Does it snow in California? When, Where & Surprising Facts!

Winter snow at Lake Tahoe California

Does it snow in California? If you want to know the answer, you’ve come to the right place! 

I’m going to tell you all you need to know about snow in California, from where it snows, when it snows, if you can ski there, and many facts that will leave you shocked.

If you’re wondering: does California have snow? Well, the answer might surprise you. 

As someone who has personally experienced the magic of California’s snow-covered landscapes, I can tell you that witnessing the contrast between the golden beaches and the snow-dusted mountains is truly breathtaking. 

While California is renowned for its warm climate and beautiful beaches, it’s also home to diverse landscapes that can experience snowfall during the winter months.

Hot Creek with Snow in California

California’s weather varies greatly depending on the region you’re in. In the southern parts, such as Los Angeles and San Diego, snowfall is a rare occurrence. 

However, as you head north or into higher elevations, such as the Sierra Nevada mountain range, you’ll find snow-capped peaks and fantastic opportunities for winter activities. 

The Sierra Nevada, with its towering mountains and famous ski resorts like Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Mountain, offers world-class skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing adventures. 

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Does it snow in California? (Quick answer)

Yes, it snows in California. Sierra Nevada mountains and Big Bear Lake get significant snowfall, while southern areas like Los Angeles and San Diego rarely see snow.

Northstar Resort in California during winter

Does California have snow?

California, the Golden State, is known for its sunny beaches and warm weather. 

It’s no surprise that many people assume it doesn’t snow in California at all. However, this is not entirely true.

There are actually several places where you can experience snow in California, especially during the winter season. 

In fact, record-breaking snowfall during the winter of 2016-2017 caused some ski resorts to close due to too much snow. 

But the last snowfall of 2023 broke all records with more than 880 inches falling on Mammoth Mountain, when it normally does not reach 400 inches of snow per season.

Mammoth Snow 2023 (largest year on record)

The Sierra Nevada mountain range is one of the most popular destinations for snow enthusiasts in California. Here you will find popular ski areas like South Lake Tahoe and Soda Springs, with feet of snow every year.

But Northern California isn’t the only place with snow in California. 

In Southern California, you can find measurable snow at Big Bear Mountain Resort near Orange County.

Other places with snow in California include Idyllwild and Mount Baldy located just outside Los Angeles County. 

However, it’s important to note that climate change has been affecting the amount of snow in California mountains over the years due to drought conditions. 

After many years of drought, Californians were surprised by a heavy snowfall at the end of February 2023, where twelve feet of snow fell in one week.

California winter storm: Incredible video roundup shows snow across the state

Where does it snow in California?

If you’re wondering where it snows in California, these are some of the best places for snow in California to consider. 

The most obvious spot is the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which run along the eastern side of the state and receive plenty of snow throughout the winter months. 

The mountains are home to several popular ski resorts, such as Sugar Bowl and Mammoth Mountain, making them a prime destination for snow skiing in California.

Cross Country Skiing near Truckee, California

There are other areas that receive enough snowfall to be considered “snow cities” in California

Mountain towns like Big Bear Lake and Idyllwild offer visitors a chance to experience winter weather without having to travel too far from major cities like Los Angeles or San Diego.

These areas may not have as much snow as some ski resorts further north, but they still offer plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities like ice skating and cross-country skiing. 

If you’re looking for lower elevations that still get occasional snowfall, head towards the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles County.

Cities with snow in California

South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is a popular destination in California where people can ski and snowboard during the day and enjoy the nightlife after dark. 

Lake Tahoe in Winter full of snow in California

The city sits on the border of California and Nevada at an elevation of 6,200 feet above sea level.

The city receives an average of 409 inches of snowfall annually, making it one of the snowiest cities in California

Visitors can enjoy skiing or snowboarding on over 4,300 acres across three peaks: Heavenly Mountain Resort, Kirkwood Mountain Resort, and Sierra-at-Tahoe.

Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake is another popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts in Southern California. 

The small town located about two hours from Los Angeles gets an average annual snowfall of around 100 inches.

Big Bear Lake with snow

With four resorts available in proximity to Big Bear Lake – Snow Summit Ski Resort, Bear Mountain Ski Resort, Snow Valley Mountain Resort, and Mt Baldy- visitors have plenty of opportunities for skiing or snowboarding. 

Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta is a historic mountain town located in Northern California at the base of Mount Shasta – one of the highest peaks in California at 14,179 feet above sea level.

Mt Shasta in the Winter

The town averages around 100 inches of annual snowfall which makes it perfect for winter activities such as cross-country skiing or ice skating on Siskiyou County’s outdoor rink. 

