Lonely Planet Writer

Pathfinder pics: California

California in winter

Lonely Planet Pathfinder and the face behind WildJunket, Nellie Huang, recently visited California. Here she shares some of the Instagram captures she took on her trip and shares her tips on what to expect from the USA’s golden state in the winter months.

California is best known for its sun-kissed surf beaches, bohemian lifestyle and outdoorsy pursuits. But don’t be fooled by its perpetually sunny outlook – California in winter is a whole different world.

Towering redwood forests are blanketed in sparkling snow and imposing mountains are flushed with thick layers of white powder for ski season. Surf bums have left their boards behind and are hitting the ski slopes instead, swapping their flip-flops for ski boots.’


A photo posted by Nellie (@wildjunket) on

‘Famed for eternal sunshine and outrageous natural beauty, Lake Tahoe is one of the deepest and clearest freshwater lakes in the USA. And because it sits at an elevation of 1905m-high, the lake gets frozen almost every winter and the area transforms into a winter wonderland.’


A photo posted by Nellie (@wildjunket) on

‘South Lake Tahoe is by far the most popular tourist town in the Tahoe region. And whilst it may be touristy, it’s got the best lake views and the most number of restaurants, hotels and ski stations. Heavenly Ski Resort is particularly popular thanks to its central location and well-designed pistes.’


A photo posted by Nellie (@wildjunket) on

‘You can’t come to Tahoe and not drive around the lake’s spellbinding 115km scenic shoreline. Take your time and stop along the way to take in views of the lake shimmering in different shades of blue and green. My favourite viewpoint was at Emerald bay where the hairpin bends reveal a striking panorama.’


A photo posted by Nellie (@wildjunket) on

‘Covering an area of over 3000 sq km, Yosemite National Park is an expansive area of wilderness riddled with granite cliffs, giant sequoia groves, rivers and waterfalls. The most photographed part of the national park is probably this view of the Yosemite Valley and the famous granite monolith, El Capitan.’


A photo posted by Nellie (@wildjunket) on

‘There was a winter storm warning during my visit to Yosemite and several roads in Yosemite National Park were closed. We ventured into the park right after the winter storm had subsided and it turned out to be quite an adventure. Engulfed in frosty snow, the rugged El Capitan looming over the redwoods in the Yosemite Valley looked even more dramatic than before.’


A photo posted by Nellie (@wildjunket) on

As a complete contrast to the snow we’d received, we were warmly welcomed by the sunny and balmy weather of Palm Springs. The small desert town is just a two hour drive from Los Angeles, but it couldn't be more different. Far from the glitzy lights of Hollywood, this quirky town is cute, unpretentious and full of character. I particularly love its natural setting in the midst of the desert surrounded by palm trees, canyons and glorious sunshine.’


A photo posted by Nellie (@wildjunket) on

‘During our visit, we stayed at the homes of several celebrities located in the Movie Colony, just a few blocks from downtown Palm Springs. Many movie stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Jack Benny owned homes in this area between the 1930s and 1960s.’

Do you love to write about your travels? Or perhaps Instagram is your thing? Find out more about our Pathfinders programme and how you can contribute to Lonely Planet here.