Best Time to Visit California

When Is the Best Time

Knowing when to visit California’s mesmerizing national parks, fascinating attractions, or beautiful cities can make or break your next trip to this exciting state. Together with a local, we compiled a visiting guide with tips for every month, every region, and every possible activity in California.

The best time to visit California is in the spring during April and in the fall from September to October. During those months, the crowds are tolerable, and it’s the best time for outdoor activities as the temperatures are usually pleasant and not too hot.

Make sure to scroll/swipe down for must-know California visiting tips for each month at the end of this article!

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Best Time to Hike in California

The best time to visit California for day hiking is in September, October, and November. During these months, the weather is still warm and sunny. The sun sets around 6:00 pm in October. After Labor Day and before Thanksgiving, there are few tourists, which translates to emptier trails. Be mindful that this can be wildfire season, though, so you may wish to hike in the desert as a backup plan. The air is clear in spots like Joshua Tree National Park.

However, if you are thru-hiking or backpacking in the California mountains, such as the Sierras, the best time to visit will be the months of July, August, and September, as these are times when you probably won’t need winter equipment like crampons. Unless it’s been a dry winter, you’re also less likely to encounter a wildfire until October.

Best Time to Camp in California

The best time to camp in California is in March, April, September, and October. As long as you aren’t visiting during spring break or Labor Day, you’ll find these shoulder season months are delightful for camping. You’ll also have more campsites to choose from during non-holiday times. Days are often mild or warm, with little rain, and temperatures may only drop to 40 to 50° degrees at night. However, be prepared for light rain in spring and wildfires in fall.

Best Time to Visit California’s Beaches

While most tourists want to visit California’s beaches in the summer, this is not the best time to do so. Parking can be next to impossible, the sun is intense, and the Pacific Ocean is still icy-cold.

Instead, the best time to visit will be later in the year, ideally after Labor Day weekend in September or in October. While the rest of the world begins wearing their winter jackets, you’ll still be enjoying the warm sunshine, empty beaches, and comfortable water temperatures.

Best Time to Avoid the Crowds in California

To avoid crowds in California, visit in the winter and spring months of October through March. Because most of California is classified as a Mediterranean climate, the weather may be mild or even warm. Visitors wanting to wait a mere 15 minutes for a Disneyland ride or enjoy an empty beach in San Diego will prefer the California winter. With a few exceptions – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring break – these are the best months to visit to avoid or reduce crowds.

Best Time to Visit National Parks in California

Regardless of which National Park you want to visit in California, the best months for better weather and fewer crowds are April and October. California has nine National Parks, the most of any state in the country. Of these nine, four are the most popular for tourists: Yosemite National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park, and Sequoia National Park.

  • In Yosemite, you’ll have smaller crowds and milder weather in spring – March, and April – and fall – October and November. You may need a jacket and umbrella, but you won’t have to wait three hours to enter the park.
  • In Joshua Tree, you’ll experience comfortable weather in March, April, October, and November, and fewer visitors will be crowding the trails or campgrounds.
  • In Death Valley, a desert land of extreme temperatures, you’ll enjoy the moderate weather of April, (early) May, and October. This is also a time when you’ll encounter fewer tourists.
  • In Sequoia, the weather is good for nearly half the year, in March, April, May, October, and November. You’ll see fewer visitors here, and even on holiday weekends, you may find a few first-come, first-served campsites, making this park a great option for last-minute visitors.
Best Time to Visit San Francisco

San Francisco is famously cold and foggy in the summer, so visitors are rewarded by visiting in September, the warmest month of the year. Indeed, after Labor Day weekend, fewer tourists visit this city, and the fog has begun to disappear. Visit San Francisco in September for warm days at the beach with clear views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Tip: Bookmark this San Francisco Hotel Deals – via booking.com link to save money when you book later.

Best Time to Visit San Diego

The best time to visit San Diego is from March to May and later in the fall from September to October. During these periods, crowds are fewer, the weather is comfortable, and hotel prices are moderate. Check the latest San Diego Hotel Deals (sort by rating and price) via booking.com (save the link!)