Mountains with Snow in California

If you want to find snow in California, you should definitely head up to the mountains

There are several mountain ranges throughout the state, but some of the best spots to find snow are in the Sierra Nevada, Mount San Jacinto, and around Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park.

Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort is known for receiving heavy snowfall and having some of the best skiing conditions in California.

Heavenly Valley, Ski Resort at South Lake Tahoe in winter

Other popular resorts include Heavenly Mountain Resort in Lake Tahoe and Big Bear Mountain Resort near Los Angeles. 

Besides skiing, many people also enjoy ice skating on frozen mountain lakes or hiking through the snow-covered forests.

The best time to hit these mountain towns is typically between December through March while there’s still plenty of that gorgeous white powder coating everything around you!

Does it snow in Palm Springs?

Yes – while it may seem unlikely, Palm Springs does experience snowfalls during the winter months.

Palm Springs is known for its hot and sunny weather, with temperatures that can often reach triple digits. However, many people wonder if it ever snows in this desert oasis

Located in Southern California, Palm Springs sits at an elevation of 475 feet above sea level and is surrounded by mountains. One of these mountains is Mount San Jacinto, which towers over the city at a height of 10,834 feet.

Palm Springs Mt. San Jacinto State Park during winter months

This mountain range is where most of the snow falls in this area during the winter months. 

When winter storms move through California, they can bring colder temperatures to areas that are typically very warm.

Palm Springs is a great place to visit if you want to experience some snow without having to travel too far from Los Angeles County or the Bay Area.

Does it snow in Death Valley?

Death Valley is one of the driest and hottest places on earth. While it is rare to see any significant amount of rainfall, let alone snow, in Death Valley, it does happen on occasion.

It may not be the best place to go for snow activities but seeing the desert covered in a blanket of white is definitely a unique experience.

Death Valley with snow

Most years, Death Valley doesn’t see much snowfall, if any at all. However, when an atmospheric river hits California, even places like Death Valley can get a bit of snow.

When does it snow in Idyllwild?

Idyllwild, a small town located in the San Jacinto Mountains of Riverside County, California, is known for its beautiful hiking trails and stunning mountain views. 

But did you know that it also snows in Idyllwild during the winter months?

While not as well-known as some of the more popular ski resorts in California, Idyllwild still offers plenty of opportunities for winter fun

The time of year when snow falls in Idyllwild can vary, but typically it starts in late December and continues through February or even March.

Idyllwild in a snow day in California

The amount of snowfall can also vary from year to year, with some years seeing several inches of snow while others see only a light dusting. 

One popular destination for winter recreation in Idyllwild is Mount San Jacinto State Park. The park features miles of hiking trails that become even more picturesque when covered in a blanket of fresh powder.

Visitors can also explore areas like Humber Park and Marion Mountain where they can find great spots for sledding or just enjoying the scenic views.

Does it snow in Napa Valley?

Napa Valley, a world-renowned wine region in Northern California, is not a place known for snow

The region is more famous for its vineyards and wine-tasting experiences and it’s one of the most unique weekend getaways in California, but that doesn’t mean it never snows here.

In fact, Napa Valley experienced snowfall back in 2011, and the last time was surprisingly in February 2023

Napa Valley completely covered with snow

Snowfall in Napa Valley is extremely rare due to its warm Mediterranean climate. However, when it does happen, it provides breathtaking scenery to the already beautiful region. 

The snow-covered vineyards and hills create a unique contrast with the picturesque wineries dotting the landscape.

Does it snow in Los Angeles California?

Los Angeles, the city of dreams, hardly ever sees snow

Many people may be surprised to learn that it has only snowed a handful of times in downtown LA since official records began in 1877. 

The last recorded snowfall in downtown LA was in 1949 but in 2019, Malibu, West Hollywood, Pasadena, and Northridge got hit with a bit of snow.

Mt. Baldy Los Angeles county California during winter

However, Los Angeles County does have some mountainous regions where it snows regularly during winter months. One of the most popular spots for snow lovers near Los Angeles is Mount Baldy.

Standing at an elevation of 10,064 feet above sea level, Mount Baldy is the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains and offers an amazing view of the surrounding area covered with white powdery snow during winter months. 

It’s about an hour and a half drive from downtown LA and offers great skiing and hiking experiences for outdoor enthusiasts.

Does it snow in San Francisco California?

San Francisco, known for its hilly terrain and iconic Golden Gate Bridge, is not a city that typically experiences snowfall

In fact, the city has only seen snow a handful of times in its history. The last recorded snowfall in San Francisco was on February 5th, 1976, when the downtown area received a light dusting of snowflakes.

