Dreaming of a December escape? There’s nowhere like California to make those winter fantasies come to life. From the Sierra Nevada’s snow-covered slopes to the Mojave Desert’s starlit skies, California offers a stellar variety of experiences perfect for the last month of the year.
So bundle up — or strip down for a hot spring dip — as we explore the best things to do in California in December.
1. Get Cozy in Lake Tahoe
December in Lake Tahoe is a winter daydream come to life, nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, whose scenery transforms into a snowy paradise ideal for every cold-season activity you could imagine. From world-class skiing and snowboarding across various resorts, such as Heavenly and Squaw Valley, to enchanting sleigh rides that’ll make you feel like you’re in a holiday movie, the options are endless.
But the fun doesn’t stop at outdoor adventures. Lake Tahoe also offers unique experiences like the “Magic of Tahoe” holiday light shows, in which the region sparkles in festive brilliance. And don’t forget the cozy, cabin-style lodgings that beckon after a long day in the snow, inviting you to relax by a roaring fire with a mug of hot chocolate in hand. What more could you ask for?
2. Visit Hot Creek
December at the Hot Creek Geological Site is a snow-draped spectacle you’ll have to see to believe. The beauty of the natural springs bubbling up through a snow-covered canyon is unmatched, so you can understand why this is one of my favorite places to visit in California in the winter!
The journey here is a bit of a trek this time of year — you’ll hike about 1.5 miles each way on a snow-packed dirt road to reach the viewpoints. Snowshoes or at least spikes for your boots are recommended. Although tempting, don’t attempt to drive down, as trucks have been known to get stuck. While the waters are too hot to soak in, the site is near other hot springs perfect for a winter dip. The play of sunset light on the snowy landscape? Just the cherry on top.
3. Take a Dip in a Hot Spring
December is a great time to indulge in Mammoth’s natural hot springs, especially those off Benton Crossing Road, just south of Mammoth Lakes. If soaking in a natural, steamy pool while surrounded by snow sounds heavenly, this is one of the absolute best things to do in California this month.
These springs are “primitive,” meaning they’re natural and free. However, due to winter conditions, the dirt roads leading to them…