Best Time to Visit Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara has one of the most desirable temperatures in the state: rarely cold and never hot. As a result, this is a great city to visit during the winter months of October through March. The winter can bring some light rain, but the city remains a pleasant, moderate temperature. In addition, if you want to take a surfing class, winter waves are the best of the year.

Best Time to Visit Napa Valley and Sonoma Wine Country

October and November are the best months of the year to visit the wine regions of California: Napa Valley and Sonoma Wine Country. October is warmer and drier and a great month to visit at the end of the wine harvest season. However, November is the beginning of the off-season, and apart from milder temperatures and a slight chance of rain, it will be a quieter and less expensive time to visit vineyards.

Recommended Hotels and Tours

The tours above are unique. Don’t make the mistake and explore everything on your own. A guided tour is a unique experience.

For any reservation in California check out the hotel deals via booking.com: California – Hotel Deals | booking.com  (bookmark the link to save money)

 

Season Overview

Summer: June through August

In California, summer is hot, dry, and crowded almost everywhere, reaching or surpassing 100° degrees several days of the month. However, San Francisco and high-elevation locations like the Los Angeles mountains and Lake Tahoe are more comfortable for visitors avoiding the heat.

Fall: September and October

September and October mark the fall season in California, as temperatures begin to drop to comfortable, warm daytime temperatures of 70-80° degrees in most areas. Evening and morning temperatures will become cooler. These are two of the best months to visit California.

Winter: November through February

In November through February, daytime average temperatures drop to around 50° degrees in most areas. This season is rarely very cold, but can bring heavy rain and brisk nighttime temperatures. In Southern California, you may also encounter warm winter winds.

Spring: March through May

Spring warms up quickly in California, announcing the beginning of a dry, hot summer. Daytime temperatures may average 60° to 70° degrees, and the desert will become very warm. These are often dry months.

 

California Climate Regions

There are multiple climate zones in California, which also vary depending on elevation. However, most of the state can be defined as Mediterranean or desert climates.

Northern and Coastal California: This area offers warm summers and wet, mild winters and including major sites such as:

Southern California and Central Valley: This area is a typical Meditteranean climate with hot summers and dry, cool winters. However, this region includes mountains with cold temperatures and/or snow until mid or late summer. The major sites in this area are:

California Desert: This area is a typical desert with very hot summers and windy, warm winters. However, Palm Springs includes mountains with cold temperatures and/or snow until mid or late summer. Major sites are:

  • Palm Springs
  • Coachella Valley
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Death Valley National Park
Monthly California Guide

We provide you with expert visiting tips for each month in California. It gets better: We cover every important region of the state.

January in California

Due to its mild temperatures and low crowds, January in California may be the best time to visit all year. However, prepare for the cold and some rain, with brisk daytime temperatures around 50° or 60° degrees across California. Nighttime temperatures will be at or below freezing in higher elevations and the desert.

Northern and Coastal California | San Francisco, San José, San Diego, Santa Barbara

January in Northern and Coastal California is cool and damp. Expect low temperatures around 40° degrees and high temperatures around 60° degrees. There is heavy humidity – 70 to 80%, and it may rain a few inches this month. The Lake Tahoe area will have snow and will be below freezing.

  • Clothing: Wear winter clothing appropriate for California: long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, long pants, scarves, gloves, and a waterproof jacket. If you’re visiting a snowy area, wear double layers of warm, waterproof clothing.
  • Best Time: Most of the month will be excellent to visit, as this is off-season everywhere except snowy areas such as Lake Tahoe. In late January, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is recognized as a federal holiday, but it is not a popular time for Californians to travel.

Southern California and Central Valley | Los Angeles, Disneyland, Yosemite National Park, Sacramento

January in Southern California is mild, with temperatures up to 70° degrees. However, Central Valley will be 10 degrees cooler. Nighttime temperatures are cold, hovering above freezing. There is heavy humidity – 60 to 80% – and some days may rain. The Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks will have snow, and there may be a few inches in the mountains above Los Angeles too.

