We do have snow in San Diego County; after a big, cold winter storm, the 6,000-foot mountains get a dusting. Here are my favorite snow-play-day-trip spots.

  • Cuyamaca meadows and Green Valley area: Just a few minutes off of Interstate 8, this area has parking and places to play, two requirements. The day-use fee is $8 per car. This is where we went when I was a kid, loading up the top of the car with snow to spread out on our lawn in City Heights. Getting there: Interstate 8 east to SR-79/Descanso. Follow SR-79 into park; areas are well-marked. Information website or (760) 765-0755.
  • Pine Valley County Park: Located at the south end of downtown Pine Valley, this 17-acre park is set up for families and picnics during warmer weather. In the snow, it offers wide-open spaces and parking. Day-use charge is… well, darned if I can find out what it is on the County Parks website. Maybe $5; call 619-473-8558 to find out. Restaurants and grocery stores are nearby. Interstate 8 to Pine Valley Road.
  • Mount Laguna: At about the top of San Diego County in elevation (6,000 feet) is Mount Laguna. Stop in at the Visitor Center adjacent to the store for a day-use pass for the National Forest. The rangers and volunteers should also be able to tell you where the good snow spots are and where there’s parking. Take I-8 east to Sunrise Highway; follow it up the mountain. Website information is a bit sketchy; try calling (800) 832-1355 for the Visitor Center, but I’m not making any guarantees.
  • Palomar Mountain: In north San Diego County, Palomar Mountain has several great spots for snow play, all adjacent. The Palomar Mountain State Park is west of the main intersection on top of the mountain, where the store and restaurant are located. Take SR-78 east to South Grade Road; if you miss that, East Grade Road is a few miles east. North from the store are camping and picnic areas for the Cleveland National Forest (try 858-673-6180) and the Palomar Observatory. Both parks charge fees; the observatory is free and I have no idea if they allow snow play on the grounds.
  • William Heise Park, Julian: This is a big county park with picnic areas and parking, even small cabins for overnighting. Head to Julian over SR-78/79, turning at Pine Hills Road, then Frisius Road. It’s pretty well marked. A day use fee that I think is $5. (760) 765-0650.

Check road conditions on the San Diego County public works Facebook or Twitter pages. Don’t drive silly on wet and icy roads, carry chains and respect private property. I send people to the public parks because there’s parking and places to play. Ranch and farm lands aren’t public property; the owners take a dim view of trespassers and arrests are sometimes made.

By the way, I have no idea if there will be snow on the ground when you get there; it melts pretty fast, so check the websites or call the numbers below for up-to-date weather.


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