling and snowshoeing trails.

3. Scorching Creek

Since we’re speaking about Mammoth, you’ve received to take a look at close by Scorching Creek! It’s a hot-spring river that runs by means of a mountain valley — it’s particularly nice when the climate is chilly and the river is rimmed with snow. I can’t think about a greater strategy to wind down after a protracted day of snowboarding.

4. Yosemite

yosemite winter hikes
Mirror Lake

Yosemite turns right into a winter wonderland when it snows! Most of the typical trails, just like the Bridalveil Fall and Decrease Yosemite Fall trails, are nonetheless as simply accessible, primarily as a result of they’re flat; different trails, just like the street to Glacier Level, flip into unbelievable Nordic snowboarding or snowshoeing alternatives.

There’s additionally snowshoeing to Dewey Level from the Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Space. There’s a free shuttle from the valley, and a snowshoe and ski rental place on the prime. You possibly can learn extra about this and the opposite winter activities in Yosemite here.

5. Horsetail Fall

There’s additionally the phenomenon of Yosemite’s Horsetail Fall, or “the firefall” every February. In any other case an under-the-radar waterfall, Horsetail lights up because of the angle of the sundown for a interval of about two weeks on the finish of the month. It will possibly differ relying on the quantity of water the autumn produces and the way cloudy it’s, however in case you hit it excellent, it’s a photographer’s dream. It’s turn into extremely fashionable, with tons of of individuals displaying up now to take footage throughout peak days.

6. Alabama Hills

alabama hills instagram spot
Alabama Hills within the winter

This space is known for being a setting for outdated Western motion pictures, in addition to many others over time. Since I’m not a giant film buff, I went as a result of I needed to see Mount Whitney coated in snow, completely framed by the Mobius Arch.

The winter is simply the precise time to go to see snow on the mountains and in addition benefit from the in any other case scorching Alabama Hills. The stargazing out there may be unimaginable, and there’s BLM (Bureau of Land Administration, which means public land) tenting in all places! There are a number of arches to hike to, together with one which’s formed like a coronary heart. You possibly can learn extra about the best things to see in the Alabama Hills here.

7. Slab Metropolis

Trippy, intriguing, Candyland-like

This cease most likely isn’t for everybody, however Slab Metropolis is a spot the place a group of real-life anarchists and outlaws have turned upcycled trash into artwork. Even in case you haven’t heard of it, you’ve most likely heard of Salvation Mountain, pictured above. I finished by in Might just a few years in the past and it was blazing scorching, however within the winter months, it might be rather more bearable to remain and discover all day.

Simply be sure you preserve your wits about you, as a result of it’s an eerily fascinating place the place I by no means actually felt completely secure, however not in peril both.

I used to be fortunate sufficient to be invited in to see the house of an area whereas I used to be there. You possibly can watch the video and read more about my experience here.

8. Joshua Tree Nationwide Park

joshua trees
A unbelievable star spot

Joshua bushes solely develop within the excessive desert of California. These bushes, which are literally agaves, are so named as a result of they regarded to Mormon settlers just like the arms of Joshua reaching as much as the heavens.

Like the remainder of the California desert, Joshua Tree Nationwide Park can get extremely scorching in the summertime, nevertheless it’s excellent within the winter months for tenting out and mountain climbing throughout the day. It’s a well-liked bouldering and mountain climbing spot as nicely. Keep away from the crowds by steering away from vacation weekends.

(Deserts truly comprise 25% of the state of California, and all of them are lovely and distinctive. You possibly can read more about the desert road trip loop here.)

9. Sequoia Nationwide Park

In case you assume seeing the most important bushes on Earth could be wonderful at any time of 12 months, simply think about them with snow! Although Sequoia Nationwide Park isn’t the one place in California that has these unimaginable bushes, it’s the place you usually tend to see them with snow.

Mix your journey with Yosemite and Kings Canyon and also you’ll get the trifecta of a few of the finest nationwide parks within the US!

10. Pacific Coast Freeway

I’d usually not advocate the Pacific Coast Freeway within the winter months, since you’re more likely to get marine fog, and the seaside is normally higher in the summertime. That stated, having grown up on the southern and central coast, I’m of the opinion that there isn’t any unhealthy time to be on the California coast.

The bonus of going within the winter months is that you should have it principally to your self, and reservations at campgrounds and inns will likely be a lot simpler to return by. Most likely rather a lot cheaper too!

Simply remember that if California goes to have a wet 12 months, it’ll be principally concentrated to the winter months (it’s uncommon in the summertime). Tenting in a tent may very well be lower than splendid, however once more, you’re more likely to have rather more solitude on an in any other case megapopular route. You will get the full PCH itinerary from San Diego to San Francisco here.

11. The Misplaced Coast

coast redwood
Humbled in Humboldt

Although I hate to play favorites, this spot on the coast about two hours south of the Oregon border is among the elements of California that I really like essentially the most — and it will get hardly any tourism! The seashores are rugged and beautiful, full of massive boulders and waves, and there are Coastal Redwoods to stroll by means of for days. I’ve gone within the winter and within the hotter months and find it irresistible in each season. Fog is frequent on this a part of the state, no matter time of 12 months, although.

12. Lake Tahoe

mt tallac hike
Value it!

Certain, you may know Lake Tahoe from {the summertime} photographs of cobalt-blue water complementing the plentiful greenery throughout. Though it’s is extra fashionable to go to in the summertime months, there may be loads to do in Lake Tahoe in the winter. Go snowboarding, snowshoeing, or just lease a comfortable cabin for the weekend and benefit from the snowy scenes.

13. Pacific Grove

Referred to as “Butterfly City,” Pacific Grove receives an enormous migration of monarch butterflies every winter. Between November and February, you’ll be able to see them take off in flight every morning — a surprising sight. For extra data, take a look at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History’s Monarch Sanctuary.

14. Año Nuevo State Park

There are tons of fantastic state and national parks in California that make for nice wintertime locations, however this one stands out. Northern elephant seals collect on the native seashores of Año Nuevo State Park every winter between December and February. These unimaginable animals are a very spectacular sight to see, and this is among the finest locations in California to take action.

15. Napa Valley

Since summer time and fall are the busiest seasons in Napa Valley, winter yields a extra peaceable vibe that’s nice for a calming trip. You’ll nonetheless be capable of style the most effective wine California has to supply, whereas additionally beating the crowds. Because it’s off-season, you may get away with visiting the most effective spots on the town and not using a reservation, so you’ll be able to have a extra spontaneous journey. Plus, the normally sunny Napa Valley adopts a mysterious foggy environment within the winter that has its personal distinctive allure.


Although it’s onerous to slim down a state that’s greater than most international locations when it comes to measurement, inhabitants, and financial system, these are a few of the finest locations to go to in California within the winter.

So in case you can’t make it throughout the hotter months, simply know that there actually isn’t any unhealthy time to go to. So long as you have got a way of journey and love the outside, you’ll be able to’t probably be bored!

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