  • Clothing: Bring light winter clothing for Southern California, such as a long-sleeved shirt, light sweater, puffer vest, and waterproof jacket. Be prepared for snow in the forest or mountains of this region.
  • Best Time: Most of the month is excellent for a visit to Southern and Central California. National Parks like Yosemite experience only 3% of their total annual visitors in January. Additionally, Disneyland is quiet, and you won’t need to wait in long lines. However, Martin Luther King Jr. Day may have more visitors than usual.

California Desert | Palm Springs, Coachella Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park

January is cool and dry in the desert, often no warmer than 65° degrees. Palm Springs has ideal January temperatures, so it is not uncommon for Californians to go swimming in outdoor pools at desert resorts. However, nighttime temperatures can drop to freezing even in the valleys, so you may warm up in natural hot spring pools.

  • Clothing: California desert cities can confuse visitors in January due to the variability in temperature. For the daytime, bring spring clothing such as light shirts and a hat. For the evening, bring winter clothing such as jackets and scarves. Snow and rain are rare, but cold is common.
  • Best Time: January is the beginning of the high season in the desert, so expect high prices and more crowds in most desert areas (except Death Valley National Park, which will be empty). Events such as the Palm Springs International Film Festival attract many visitors from the Los Angeles area, and Joshua Tree National Park begins to see more of its crowds. It is best to visit popular desert areas during mid-week.

 

February in California

February in California offers damp, cold temperatures and fewer crowds, so it is an excellent time to visit if you bring a waterproof jacket and umbrella. This month has the most rain of the year, with chilly daytime temperatures around 50° to 60° degrees across the state. Nighttime temperatures will warm up to around 40° degrees.

Northern and Coastal California | San Francisco, San José, San Diego, Santa Barbara

February in Northern and Coastal California is cool and damp, with up to a few inches of rain and up to 80% humidity. Low temperatures hover around 50° degrees and high temperatures around 60° degrees. Freezing temperatures are common in Lake Tahoe.

  • Clothing: Prepare waterproof, warm clothing: a waterproof jacket, long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, long pants, scarves, and gloves. If you’re enjoying the snow, wear double layers of warm, waterproof clothing.
  • Best Time: If you don’t mind traveling in a wet and cold month, you will have few if any crowds all month in February, which is off-season in most parts of this region except Tahoe, where the slopes are filled with ski-happy Californians. Visit San Francisco’s Chinatown, the largest outside of Asia, for a lively lunar new year celebration.

Southern California and Central Valley | Los Angeles, Disneyland, Yosemite National Park, Sacramento

During February in Southern California, expect cool daytime temperatures around 60° degrees, with the Los Angeles area being up to 10 degrees warmer. This is the wettest month of the year, so contrary to the idea that California is always sunny – expect humidity and rain. Both Yosemite and Sequoia National Park will have snow and you may also be able to snowshoe in the Los Angeles mountains.

  • Clothing: Prepare layers of spring and winter clothing like waterproof jackets, long-sleeved shirts, light sweaters, and puffer vests. This is the best month to pack an umbrella. Bring warmer winter clothing for the forest and mountains.
  • Best Time: If you’re prepared for the weather, February is an ideal month to visit, when Disneyland is quiet and Yosemite only sees 3% of its annual visitation numbers. For a unique experience, see the naturally occurring “firefall” at Yosemite’s Horsetail Fall.

California Desert | Palm Springs, Coachella Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park

October is hot here, up to 91° degrees. However, temperature varies greatly and may drop to freezing. October is a transitional time and marks the beginning of winter here. Desert air can be clear and windy. Consequently, the desert is a good region to visit if there are wildfires in other parts of California.

  • Clothing: It will feel like summer and autumn on the same day, so layers are important in the desert. You may wear sunscreen and a winter jacket within a few hours. Bring layers such as t-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, windbreakers, puffer vests, and even winter hats and gloves for the colder hours.
  • Best Time: This may be the best month all year to visit the desert. Both Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks have fewer visitors, more campsites, and emptier trails. Joshua Tree National Park also hosts a gem and music festival.

February is still cool and dry, up to 70° degrees but as low as 36° degrees at night. February is the high season for tourism in Palm Springs, so this will be a busy time to visit. Desert air is clear and calm.

