I grew up in Chicago, where snowfall was an annual event that was both welcome (snowball fights, snow angels, snow days) and tolerated (shoveling, slushy streets, disheveled hair under knit caps).
When I moved to Southern California, I was surprised to discover that the closest some locals had come to experiencing snow was the magical flakes that fell at Disneyland during the holiday fireworks show. I recall taking my son’s grade-school friend to Big Bear and seeing the big smile on his red-cheeked face as he threw his first snowball—at me.
While snowcapped mountains are visible from cities throughout Southern California, you can do more than just admire the fluffy white stuff from afar. The charming mountain town of Wrightwood (population: less than 5,000) nestled in the San Gabriel Mountains offers several ways to enjoy the snow—even if you’re not a skier or snowboarder. And getting to the snow is easier than you might think.
Unlike other nearby mountain towns, such as Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead, that require navigating a windy road with steep drop-offs, Wrightwood is accessible via a gently sloping mountain road. Located just 15 miles off Interstate 15, it’s been described as the easiest mountain drive in Southern California.
“I live in San Diego, and it takes me just two hours to get there,” says Patrick Pierce, a spokesperson for Wrightwood's Mountain High, which bills itself as Southern California’s closest winter resort. “When you get off the freeway right around San Bernardino, you’re already at 4,000 feet elevation [Wrightwood is at 6,000 feet]. Less time driving means more time on the mountain.” Here are 3 ways to get your snow fix in Wrightwood without the extreme mountain driving.