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(KTXL) — Millions of people visit California’s nine national parks throughout the year, but what is there to do when the snow falls, the temperature drops and the sun sets earlier?

From Redwood National Park in far northern California to the arid Southern California climate of Joshua Tree National Park, there are still many adventures to be had during the winter.

Northern California

Redwood National and State Parks

Established on Oct. 2, 1968, this park is located near the community of Orick in Humboldt County and consists of a string of protected forests, beaches and grasslands along the North Coast.

The National Park Service said that temperatures between the mid-40s to low-60s are reported year-round with a significant amount of rainfall in the winter.

The park sees an annual rainfall amount of 70.5″ with the largest amounts coming in December and January with 11.7″ and 11.6″ of rain respectively.

It rains a lot, but it doesn’t really snow, meaning much of the park’s hiking, biking and horseback riding trails remain open throughout the year. More than a dozen trails cover several hundred miles of old redwood-growth forests and offer some of the best views in the state of these ancient shepherds of the forest.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Located in the mountainous region of Tehama County, Lassen offers one of the most majestic and solitary winter experiences of California’s national parks.

Towering over the park at 10,460 feet is the icon of the park, Lassen Peak, which in the winter sports a vibrant white cap of snow from December to March.

The magnificence of this park is not limited to its spring wildflower blooms or colorful autumn foliage as a blanket of glistening snow covers the entire park and transforms the volcanic landscape into a winter wonderland.

According to the park’s Winter/Spring Visitor Guide, the park receives up to 30 feet of snow that will last until June, but is also accompanied by blue and sunny skies between storms.

Winter visitors can enjoy snowshoe walks, cross-country skiing, sledding and some snow playtime.

The two areas of the park that remain open during the winter include the Southwest area and the Manazanita Lake area.

The link here will take you to the Winter/Spring Visitors Guide which will provide more information on what visitors will need for a fun and safe time in the park.

Yosemite National Park

When thinking of Yosemite in winter, photographer Ansel Adam’s classic monochrome images of the majestic and dramatic landscape inspire a desire to see this iconic national park covered in glistening white.

Although the sun can make an appearance, during the winter average temperatures are between the high 20s and low 50s in Yosemite Valley and Wawona.

Many of the park’s iconic areas, like Glacier Point and Tuolumne Meadows, are closed to vehicles by November.

However, Badger Pass Ski Area, an area for downhill and cross-country skiing, is open as Glacier Point/Bader Pass Road is plowed from mid-December to April.

One of the more popular wintertime events is when Horsetail Falls is illuminated in burning orange by the setting winter sun during the month of February. Due to the popularity of the “firefall,” the park is requiring guest reservations during the weekends of:

  • Feb. 10 to Feb. 12
  • Feb. 17 to Feb. 19
  • Feb. 24 to Feb. 26

Central California

Kings Canyon/ Sequoia National Park

These two well-known national parks are situated just a few miles apart from each other along the Generals Highway in Fresno County and cover 1,353 square miles of land, 97% of which is designated and managed wilderness.

Given its higher elevation in the Sierra Nevada, snow is not an uncommon occurrence and the parks offer snow play, skiing, snowshoeing and other winter activities.

Designated snow play areas can be found at Wolverton, two miles north of the General Sherman Tree; Columbine, on the General Grant Tree Trail; and Big Stump, near the Big Stump Entrance Station.

For those looking to snowshoe, ranger-guided walk are available or visitors can explore the park trails on their own.

If you have ever wanted to cross-country ski through Sequoia groves, this is the place to do it. Giant Forest and Grant Grove offer ski trails and other trails can be found on the park’s map.

Conditions can change quickly and dramatically at any place in the park so it is recommended that guests are properly prepared with warm clothes, food, water and other emergency supplies.


Channel Islands

Twenty-two miles off the California coast sit five islands with an ecosystem unlike any other in the world. Each season brings a dramatic change in events on the Channel Islands.

The National Park Service notes that the seasons play a massive part in the experience that guests will have, not just because of the weather, but also the plants and animals that find refuge on the islands.

Those looking to see some of the best sunsets over the ocean need to make their way onto the Channel Islands during the winter, where they will also see the islands begin to turn green and wildflowers bloom during the late winter months.

Gray whales can also be seen from the end of December until April.

In the early winter, Northern elephant seals begin pupping and in the late winter Harbor seals begin pupping.


Due to the extreme temperatures in the park during the summer time, winter is one of the more popular times for visitors to make their way into Pinnacles.

Some popular things to do at the park are hiking, camping, rock climbing, seeing the Talus caves and bird watching.

Southern California

While Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks offer two very different desert-going experiences the weather conditions during the winter are similar: cooler-than-normal days and freezing nights.

Winters in Death Valley can provide some of the best views of the valley as snow capped peaks and soft winter light provides a lesser seen view of the valley.

NPS advises that the peak visiting time during the winter is Christmas to New Year’s, Martin Luther King Day weekend and President’s Day weekend.