People from Colorado scoff at our So Cal Mountains but they are really fantastic. We just love that we can travel to the mountains in under an hour and not actually have to live in or "deal with" the cold any longer than the length of our visit. The mountains of So Cal offer hiking, biking, skiing, snowboarding, boating and fishing. There is always something to do - whatever the season and the roads are only temporarily impassable a couple of days per year. During winter months the resorts are able to make snow most nights but be sure to view a current video of slope conditions before you drive up there. We have been suckered a couple of times - but no more!!
Angeles National Forest -is a thousand square miles of forest land located less than an hour's drive from downtown Los Angeles. The Angeles National Forest offers camping, picnicking, fishing, water sports and even some limited off road, winter sports and hunting opportunities. We used to drive up to picnic and walk the nature trails quite often when we lived in the San Fernando Valley. Go online to find out more and understand that road closures are most likely due to fire danger rather than weather concerns.
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area -comprising over 153,000 acres is the world's largest urban national park. Grassroots efforts to protect open spaces began in the 1950s and 60s became a reality in 1978. That year a 65 mile Backbone Trail effort began to unite the patchwork of public parklands from east to west. There are only 5 miles left to complete this amazing effort. Many motion pictures and television shows are filmed in the park and there are dozens of outdoor festivals and activities scheduled each month. Log on to nps.gov/samo and check it out! We love to drive through the park in the spring (especially after a rainy winter like this one (2007-08) and enjoy the wild flowers and the breathtaking ocean views. My favorites are the purple lupines.
San Bernardino National Forest -contains the highest peaks in So Cal and therefore the best opportunity for snow and winter sporting activities.
Big Bear, Lake Arrowhead and Crestline are the main destinations in the SB Mountains. We go snow boarding at Snow Valley (35% beginners 35% intermediate terrain) just out of Running Springs, Bear Mountain (30% beginners 40% intermediate terrain) and Snow Summit (10% beginner and 40% intermediate). All three offer skiing as well and make snow whenever the temperature allows. Sports Chalet Sporting good stores offer lift tickets for these resorts at tremendous discounts! And…you can get mid-week specials that include lift tickets and lodging for as little as $69.00 per person.
We also love to visit Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead in the summer and have rented cabins and stayed at the lodge. You can rent canoes, motor boats or simply "chill" and take long walks and smell PINE and fresh air. The Ice Castle Training Center (Lake Arrowhead) is open year round on weekends for recreational ice skating and it is a blast! You can choose from lovely hotels, motels, cabins and even a variety of bed and breakfasts. We love our mountains but it is not Alaska so do some research so you are not disappointed.
Cleveland National Forest - is the southern most National Forest in California and encompasses approximately 460,000 acres in Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties. There are campgrounds, hiking trails, hosrseback riding and all sort of other outdoor activities available year round.
The Ortega Highway (Highway 74) slices through the forest from Orange County to Lake Elsinore in Riverside County. There are campgrounds, funky shops and some bars and restaurants located along the way. Watch out…people commute on this highway and drive really fast between where they live in Riverside to their offices in the OC!
Mount Palomar is located in the Cleveland Forest (off Highway 76) and is open to the public from 9-4 daily. They have a 200 inch Telescope and the dome is open to the public. All sorts of tours are available - Google Mount Palomar and click on tours to see what's going on. This is a nice day drive with plenty of places to stop for a walk and a picnic.
The charming town of Julian is located in the Cuyamaca Mountains, an hour east of San Diego on Highway 78. The best time to go to Julian is in the fall when the apples are being harvested. There are several places to stop and purchase freshly squeezed juice and just picked apples. You must visit the Julian Pie Company and pick up an apple pie before you start home! It is fun to just walk around the town and shop and take pictures. (My son informed me that this 'day trip' was very low on his list of interesting things to do when he was about 6 or 7.)
The Cleveland National forest offers hiking, camping, horseback riding, biking, OHV and many other recreational opportunities but as a result of the recent fires many areas are closed. It is best to check their web site before making immediate plans in the area.
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