Despite its rarity, a snowy day in San Francisco can be quite a magical experience. 

Golden gate bridge San Francisco California

The city’s iconic landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island covered in a blanket of snow would be quite the sight to behold.

Does it snow in Pasadena California?

No, it does not snow in Pasadena. 

Unfortunately for snow lovers, Pasadena is located in a region where the winter months are mild and dry. While the San Gabriel Mountains are nearby, it’s rare to see any measurable snow in town.

The last time that Pasadena ever experienced snow was in 1949.

winter landscape at Pasadena California

However, if you’re willing to take a short trip, you can find great skiing destinations just a few hours away

Mountain towns like Big Bear and Mt. Laguna offer winter wonderlands with snowy trees and ski resorts that offer fun for all ages.

In late February, I had a chance to visit these places in California that snow and the scenery was breathtaking. 

Does it snow in Redding California?

No – Redding is a city located in Shasta County, California, known for its pleasant weather and vibrant cultural scene

However, when it comes to snow, the city doesn’t usually see much of it. While Redding is situated near the mountainous regions of northern California, it’s not high enough in elevation to receive a significant amount of snowfall.

winter scenery in Redding California

In general, the winter months in Redding are marked by cool temperatures and occasional rain showers. 

That being said, Redding residents don’t have to travel too far to find places with snow in California.

The Sierra Nevada Mountains are only a few hours’ drive from the city and offer plenty of opportunities for snow skiing in California. 

Does it snow in Oakland California?

No – Oakland, California is located in the San Francisco Bay Area, and while it may not be known for its snowy winters, it’s not completely unheard of to experience some snowfall

However, measurable snow accumulation in Oakland is extremely rare and most likely occurs only once every few decades.

winter landscape in Oakland California

Even when light snow flurries do occur in the area, they generally don’t stick to the ground for very long due to warmer temperatures. 

The winter months are usually mild and rainy with average temperatures ranging from 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit.

When does it snow in Big Bear California?

Big Bear is a popular winter getaway located in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California. It is known for its colder temperatures, and the area experiences snowfall from December through March.

Winter storms sweep through the mountainous regions, bringing plenty of snow to Big Bear. 

Winter in San Bernardino Mountains full of snow

Despite being just two hours away from Orange County or Los Angeles, it feels like a world away with its stunning winter landscapes.

Big Bear’s Snow Summit and Bear Mountain are some of the best places for skiing or snowboarding during winter months. The highest peak provides scenic views that are unlike any other site in California.

Does it snow in San Diego California?

No – San Diego is known for its warm, sunny weather with temperatures averaging around 70 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. 

While snow is not a common occurrence in this city, it has happened before during winter in San Diego.

In fact, the last time San Diego saw snow at sea level was in January of 2008, but it did not set. The last snowfall in which a significant amount of snow fell was in 1967

beach in San Diego California in winter

Does it snow in Sacramento California?

Sacramento is the capital city of California, and it is located in the northern part of the state. Many people are curious about whether it snows in Sacramento or not.

The short answer is yes, Sacramento does get snow, but it’s not very common

The city is situated at an elevation of about 20 feet above sea level, which means that snowfall is a rare occurrence.

Sacramento California after a winter snowfall

When it does snow in Sacramento, usually during the winter season, it’s usually just a light dusting of snow that doesn’t last for long on the ground. 

However, there have been instances where Sacramento has received heavy snowfalls that have caused disruptions to daily life.

One such instance was in February 2019 when a winter storm hit Northern California and dumped 2 inches of snow in Sacramento

Does it snow in Southern California?

Yes, it does snow in Southern California, but it’s not as common as in other areas of the state. 

Places like San Diego or Santa Barbara rarely see snowfall, but there are some mountain areas where you can experience a winter wonderland.

If you’re wondering where does it snow in Southern California, one of the most popular destinations to see snow in Southern California is Big Bear Lake

This small town is located in the San Bernardino Mountains and receives an average of 100 inches of snowfall each year during the winter season.

Giant Sequoia Trees in Sequoia National Park, USA

Visitors can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and even ice skating on a frozen lake. 

The best time to visit Big Bear Lake for snow activities is from late December to late February.

Another place in Southern California that receives enough snow for winter sports is Mount Whitney

This mountain peak stands 14,505 feet tall and is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Although Mount Whitney can be climbed year-round, most visitors choose to tackle it during the summer months when conditions are safer. 

However, during heavy snowfall seasons that may occur every few years or so, climbing Mount Whitney could require mountaineering skills.

Does it snow in Northern California?

Yes – Northern California is definitely a great place to be if you want to experience some snow during the winter months. 

