7 places in Southern California where small children enjoy snow

Mountain High, CaliforniaIf you live in Southern California, snow is a rare occurrence. If you don’t make some extra effort, your children might grow up not knowing what snow is. However, one of the greatest things about living in Southern California is that pretty much everyone lives within a few hours from the beach and within a few hours from the snow. I love snow and I love to take my family to play in the snow at least once a year…and it doesn’t take much effort. While, everyone knows about the big Southern California ski resorts, there is very little information available about places where you can take small kids so that they can simply play in the snow. Read on to find out about my favorite Southern California snow places for children.

SoCal is a place for snowboarders…most of the times

If you just stick with the big names in winter resorts in Southern California (Snow Summit and Mountain High) you will end up frustrated if you just want to take your kids somewhere where small children enjoy snow. Why?

Once you get to any of these big winter resorts you will see some large signs as soon as you come close to the ski slopes. These big warning sings read something like “Only skiers or snowboarders are permitted beyond this point.” In other words, nobody has access to the slopes unless they snowboard or ski.

In addition, there are no official snow play areas at any of these large Southern California ski resorts.

What’s going on? Where can you take your small children just to play in the snow? Fortunately, there are a few places in Southern California where you can take your kids to simply play in the snow.

So, where can you take your small children to play in the snow in Southern California?

1. Big Bear Snow Play Area

On the east end of Big Bear Lake you can find Big Bear Snow Play which is right off the main road (Highway 18).

Big Bear Snow Play, California - Inner tubes at the bottom of the small slope at Big Bear Snow Play.
Inner tubes at the bottom of the small slope at Big Bear Snow Play.
See my photos from Big Bear Snow Play

For $25 you can go snow tubing the entire day on groomed slopes. The slopes at Big Bear Snow Play are good for tubing as they are pretty long and well maintained. In addition they have a moving carpet kind of lift which makes it a lot easier to go up the mountain.

Map of the Big Bear Snow Play Area in Big Bear, California

When you’re planning your next trip to Big Bear Lake, you can find discounted hotel rates here or if you’re on a budget or can’t find any room in Big Bear, you can stay at my favorite hotel at the base of the San Bernandino Mountains.

2. Alpine Slide Snow Play in Big Bear

Another commercial snow play area in Big Bear Lake is Alpine Slide. It is located on the opposite side of town from Big Bear Snow Play, closer to Running Springs. They have water slides in the summer and groomed snow tubing in the winter.

Alpine Slide in Big Bear - The snow play slopes at Alpine Slide are well groomed and great for small children.
The snow play slopes at Alpine Slide are well groomed and great for small children.
Photo credit: Alpine Slide

For $30 you get unlimited day pass to all the snow play slopes. The great thing about Alpine Slide is that they have snow making equipment so they usually open earlier than other snow play areas.

If you are planning a trip to Big Bear here is my favorite hotel closest to both Alpine Slide and Snow Summit.

Big Bear Lake, California – Map of Alpine Slide Snow Play and surrounding area
Map of Alpine Slide Snow Play

3. Snow Valley snow play area in Running Springs

Snow Valley is very close to the town of Running Springs on the way to Big Bear’s Snow Summit. If there is natural snow, Snow Valley has a special area designated for sledding and snow playing. Snow Valley is a proper winter resort but it’s much smaller than Snow Summit.

The snow play slopes at Snow Valley are well groomed and perfect for small children.
The snow play slopes at Snow Valley are well groomed and perfect for small children.
See my photos from Snow Valley

The Snow Play area at Snow Valley looks great! Tickets are not cheap but it is a very well maintained area. Our kids loved it!


Map of The Snow Valley winter resort near Running Springs

Planning a trip to Big Bear soon? Click here for best hotel rates in Big Bear or if you’re on a budget or can’t find any room in Big Bear, you can stay at my favorite hotel at the base of the San Bernandino Mountains

4. Snow Tubing area for small children near Running Springs

Driving further down the road toward Running Springs there is also a snow tubing area very suitable for small children. It is right by the main road and very accessible. There are many short and steep slopes separated by stairs. Looks like a fun place for little children.