  • Clothing: For daytime in the desert, bring spring clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants. For the evening, layer up with a jacket, hat, and gloves. Though this is the wettest month, rain is rare in February.
  • Best Time: Expect expensive prices and more crowds in the desert areas, particularly Joshua Tree National Park. Death Valley National Park is less-visited. It is best to visit popular desert areas during mid-week.

 

March in California

March is a midway month for weather in California, marking the decline of a cool, damp winter and the arrival of a dry, hot summer. There are fewer tourists, so it is a fantastic season to visit. Daytime temperatures are a pleasant 55° to 65° degrees, while most nighttime temperatures will stay in the mid-40° degrees. The desert will begin to heat up, marking the end of its tourism season.

Northern and Coastal California | San Francisco, San José, San Diego, Santa Barbara

March in Northern and Coastal California is still damp and cool, but both rain and humidity are lessening as summer approaches. Temperatures range from 45° degrees to upper-60° degrees, though the Lake Tahoe area will still be cold, around freezing.

  • Clothing: Prepare waterproof, warm clothing: a waterproof jacket, long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, long pants, scarves, and gloves. If you’re enjoying the snow, wear double layers of warm, waterproof clothing.
  • Best Time: Most of March is a beautiful time to visit. However, spring break means young crowds, so early in the month will be a better time to visit if you want to see fewer people. The ski season is nearing its end in Tahoe, so take advantage of dry, warmer days.

Southern California and Central Valley | Los Angeles, Disneyland, Yosemite National Park, Sacramento

March in Southern and Central California is heavenly, with average temperature highs around 70° degrees, even in Yosemite National Park. Temperature lows don’t drop below 40° degrees, and rain is less common. The snow is melting, and the flowers are blooming in the valleys. If the weather cooperates, you may experience a rare “super bloom” of orange poppies in sites like Lancaster’s Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.

  • Clothing: Prepare layers of spring and summer clothing like t-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, and light sweaters. March is a month to pack both sun protection and waterproof clothing, in case it rains or there’s a hot, sunny day.
  • Best Time: The beginning of March is best to visit, due to busier spring break crowds in popular places like Disneyland and Yosemite. However, a late-March visit means you have more chances to see wildflowers, which typically bloom anytime between February and May. All of March is enjoyable at the beach.

California Desert | Palm Springs, Coachella Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park

March is the unofficial beginning of summer in California desert areas, up to 81° degrees in cities like Palm Springs. However, the temperature still drops to low 40° degrees at night. Low humidity and few winds make this one of the final tolerable months to visit before the heat soars. Unsurprisingly, it is also the end of the high season for tourism.

  • Clothing: It will feel like summer in Palm Springs and spring in Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Park, so remember that temperatures are trending warmer but vary even from desert region to desert region. As always, layers are critical. Bring t-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, light sweaters, and sun protection. You will likely want hats and gloves for the cooler nighttime hours.
  • Best Time: Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs will have many visitors, while Death Valley National Park is cooler and has fewer visitors, more campsites, and emptier trails. The “super bloom” can be even more prominent in the desert than in other parts of California, so check wildflower forecasts for best viewing times.

 

April in California

April is highly variable in California, and it will feel like winter, spring, or summer, depending on where you visit. In the desert, temperatures are as hot as 87° degrees in Palm Springs. However, in San Francisco and other northern regions, temperatures are a comfortable average of 60° degrees. Further inland or in higher elevations, you may still experience freezing temperatures at night. However, it is a dry, sometimes breezy, month. Be mindful of Easter and spring break tourist crowds.

Northern and Coastal California | San Francisco, San José, San Diego, Santa Barbara

During April in Northern and Coastal California, you can expect mild, breezy weather, with temperatures as low as 48° degrees and as high as 69° degrees, though the Lake Tahoe area will still average 41° degrees. This is a dry, windy month in this region.

  • Clothing: Bring spring-weather clothing for the day, such as a t-shirt and light jacket. During the night, bring a sweater, puffer vest, puffer jacket, and windbreaker. In cooler areas, bring extra layers such as scarves, hats, and gloves.
  • Best Time: April is a great time to visit. Unique experiences include the cherry blossom season in San Francisco and the end of the ski season in Tahoe. However, Easter and spring break mean larger crowds everywhere, so it is better to plan a midweek visit if you want to see fewer people.