While it may not be as well-known for its snowy destinations as other regions of the country, there are still plenty of spots where you can get your fill of this frozen precipitation.

Places like Soda Springs and Sugar Bowl are the perfect places to visit if you’re looking for a winter getaway

Lake Tahoe during wither months with snow in Northern California

It’s important to check road conditions before setting out on any trip, especially if you plan on driving through mountainous areas like South Lake Tahoe.

Places like Redding and Oakland may not see much snowfall, but there are still some great destinations for those looking to experience a winter wonderland. 

Where does it snow in California Map

In this California snow map, I have marked the main places where it snows in California to make it easier to see them all at once.

Does it snow in California in December?

Yes, it does snow in California in December, but only in certain locations.

If you are looking for places where it snows in California during December, your best bet would be mountainous regions such as Mount Shasta and Lake Tahoe

These areas are popular destinations for winter sports enthusiasts due to the heavy snowfall they receive every year.

In fact, Mount Shasta is the fifth-highest peak in California and gets about 275 inches of snow annually. 

Northern California also receives a fair share of snow during the winter months, including December.

Valley View Yosemite National Park with snow in California

Regions such as Mammoth Lakes and Yosemite National Park are great places to visit if you want to experience a white winter wonderland. 

However, keep in mind that winter storms can make travel difficult on highways leading to these areas.

However, coastal cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, and Palm Springs rarely see any snow at all since they are located at or near sea level.

When does it snow in California?

The winter season is when most of the snow falls across California, especially in mountainous regions where it is more likely to stick. 

The Sierra Nevada Mountains are one of the main areas in California where you can find heavy snowfall during wintertime.

When does it snow in California

This range spans over 400 miles through eastern California and Nevada and often receives significant amounts of precipitation throughout the winter months. 

Typically, late February is one of the best times to see thick blankets of white on these peaks

If you’re looking for a place closer to Southern California with a higher likelihood of snowfall during winter months, look no further than Mt. Laguna.

Does it ever snow in California?

Yes – California does get snow, and in some places, it even turns into a winter wonderland. 

However, not all parts of California receive snowfall, and the time of year plays a significant role in determining whether or not you’ll see any.

Way to Mammoth Lakes in Winter

In general, snowfall is more common in higher elevations and northern parts of California

Places like Yosemite National Park and Mount San Jacinto are popular destinations for winter sports enthusiasts because they receive significant amounts of snow each year.

Snow levels in California

California’s snow levels are dependent on a few things. 

  • One is the elevation; naturally, higher elevations will have more snowfall than lower ones.
  • Another is the location; some parts of California are more prone to heavy rainfall than others, which can lead to increased snowfall during the winter months. 
Mount Shasta snow highway in California

In general, the mountainous areas of California tend to receive the most snowfall. Mount Whitney, for example, receives an average of 400 inches of snow per year!

Average Temperatures In California

If you’re curious about the average temperatures in California, you’re in luck. 

The state’s climate is incredibly diverse, so temperatures can vary depending on where you are and what time of year it is.

Winter in California shot by drone

However, there are some generalizations that can be made. 

  • In Southern California, the weather tends to be warm and sunny year-round. According to data from the National Weather Service, average high temperatures in January range from the mid-60s to low 70s Fahrenheit in Orange County and San Diego County. 
  • In Northern California, things tend to be a bit cooler.  In San Francisco, for example, average high temperatures in January range from the mid-50s to the low 60s Fahrenheit.

How often does it snow in California?

It varies depending on where you are in California and what time of year it is. 

In general, California’s winter months are the most likely time to see any significant snowfall.

However, even during these months, snowfall can be relatively rare in many parts of the state. For example, areas along the coast and in Southern California tend to see little to no snow during the winter months.

That being said, there have been notable exceptions to this over the years. For example, recent storms and atmospheric rivers have brought heavy snowfall to parts of California that don’t typically see much of it.

In fact, just this year (2023), South of Lake Tahoe received 126.5 inches of snow and Snowpack in the California Sierra is 221% of normal for this location at this time of year. 

California Gridded Snowfall Analysis

So even if you’re not usually able to find snow in your part of California during the winter months, there’s always a chance for something unexpected!

Wrap-Up: Does it Snow in California?

From the mountains of the Sierra Nevada mountain range to the ski resorts in Los Angeles County, there are plenty of places in California that receive inches of snow each winter season. 

Despite concerns about climate change and a recent lack of heavy rainfall in parts of California, many locations still offer snow skiing opportunities as well as other fun winter activities such as ice skating.

Of course, visitors should always make sure they check local weather conditions before planning any trips or outdoor adventures. 

