Snowplay Essentials

A young girl sleds as her father in the distance watches

A visitor sleds down a hill in November 2018

Winter Recreation SignThe weather is changing, and we know visitors are anxious to go play in the snow. With recent snowfall, we expect large crowds to visit the Forest over the holiday season. As you prepare your trip to go play in the snow, please consider these tips:


As of February 25, 2022, snow conditions on the ground vary by elevation.

  • Resort Elevation Areas (e.g. Lake Arrowhead, Big Bear, Idyllwild, Barton Flats): New snow has arrived, thanks to storms this past week. 
  • High Elevation Wilderenss Areas: Snow is holding on trails leading up to peaks over 10,000 ft. Proper winter mountaineering equipment and experience is needed to travel this terrain, much of it on icy, steep and exposed trails. Since December, there have been at least five helicopter rescues in the Cucamonga Wilderness alone. 


Research your destination.

Research the area and route you'll use. A few snowplay areas require parked vehicles to display a recreation pass (the $5 Adventure Pass can be purchased at many stores in the region). For those seeking a more remote experience, research your route and check the Forest Road closure page

Check the weather and snow conditions. Plan accordingly.

Avoid driving during a snowstorm. Snow plows will be working and visibility might be low. Use for current weather conditions and the forecast. Check the Caltrans QuickMap for road conditions/traffic, including chain controls, road closures and more. Ensure you understand chain control requirements and how to install them (practice before coming!).

Plan for safety and comfort.

Make sure you start your trip with a full tank of gas. Tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll return; check in when you get back. Pack water, high-energy meals, and snacks—and pack more than you think you’ll need. Dress in layers of warm, waterproof clothing, including extra layers. Don't rely solely on GPS-based maps.


Find a safe spot to park and play.

Park in safe, legal spots. Never block traffic or driveways, even to install snow chains. Play on open public lands only (stay out of the Big Bear bald eagle closure area). Choose a hill that does not send sledders into roadways.

Maintain situational awareness.

Be sure to hydrate and eat frequently throughout the day. Pay attention to weather conditions and be prepared to leave quickly if conditions change or worsen. Keep an eye on the gas guage; fill up if low.

Keep the forest clean and healthy.

Leave no trace. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and waste. Remember to display your recreation pass.

A Forest Service pickup truck with its bed filled with trash, including broken plastic sleds.

A Forest Service pickup truck with its bed filled with trash, including broken plastic sleds, in 2018.