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Map of the snow tubing area for small children near Running Springs

When you are planning a trip to the San Bernardino Mountains area, Lake Arrowhead is also a great location where we like to stay. You can find discounted hotel rates for Lake Arrowhead here

5. Running Springs

This very nice snow play area is right across the street from the hardware store in Running Springs. It is free and has a few really nice slopes. As you enter the central area of Running Springs coming from the 330 highway it comes very fast on your right.

Beautiful unmaintained and free Snow Play area in Running Springs
Beautiful unmaintained and free Snow Play area in Running Springs

Map showing the free Running Springs snow play area
Map showing the free Running Springs snow play area

6. Snow play area for small children near Mountain High resort in Wrightwood

Instead of trying to park at the Mountain High resort’s parking lot just keep going up the road. As soon as it starts going up try to find a parking spot on the side of the road.

Make sure you purchase a wilderness pass…otherwise you will get a ticket. There are no signs warning about the pass so you just have to know.

We were very fortunate because a good citizen gave us his pass when he was leaving…otherwise we would have not known.

Once parked, cross the street and find some place on the hill where your children can play in snow…well assuming there is still snow. Most likely you will see other people playing in the snow.


Map of the snow play area for small children near Mountain High winter resort

When you are planning your visit to the Wrightwood area and need to spend the night here is my favorite budget hotel in nearby Cajon Pass. You can also look for places right in Wrightwood.

7. Snow play areas around Frazier Park/Mount Pinos

To get to Frazier Park take the 5 freeway north and exit the freeway following the signs that point to Frazier Park.

Follow the road and pass through the village of Frazier Park in Cuddy Valley and keep going up the hill. The road will become steep but keep going until you reach the end of the road at Chula Vista Campground or a bit lower at Mount Pinos Campground. These areas have adequate parking and have good hills for snow play.

Once you reach the snow on the road to Mount Pinos you can stop around the state campground areas and have your kids play in the snow on one of the hills. There are no official or organized snow play areas. It is up to you to park legally and find a snow area you like. Make sure also the your car displays an adventure pass which you can purchase from the gas station in town.

In my opinion, the best snow play areas are at the end of Mount Pinos Road near the Chula Vista Campground and a bit lower at Mount Pinos Campground.

If you are planning a trip to the Frazier Park/Mount Pinos area, see my detailed guide for snow play areas around Mt. Pinos.

Frazier Park, California - Driving through the small village of Frazier Park in Cuddy Valley
Snow clouds gathering around the small village of Frazier Park in Cuddy Valley
See my photos from Frazier Park

From Frazier Park just take the road towards Mount Pinos and go as far up as you can, or until you find a good patch of snow by the side of the road. Just park get your kids out of the car, give them a sled and let them have fun.

Map of the snow play areas around Mount Pinos and Frazier Park areas

My best tips for planning a trip to Southern California snow play areas

Big Bear is very busy from before Thanksgiving to after the New Year holidays. How busy is it? It is so busy that the lift lines are at least one hour long and there are very few hotel rooms available. You need to book your hotel for in advance if you want a decent price and good location.

Find discounted hotel rates in Big Bear, Lake Arrowhead or Julian

Latest road conditions report for Big Bear and Snow Summit

Big Bear Alpine Slide Snow Play website

Running Springs Snow Valley website

Big Bear Snow Play website.

Running Springs Snow tubing area.

Frazier Park current snow conditions.

Palomar Mountain current weather report. You can also check out the Palomar Mountain Snow Play Facebook page for latest updates.

Julian is another popular snow play area for San Diego residents. It is located at a lower elevation but can still get some snow in the winter. Check out the snow report for Julian, California. You can also find best hotel rates at my favorite B&B in Julian.

Mount Laguna is another snow play area close to San Diego. Here you can find the latest weather report for Mount Laguna.

P.S. Please let me know if you know of any other commercial or non-commercial snow play areas for small children in Southern California.

Resources for planning your California trip

Need a hotel? I get the best prices and hotel selection anytime I need to travel. Find budget hotels in California
Need a rental car? Save up to 30% buy comparing all the major rental companies and picking the best deal for you. Get best car rental deals for California
Looking for a bus? Save the driving and lots of money by using an intercity bus in California. Intercity bus travel - Search Now
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