*Snow and winter hiking can be dangerous, its important that you have the right gear, training and experience when trying to tackle hikes in these conditions.
I am the resident snow hiker here at OPAdventureTeam as Josh is not really fond of sloshing along the Southern California snow. Snow and California never really get said in the same sentence, but each year the frosty cold stuff falls from the sky, and if you are a fan of hiking in it there are a ton of amazing hikes you can do close to home. Check out my list of the five best Southern California winter hikes below and remember, always be safe.
Ice House Canyon
Hiking anything out of Ice House Canyon during the winter can be a great experience, just getting to the saddle can be tricky in the snow. At the saddle you can continue to any of these great peaks (Cucamonga Peak, Ontario Peak / Bighorn Peak or Three T’s). The great thing about Ice House is that it is accessible, it’s an easy drive up in the mountains from most of SoCal, nice parking lot right at the trail head, busy / maintained trail, plenty of options and typically great conditions. It’s a good beginner winter hike to start with for a first time snow experience that has a lot of great options to continue to higher peaks if the hike is going well.
Mt Baden Powell
Located in the San Gabriel Mountains this hike is awesome in the summer but the winter kicks it up another notch. It’s a short trail but high enough to regularly get snow during the winter. The trail is on the northern side of the mountain, meaning snow stays longer into the season and it is usually icier throughout the day making for great conditions. Hiking it during the winter makes it a little short as well because you can cut through all of the switch backs (fine to do during winter over snow but not otherwise!) It’s typically accessible year around from the Angeles Crest Highway which gets regular snow plowing. You really can’t beat the views from the top either as you can see Mt Baldy and much of the Angeles Mountains. When it’s all covered in show there is simply nothing like it.
One of my favorite winter hikes is Mt Baldy, a 10k peak that is accessible via multiple routes. You can even shortcut things by taking the Mt Baldy Ski lift to the Notch dropping the normal 12 miles round trip down to around 7. It’s the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains meaning the prominence / epicness is increased and the views are amazing. Another great option during the winter is staying at the San Antonio Ski Hut maintained by the Sierra Club. You can hike the back side up to the Ski Hut and than take down the summit and come back to spend the night and relax. The great location of the ski hut means it’s also a highly trafficked area for back country skiers looking to ski the Baldy bowl or mountaineers looking to take down Mt Baldy via a mountaineers route.
Grand View Point
Hiking the Grandview Loop Via Pine Knot Trail is written about in detail on Modern Hiker. This is another great beginning hike especially for those looking to get into snowshoeing. Several people have told me how great of a hike this is but I have simply not gotten up to the Big Bear area to take it down in the winter. It’s an easy-moderate short hike, not a huge amount of elevation gain, the views are great and its right off the highway. Trail Info: http://www.hike-socal.com/hike_grand_view_point_pine_knot_trail.html
*Bonus – There are tons of great winter activities near Big Bear, snowshoeing just being one of them http://www.openairbigbear.com/outdoor-activities/snowshoeing.html
Mt San Jacinto
San J is legendary for its winter environment, especially on the tram side from Mountain Station, which seems to be the most popular route. It can also be taken down via Marion mountain trail and Humber Park (Devil’s Slide) among other routes. This is one of the longer hikes but the views and winter environment are amazing, one of the premier hikes in SoCal any time of year but certainly during the winter. No matter the route you are sure to be rewarded with amazing views and an epic day of hiking.
*Bonus – check out this forum, it’s a great resource for hiking this area year around, a lot of great knowledgeable people frequent it, post and answers questions. http://www.mtsanjacinto.info/index.php
So there you have it, my recommendations. If you have others I have missed be sure to leave them in the comments.