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Guide to Experiencing Snow in the San Diego Mountains

Updated: Mar 10, 2022

San Diego residents flock to Julian, CA to experience snow in Southern California.
Snow in Julian, CA | This photo is copyright of Eva Hatch and use without permission is prohibited. © 2019 - 2022 by Eva Hatch. 

Does it snow in San Diego? Yes, it snows in San Diego – the mountains in San Diego County do get snow a couple of times a year! In about a two hours drive, you can go from surfing to snowball fights to the hot desert sun. It's really one of my favorite aspects of San Diego.

The nearest snow to San Diego can be found about an hours drive east outside the city in the communities of Julian (elevation 4,226′), Lake Cuyamaca (elevation 4,613′ to 6,515'), Palomar Mountain (elevation 6,142′), Mount Laguna (elevation 6,378′), Pine Valley (elevation 3,737'), Hot Springs Mountian (elevation 6,526′), and the surrounding high elevation areas.

For those coming to play in the snow, here's some local advice for experiencing snow in San Diego.

How do you know if there's snow in the SoCal mountains?

There are a few ways to tell if the higher elevations in San Diego have snow:

  1. Check the local web cameras:

  2. Julian Chamber of Commerce webcams

  3. Julian Pioneer Museum webcam

  4. Cuyamaca webcam

  5. Mount Laguna webcam

  6. Palomar Mountain webcam.

  7. From just about anywhere in San Diego City, looking east you can see the local mountains. Is there snow on them?

  8. Turn on a local news station. Snow in San Diego is a big news story. If there's snow, the news will be covering it.

  9. Call the Julian Chamber of Commerce, (760) 765-1857

Please refrain from directly contacting local businesses or residents about snow levels. Companies receive thousands of inquires about snow and responding to such prevents them from serving their customers efficiently. Snow days bring large crowds and informational inquires slow down service.

Snow Levels

The San Diego mountains get anywhere from a dusting to a few feet on a rare occasion at one time.

Unlike Big Bear or Mammoth, snow in the San Diego mountains doesn't last long. Typically, the snow may even start melting the same day. How long the snow lasts depends on the snow level and the length of the cold spell. Most of the time the snow melts within a day or two. So, if you want to come up for the snow don't dilly dally!

The San Diego region has been known to get snowfall as early as November and as late as Mother's day in May. Julian gets most of our snow from January to March.

The local mountains range in altitudes from 2,000' to Hot Springs Mountian towering over America's finest city at an elevation of 6,526′. This causes some areas to have snow while others will have none. Snow lasts longer in high elevations areas like Palmar Mountain, Mount Laguna, and Lake Cuyamaca compared to lower elevations like Julian and Pine Valley.

Julian (elevation 4,226′) averages precipitation 56 days a year and 24.0 in. snowfall calculation.

Lake Cuyamaca (elevation 4,613′ to 6,515') 31.5 snowfall calculation

Palomar Mountain (elevation 6,142′) averages an annual snowfall of 6.8in.

Mount Laguna (elevation 6,378′) averages an annual snowfall of 13.4 in.

Pine Valley (elevation 3,737') averages an annual snowfall of 13.1 in.

Hot Springs Mountian (elevation 6,526′)

Plan in Advance

Snowstorms in SoCal can be a bit tricky to predict with accuracy until the storm arrives.

Check the weather forecast here. This does not stop the masses from venturing out in hopes of finding snow. Do all your necessary preparations while the storm is developing so that you can get the most out of a snow day.

To have the best possible San Diego snow day experience, I recommend booking a vacation rental. This allows you to arrive before the storm hits, you have a yard to play in the snow, and as long as you stay put you don't have to drive in dangerous road conditions.

Those doing a snow day trip to Julian, Palomar, or Mount Laguna arrive early in the day. The region is crowded by noon.

Road Conditions and Snow Chains

Julian, CA roads with snow

Be sure to check the road conditions before you​​ head up the backcountry roads to play in the snow.


It's strongly recommended that a driver with experience driving in snow, is the one that drives. It's not easy to drive with snow and ice on the windy roads.

Always make sure you have the proper size chains for your vehicle and know how to put them on before you head up the hill.

Stopping in the middle of the road to put them on is not safe.

Car accidents increase dramatically when there's snow. We have a very limited amount of emergency resources in the mountains. Resources are limited and stretched to the max with a