Southern California and Central Valley | Los Angeles, Disneyland, Yosemite National Park, Sacramento

April is the unofficial beginning of summer in Southern California, with average temperatures around 70° degrees or more. There is little to no rain in this region, and the weather should be mild even at night, in the upper 40° degrees. Wildflowers are guaranteed, making April a grand time to visit.

  • Clothing: Prepare layers of spring and summer clothing like t-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, and light sweaters. March is a month to pack both sun protection and waterproof clothing, in case it rains or there’s a hot, sunny day.
  • Best Time: April is a crowded time across all popular parks. If you have to visit in April, it is slightly better to do so late in the month, after Easter and spring break. Wildflower sightings and beach days will also be popular but allow for more spacious visits.

California Desert | Palm Springs, Coachella Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park

There’s no avoiding the summer heat if you visit the California desert in April. Temperatures rise to the upper 80° degrees, though they are still cool at night, as low as 47° degrees in Death Valley National Park. This is the final endurable month to visit before summer, and you’ll see fewer tourists as a result.

  • Clothing: Expect heat in April. Bring t-shirts for the day and long-sleeved shirts or light sweaters for the night. Pack hats and sun protection. This is a windier month, so a lightweight windbreaker may also be smart.
  • Best Time: All desert areas will still have a lot of tourists, though Death Valley National Park will still have fewer than 200,000 tourists and the mildest weather. Visit the desert and its wildflowers in early April to avoid the heat. If you’re traveling in late April, visit higher elevations like the mountains.

 

May in California

May in California offers comfortable to warm daytime temperatures over 70° degrees in Southern and Central California areas, and cool to comfortable daytime temperatures up to 70° degrees in Northern and Coastal California, while desert regions are scorching during the day with over 100° degrees many days. Evening and morning temperatures and temperatures at higher elevations will be cooler in all parts of California.

Northern and Coastal California | San Francisco, San José, San Diego, Santa Barbara

During May in Northern and Coastal California, expect high temperatures around 70° degrees. Late spring and summer here often include heavy fog, known as “May Gray.” Some humidity but little or no rain.

  • Clothing: Bring layers, and prepare to wear spring- or fall-weather clothing. In the daytime, you’ll want to bring a t-shirt and – in San Francisco, the coldest city – a sweater or light jacket. For the evening, a puffer vest, puffer jacket, or leather jacket will be a good choice in any of these cities. Layering is the best way to prepare for the temperature differences in these regions.
  • Best Time: This is still a great time for a beach visit. However, in San Francisco, visit between mid-and late May for best temperatures. Try to visit all these areas before Memorial Day as this is the unofficial beginning of the summer and gets very crowded at popular attractions.

Southern California and Central Valley | Los Angeles, Disneyland, Yosemite National Park, Sacramento

May in Southern California and Central Valley offers ideal temperatures with a high of upper 70° degrees. Nighttime temperatures are still cool, as low as 45° in Yosemite. You may experience “May Gray” fog, though it usually disappears by afternoon. Expect heatwave days but no rain or humidity.

  • Clothing: Bring spring-weather clothing. In the daytime, you’ll want to wear a t-shirt and shorts or – in Yosemite, which is cooler – a long-sleeved shirt and pants. For the evening, a puffer vest, puffer jacket, or leather jacket is a smart decision. Temperatures drop, particularly in the forest or mountains, so it’s good to layer at night.
  • Best Time: Visit before Memorial Day to enjoy the weather and smaller crowds. National Parks like Yosemite experience high visitation numbers on Memorial Day weekend. Yosemite receives approximately 400,000 people in May, though this is still approximately half of the visitors it receives in July and August. Additionally, Disneyland will be busy at the end of the month. If you still want to visit Yosemite, Disneyland, or other parks, visit mid-week but expect to see a lot of people.

California Desert | Palm Springs, Coachella Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park

May in the Californian desert cities is unpleasantly hot, often over 100° degrees. It is very dry. To escape the heat, visit the mountains like Mt. San Jacinto in Palm Springs and Telescope Peak in Death Valley.

