Explore the snowy beauty of some of California’s largest national parks through fun-filled activities such as skiing, snowshoe walks and ice skating, suggests Shrabasti Mallik
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
With its iconic granite domes and spires etched in snow, and a hushed beauty that’s both intimate and wild, Yosemite National Park makes for a magical winter getaway. It offers a full slate of seasonal activities – ranger-led snowshoe (a flat device attached to the sole of a boot) walks, ice-skating at the valley’s Half Dome village and winter photography workshops. You can go sledding at areas near the park’s main entrance or skiing in the park’s low-key ski area. For more winter activities, you can visit the Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area, which has a challenging terrain park for snowboarders, and also a snow tubing area! While some high-country routes close for the winter, you can still get to the park via well-maintained roads.
SEQUOIA & KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS
Famous for their giant sequoias (redwood trees), soaring mountains, deep canyons and roaring rivers, this set of parks has plenty of things to see and do in winter.
Crowned in snow, the giant sequoias become more regal – their cinnamoncoloured trunks and deep-green needles dusted in white. While a winter visit takes a little extra planning and gear, it can providean unforgettable Alpine experience. You can participate in cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and other snow activities here. For a milder alternative, join rangerled snowshoe treks (offered on most winter weekends), or set off on your own. The most popular track is the 3-km round trip on Congress Trail. If you aren’t feeling adventurous, simply drive to the Big Stump or Wolverton snow play area and build your own snowman!
LASSEN VOLCANIC NATIONAL PARK
Be it a snowshoe trek, fast-paced skiing or a night of camping – Lassen Volcanic National Park has a lot to offer during winter. The season provides visitors an opportunity to experience the quieter side of the park. Bring your snowshoes and set off on your own, or opt for a ranger-guided snowshoe walk, offered on weekends. While roads through the park close in winter, both the north entrance (Loomis Plaza area at Manzanita Lake) and south entrance (Kohm Yahmah- nee Visitor Center) have marked snowshoe trails. A vast area of the park’s backcountry provides opportunities for skiing. The Loomis Museum and the Southwest parking area are popular starting spots. The Forest Lake trail and the Manzanita Lake trail are the only marked winter trails in the park for backcountry skiing.
CHANNEL ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK
Five islands off the Southern Californian coast – Santa Cruz, Anacapa, Santa Rosa, Santa Barbara and San Miguel – together form the Channel Islands National Park, one of America’s most remote, and utterly magical, national parks. The best thing to do here in winter is to enjoy the sun and spot some whales. The gray whale season goes on from late December to mid-April, when these 50-foot-long giants make their annual migration from the Bering Sea to Mexico and back again. But if you are able to catch a glimpse of a blue whale – the largest mammal in the world – it’ll be an experience you’ll never forget.