Does It Snow In California? Myth or Reality?

California is a large state with a diverse climate, so the answer to the question “does it snow in California?” is not as simple as a yes or no. In general, the northern parts of the state tend to see more snow than the southern parts, but there are exceptions to this rule.

The mountains of California often experience heavy snowfall, and the Sierra Nevada mountain range, in particular, is known for its large ski resorts and winter recreation. However, lower-lying areas of the state do not usually see much snow. 

So, while it does snow in California occasionally, it is not a common occurrence. If you’re hoping to experience a white Christmas or go sledding down a hill, you might want to consider visiting another state!

Does it Snow in California?
Los Angeles, CA, United States

Does it Snow in California?

The short answer to this question is yes, it does snow in California. Although the state is most commonly associated with sunny skies and warm weather, parts of California do experience snowfall each year. In fact, some parts of the state get quite a lot of snow!

The Sierra Nevada mountains, which run along the eastern side of the state, are home to some of the US’s best ski resorts and receive heavy snowfall each winter, that can range up to 300 to 500 inches of snow each year, while some parts of Southern California also experience up to 60 inches of snow per year.

Further south, around Lake Tahoe and in the San Bernardino mountains, it also snows (albeit not quite as heavily). 

However, at lower elevations and on the west coast of California, it very rarely snows. In fact, in much of California, snow is so rare that when it does happen, it causes widespread chaos (e.g., schools close, roads grind to a halt, etc.)!

How Often Does It Snow In California?

Although it rarely snows in California, there are a few areas of the state that do see snowfall every year. The Sierra Nevada mountain range, which runs through the eastern part of the state, is home to some of the country’s tallest mountains, including Mount Whitney, which has an elevation of 14,505 feet (4,421 meters). 

This mountain range experiences heavy snowfall every winter and is a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders.

The Lake Tahoe area is also known for its snow-covered winters. Lake Tahoe is a large freshwater lake that sits at the border of California and Nevada. It’s especially popular for winter sports like skiing and ice skating.

Another area of California that sees occasional snowfall is the San Bernardino Mountains. This mountain range is located in southern California and includes some of the state’s highest peaks, such as San Gorgonio Mountain, which has an elevation of 11,503 feet (3,506 meters).

The Weather in California

Donner Pass, California, USA | Does it Snow in California?
Donner Pass, California, USA

California has a lot of variety when it comes to weather. It can snow in some parts of the state, but it is rare. The Sierra Nevada mountain range creates a barrier that prevents moisture from the Pacific Ocean from reaching inland. 

As a result, the state is mostly dry, with an average precipitation of only 20 inches per year.

However, there are some exceptions. The northern part of the state, near the Oregon border, has a moderate climate with more precipitation than elsewhere in California. 

And although it rarely snows in the coastal areas, there is occasional snowfall in the mountains. Even so, if you’re looking for a winter wonderland, you’re better off heading to another state!

When Does it Snow in California?

It can snow anywhere in California from late October to early May, but it most often snows in the mountains. The mountain regions that get the most snow are the Sierra Nevada mountains, which stretch across the middle of the state, and the Southern California mountains, which include the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountains.

Although snow typically falls in the mountains, but it can also fall in some of the lower elevations as well. It usually snows from November to April, with the heaviest snowfalls occurring in December and January.

Where Does it Snow in Northern California

There are mountains in northern California where it snows. Mount Shasta, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and the Trinity Alps are a few places where you can find snow.

What Cities Does it Snow in California?

San Francisco, CA, United States
San Francisco, CA, United States

It depends on which part of California you are referring to. The northern and central parts of the state, as well as the mountains, generally get snowfall every year. However, the southern parts of the state, such as Los Angeles and San Diego, rarely get any snow.

Where Does it Snow the Most in California?

The most snowfall in a single day ever recorded in California was 382 inches (9.7 meters) at the Sierra Nevada resorts of Alpine Meadows and Sugar Bowl on February 13-14, 1952. Alpine Meadows averages 360 inches (9.1 meters) of snowfall per season, and Sugar Bowl receives 430 inches (10.9 meters) per season.

What Elevation Does it Snow in California?

In California, it snows at elevations above 4,000 feet. The highest mountains in the state, including Mount Whitney and Mt. Shasta, receive significant snowfall each winter. However, lower elevation areas of the state rarely see any snow.

Does it Snow in Southern California?

According to the National Weather Service, “snowfall in Southern California is a rare event.” It does snow in parts of Southern California, but not every year. This region has a semi-arid climate with warm winters and hot summers. Snow is rare except in the mountains.

Things to Do in California in Winter

Alabama Hills, California, USA
Alabama Hills, California, USA

Many people don’t realize that although it rarely snows in California, there are still plenty of winter activities to enjoy. 

With the exception of the mountain regions, it rarely snows in California. That being said, there are still plenty of fun winter activities to take part in whether you’re visiting or a resident. 

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  1. Take a drive to see the snow-capped mountains.
  2. Visit one of California’s many ski resorts.
  3. Explore a winter wonderland at one of the state’s many parks and forests.
  4. Sip on some hot cocoa or apple cider at one of the many cozy cafes and restaurants.
  5. Enjoy a festive holiday movie or play at one of the theaters.
  6. Ice skate at one of the many outdoor rinks set up around the state
  7. Go on a wine tour
  8. Visit Disneyland or another California theme park
  9. Take a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway
  10. Explore San Francisco


In conclusion, it does snow in California, but not very often. The most common place to see snowfall is in the mountains, where it is tall enough to reach the ground. Snow is also a common sight in the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada mountains.