  • Clothing: Expect heat; the desert will be warm even at night. It is summer in the desert, so dress accordingly. Bring light, loose clothing, and a hat that can protect you from the sunshine. For the evening, bring a long-sleeved shirt or light jacket. Temperatures dip at night, particularly in the forest or mountains, so it’s good to layer.
  • Best Time: It is best not to visit unless you have booked an air-conditioned room. However, May marks the beginning of the off-season in cities like Palm Springs and Twentynine Palms, where you can find affordable hotels and resorts with large pools. If you are open to experiencing hot temperatures, traveling to the desert now may offer bargains. To escape the heat, visit the mountains.

 

June in California

In California, the month of June ranges from comfortably warm daytime temperatures in Northern and Coastal California (55 to 67° degrees) to borderline hot in Southern and Central Valley areas (70 to 74° degrees). Meanwhile, the Southern California desert is an uncomfortable 100° degrees or hotter on many days. Early morning temperatures are mild in most parts of California, so if you’re visiting on a hot day, finish any physical activity before 10:00 am.

Northern and Coastal California | San Francisco, San José, San Diego, Santa Barbara

In Northern and Coastal California, expect high temperatures around 70° degrees during June. Just like its cousin, “May Gray,” heavy morning fog here is called “June Gloom.” Some humidity but little to no rain. This is the best California region to visit in June, weatherwise.

  • Clothing: Wear spring- and summer-weather clothing. In the daytime, you’ll want to bring a t-shirt and a sweater or light jacket you can easily remove if you’re visiting a coastal city like Santa Barbara. For the evening, a light jacket is smart. Layering is always smart in cooler areas like San Francisco, but you can expect a dry, mild summer in San Jose.
  • Best Time: Visit San Francisco in late June for Pride events like the world-famous parade that celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people. With the mildest temperatures in the state, all month is a great time for a beach or mountain visit.

Southern California and Central Valley | Los Angeles, Disneyland, Yosemite National Park, Sacramento

In Southern California and the Central Valley, June offers warm days with high temperatures around mid-70° degrees. Nighttime temperatures are mild, around 60° degrees. You may experience “June Gloom” fog in the mornings. Expect the same heatwave days or weeks as May, but no rain or humidity. This will be the last comfortable month of the summer.

  • Clothing: Prepare for the summer, even in higher elevations. In the daytime, you’ll want to wear a t-shirt and shorts. At the most, you’ll need layers like long pants and a light jacket for the evening. Don’t forget the sunscreen.
  • Best Time: There is no best time to visit, as this is the high season for tourists. LA beaches are packed. Yosemite sees its largest crowds between June and September – about half a million visitors each month – so if you’re visiting a California National Park in June, go see Kings Canyon, which has the same scenery and only 70,000 visitors. Additionally, Disneyland will be busy all month. If you still want to visit these parks, make peace with hours of waiting in lines under the warm sun. Unique celebrations include the many Juneteenth events in Southern California.

California Desert | Palm Springs, Coachella Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park

There’s no escaping the heat in June. Californian desert cities are unpleasantly hot, typically hotter than 100° degrees, and averaging the mid-80° degrees. On the bright side, few tourists visit in the summer.

  • Clothing: It is hot, even at night. Prepare your clothing accordingly. Bring a hat and light, loose clothing that can protect you from the sunshine. Clothing like shorts and t-shirts will not do much to reduce the heat and may mean sunburns, so cover up instead.
  • Best Time: If you’re visiting between May and October, we recommend that you book an air-conditioned room. However, this is the off-season and you can find affordable accommodation. To have a cooler visit, take the aerial tram up to Mt. San Jacinto in Palm Springs.

 

July in California

July is the driest, hottest month of the year in the desert, central, and southern areas of California, often surpassing 100° degrees several days of the month. However, the northern and coastal areas of California are warm – averaging 60 to 70° degrees – but not as hot as in August. If you’re visiting California in July and want to stay out of the heat, visit a coastal or northern city.

Northern and Coastal California | San Francisco, San José, San Diego, Santa Barbara

In Northern and Coastal California, expect high temperatures around 80° degrees during July. It is a dry month, with little humidity. This is the best California region to visit in July, heatwise. For instance, San Francisco will be 10° or more degrees cooler than Los Angeles.

