Last updated: 07:00 AM ET, Sat January 09 2016

What to Do in California Now That El Nino Has Arrived

Destination & Tourism | Janeen Christoff | January 09, 2016

What to Do in California Now That El Nino Has Arrived

PHOTO: Lake Tahoe skiing. (Courtesy Jeff Dow)

With the start of El Nino officially on the books in California, the Golden State may not be shining quite as bright for visitors. But not to worry; although known for sunshine and beaches, there are a lot of things to do in California in the winter months.

Head for the Hills

Actually, the slopes. California is home to magnificent skiing and arguably some of the best resorts in the country. From Southern California, visitors can partake in one of the region’s most coveted rites of passage: skiing in the morning and surfing in the afternoon (or just going to the beach in the afternoon — winter sunsets are the best).

It’s a good idea to try this in the late winter or early springtime when the powder is at its peak snowpack and the days are long enough to give you maximum sunshine. But you can easily hit the slopes of Big Bear Lake or Mountain High in Wrightwood and then head to Orange County beaches to catch some waves.

A Winter Wonderland in Yosemite

Yosemite National Park is a winter wonderland. The national park is crowded in the summer but you will find solitude during the winter when the resort is shrouded in snow. At the end of the fall, the waterfalls dry up but they return as the snow begins to fall, giving the park an extra magical feel.

There are several roads and places within the park that are closed off during the winter months due to poor road conditions but, since the park is not as crowded, main attractions are not overwhelmed by crowds and there is hiking, downhill and cross-country skiing all available within the park.

Mammoth Adventures

Mammoth Mountain is perfect for skiing, but there are a number of other activities that can be done in and around the Mammoth Lakes area. There is an extensive trail system in the area, which is great for summer hiking, but is still fun in the wintertime, when snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular. Snowshoes and cross-country skis are available for rent at the Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center.

There are also snowmobile adventures that can be self-guided or professionally guided. Tours are up to three hours long and rentals are available for up to six hours.

Go Outdoors in Tahoe

Tahoe is a year-round destination and, of course, one of its most appealing draws in the wintertime is its snow and the many ski resorts that dot the mountainsides around the lake. It is the perfect place to rent a cabin and hole up for the winter, but if you want to get out, there are a variety of things to keep busy with all winter long. Dog sledding tours, ice skating, sleigh rides and soaking in hot springs are just a few.

Coastal Wildlife Discoveries

Oddly enough, one of the best times to visit California’s scenic Central Coast is in the winter. It comes alive with wildlife. Monarch butterflies winter from November to March and you can see them at the Pacific Grove Sanctuary near Pismo Beach. You can also watch the migration of the gray whales as they leave their feeding grounds in Alaska and head to Mexico. Many of California’s coastal cities offer whale-watching trips. The winter is mating and birthing season for the elephant seal as well and colonies are easy to find in Ano Nuevo State Reserve in Santa Cruz and at Piedras Blancas off of Highway 1 just north of Cambria.

And, if the weather gets too rough, there is always the beauty of stromwatching. Bundle up in your rain gear and head to the beach to watch the fury of the sea rough up the coastline – just remember to never turn your back on the ocean.

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