High Sierra in California with lots of snow

Overall, while it may not be considered a “snowy” state like Utah or Colorado, California still has a lot to offer when it comes to snowy landscapes and winter sports.

Whether you’re hitting Mount Baldy for some downhill skiing or traveling up north for some atmospheric river-induced snowfall, there are plenty of places to find snow in California. 

So grab your skis or your sleds and enjoy one of the best things this golden state has to offer!

FAQs about snow in California 

  1. What part of California has snow?

    Sierra Nevada mountains, including popular areas like Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Mountain, receive significant snowfall in California.

  2. Where does it snow in California in December?

    In December, snowfall in California is most common in the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada mountains, including popular destinations like Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Mountain, and Yosemite National Park. 

  3. Does it get cold in California?

    Yes, California can get cold, especially in inland and mountainous areas during winter. Coastal regions tend to have milder temperatures.

  4. When will it snow in California?

    It will snow in California during the Winter months from December to March. 

  5. When does it start snowing in California?

    Snow in California starts in late fall or early winter, around November or December, varying by region and elevation.

  6. Where can I go to see snow in California?

    Popular snow destinations in California include Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Mountain, Big Bear Lake, and Yosemite National Park.

  7. Where is the best snow in California?

  8. At what elevation is there snow in California?

    Snow can be found in California at higher elevations, generally above 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) in the mountainous regions.

  9. Does it snow in Beaumont California?

    Snow in Beaumont, California is rare due to its lower elevation. Head to higher elevations for a proper snowy experience.

  10. Does it snow in Ontario California?

    Snow in Ontario, California is rare due to its lower elevation and milder winters.

  11. Does it snow in Carlsbad California?

    Snow in Carlsbad, California is extremely rare due to its coastal location and mild climate.

  12. Does it snow in Santa Clara California?

    Snow in Santa Clara, California is highly unlikely due to its location in the warmer and milder climate of the San Francisco Bay Area.

  13. Does it snow in Merced California?

    Snow in Merced, California is uncommon, but it can occasionally experience light snowfall during colder winters.

  14. Does it snow in Riverside California?

    Snow in Riverside, California is extremely rare due to its low elevation and warm climate.

  15. Does LA California get snow?

    Snow in Los Angeles, California is a very rare occurrence due to its coastal location and mild climate. It's highly unlikely to see significant snowfall in the city, but on very rare occasions, flurries may be observed in the surrounding mountains.

  16. When does it snow in Big Bear Lake CA?

    Snowfall in Big Bear Lake, CA typically occurs during the winter months, primarily from December to March.

  17. Does it snow in California in winter?

    Yes, snowfall in California is common during the winter months. The higher elevation regions, particularly the Sierra Nevada mountain range, receive significant snowfall.

  18. Where is it snowing in California?

    Snow is commonly found in the higher-elevation regions of California, particularly in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Popular destinations for snowfall include areas like Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Mountain, and Yosemite National Park.

  19. Does Southern California get snow?

    Snow in Southern California is rare, except in higher elevation areas like the mountains surrounding Los Angeles.

  20. Why doesn’t it snow in California?

    California's coastal and Mediterranean climate limits snowfall, with colder temperatures and snow primarily occurring at higher elevations in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

  21. Can it snow in California?

    Yes, it can snow in California, particularly in higher elevation areas such as the Sierra Nevada mountains. While snowfall is less common in lower elevation and coastal regions, California does experience snow during the winter months.

  22. Does it snow anywhere in California?

    Yes, snow occurs in higher elevation areas of California, including the Sierra Nevada mountains and other mountainous regions.

  23. Is there snow in California?

    Yes, there is snow in California. The state has higher elevation areas, such as the Sierra Nevada mountains, where significant snowfall occurs during the winter months. 

  24. Where is the snow in California?

    Snow in California is primarily found in higher elevation regions, particularly in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Popular destinations for snow activities include areas like Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Mountain, and Yosemite National Park.

  25. Where to see snow in California?

    Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Mountain, Big Bear Lake, and Yosemite National Park are popular places to see snow in California.

  26. Where to go for snow in California?

    Head to Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Mountain, Big Bear Lake, or Yosemite National Park for snowy adventures in California.

  27. Is snow rare in California?

    Yes, snow in California is relatively rare, except in higher elevation regions like the Sierra Nevada mountains.


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Does it snow in California? When, Where & Surprising Facts!

Sara Rodríguez

A passionate traveler with a mission: Help you plan your next trip easily and enjoy it to the fullest.

In this travel blog you will find everything you need to get inspired and organize your next adventure. Read more about my story here.

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