  • Clothing: Wear spring- and summer-weather clothing such as t-shirts and shorts, with a light sweater for the evening. Cooler areas like Tahoe and San Francisco may require some layering like a jacket and long pants as temperatures can drop as low as 42° degrees at night.
  • Best Time: This is a busy month for visitors, so any time after the July 4 weekend will be better if you’re looking to see fewer crowds. The Northern California area is known for its farmlands, so visit the rodeo in Salinas or attend the quirky Gilroy Garlic Festival (try the garlic ice cream).

Southern California and Central Valley | Los Angeles, Disneyland, Yosemite National Park, Sacramento

July is the hottest month of the year in Southern and Central California with high temperatures around 90° degrees. However, nighttime temperatures remain mild, around 60° degrees. Expect a continuation of heatwave days or weeks and the early beginning of wildfire season. If you’re visiting this area in July, stay near or on the beaches, like Santa Monica, to reduce heat exposure.

  • Clothing: This is the hottest month of the year, so wear a t-shirt and shorts. You may not need layers for the evening either, which only drops to around 60° degrees. You will need sunscreen and sun-protective layers.
  • Best Time: This is the high season for tourists, which is clear if you try to enter Yosemite National Park and sit in the hours-long line of cars or try to find parking at Disneyland or the beach. Kings Canyon National Park is still a better choice than Yosemite in July, with fewer tourists. Make peace with getting to popular locations in the early morning to secure a good spot. One worthwhile, free beach event is the U.S. Open at Huntington Beach when world-famous surfers compete.

California Desert | Palm Springs, Coachella Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park

July is the hottest month in the hottest part of California: the desert. Frankly, it’s dangerous to visit then, but if you must visit in 100° or more degrees, ensure you’ve got a hotel room with functioning air conditioning or delay your visit until late September or October.

  • Clothing: It is wickedly hot and there is little escape from the heat, so wear a hat and light, loose clothing that can protect you during the daytime. Sunscreen and multiple liters of water are also necessary.
  • Best Time: With this heat, there is no best time, but you may wish to visit the higher elevations of San Bernardino Forest or Death Valley National Park; in the latter, Mahogany Flat Campground is a cooler choice.

 

August in California

Across California, August is hot and dry just like July. In Northern California, this is the hottest month of the year with average temperatures around 80° degrees. In some areas, like Death Valley National Park, the hottest temperature on Earth may be recorded. Despite the heat, August is one of the busiest months of the year for events in California, and you’ll be happy with many choices for activities; just stay cool and out of the sun as much as possible.

Northern and Coastal California | San Francisco, San José, San Diego, Santa Barbara

In Northern and Coastal California, expect high temperatures around 80° degrees during August. There is no rain, and this is the hottest month of the year in this region. Be prepared for the dry, warm air and an increased risk of wildfires. The beach may be the best place to avoid poor air quality as a result of the smoke.

  • Clothing: Wear summer-weather clothing such as t-shirts, with long-sleeved shirts and long pants for the evening in cooler areas like Lake Tahoe, where evening temperatures can drop as low as 41° degrees.
  • Best Time: There are no national or state holidays, but many school districts resume classes in mid-August. By late August – fortunately for you – family crowds may be reduced in popular vacation locations like lakes, forests, and campgrounds. Unique festivals in mid-August are the Aloha Festival, a Hawaiian cultural event, and the Pistahan Parade and Festival, a celebration of Filipino culture.

Southern California and Central Valley | Los Angeles, Disneyland, Yosemite National Park, Sacramento

August is just as hot as July in Southern and Central California with high temperatures around 90° degrees; in Los Angeles, August is the hottest month of the year. Remember that wildfires begin around now, so staying on or near beaches will help reduce dangerous heat exposure and increase air quality, which is made worse by fires.

  • Clothing: Summer is still blazing in August, so wear a t-shirt, shorts, and sun-protective layers. The evening will also be warm, around 60° degrees, so enjoy the warmth but protect your skin against the sun and heat.
  • Best Time: Even though there are no national or state holidays in August and school districts resume classes, this is still the high season for tourists so you’ll have difficulty finding parking at a park or the beach. Alternatives to Yosemite during its busiest month include Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, which receive 10-20% of the number of visitors at Yosemite. August is perfect for an evening visit to festivals like the OC Fair or LA’s 626 Night Market, the largest Asian-style night market in the U.S.

California Desert | Palm Springs, Coachella Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park

August is still blazing hot in the desert cities of California with temperatures soaring above 100° degrees. Look for a hotel room with functioning air conditioning or delay your visit until late September or October.

  • Clothing: It is very hot still, so wear a hat and light, loose clothing that can protect you during the daytime. Sunscreen and multiple liters of water are critical to enjoying your visit.
  • Best Time: The August heat deters many people from visiting, so it will be an affordable time to find a good deal at typically expensive resorts. Beginning in mid-August, there will be fewer families visiting, so you may have the hot, empty cities to yourself.

 

September in California

September is a turning point for weather in California, as temperatures begin to drop to an average of 70-80° degrees in most areas. San Francisco is still a comfortable warmth, averaging mid-60° degrees, while Los Angeles is still warm, around mid-70° degrees. However, wildfires are more common now and may occur within hours, worsening the air quality. If there are wildfires, the desert is a good place to visit, with cleaner air quality. September is undoubtedly one of the best months to visit, particularly in the mid or later part of the month after the Labor Day holiday.

Northern and Coastal California | San Francisco, San José, San Diego, Santa Barbara

In Northern and Coastal California, expect high temperatures around 70° degrees during September. Be prepared for the dry, warm air and a likely risk of wildfires, which increases air quality and – in some cases – air temperature. The beach may be the best place to avoid poor air quality as a result of the smoke. San Francisco will be the warmest city and Lake Tahoe will be the coolest area, with nighttime temperatures dropping to around freezing.

  • Clothing: It is time to pack summer- and fall-weather clothing, with t-shirts and shorts for the day and long pants with long-sleeved shirts for the evening. Lake Tahoe will already feel like winter with temperatures as low as 35° degrees, so plan accordingly – jackets and winter clothing – when you visit forests and higher elevations. No rain gear is necessary.
  • Best Time: Labor Day, in early September, is typically the last summer holiday and is observed by most people, so cities are full of tourists on their final vacation before Thanksgiving. Visit in mid and late September for cooler weather and fewer crowds. Two excellent events on the coast include the Monterey Jazz Festival, the world’s longest-running jazz festival, and the Tall Ships Festival in Dana Point, in coastal Southern California.

Southern California and Central Valley | Los Angeles, Disneyland, Yosemite National Park, Sacramento

While most of the state begins to cool down, Southern and Central California are still very warm in September, with high temperatures in the upper-80° degrees. Wildfires are also likely, so it is best to stay near beaches or visit the desert instead if clear air is important to you.

  • Clothing: September is still the summer here, so wear a t-shirt and shorts. In the evening, bring a light sweater as temperatures drop to around 60° degrees. Rain is unlikely.
  • Best Time: Labor Day sees the most crowds, so visit later in the month. However, you’ll still have crowds in places like Yosemite National Park, which receives as many visitors as it does in June. Kings Canyon is always a great late-summer choice for those avoiding the crowds and wanting something similar to Yosemite. September is still a great time to visit fairs, with the LA County Fair held daily and the Old-Fashioned Country Fair in Julian, where you can buy state-famous apple pies.

California Desert | Palm Springs, Coachella Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park

In September, temperatures begin dropping in the desert, as Palm Springs and Joshua Tree begin dipping below 100° degrees and Death Valley National Park has a comfortably warm average of 76° degrees. If you can handle the warmth, this is a good time to visit the desert.

  • Clothing: It is warm and summer-like, so wear a t-shirt, shorts, and light, loose clothing protecting against the sun. As temperatures begin dropping to around 60° degrees, bring a light sweater for the evening hours.
  • Best Time: After Labor Day, September is a shoulder season for tourism. As long as you are prepared for the warmth, you will meet fewer visitors, find more campsites, and hike emptier trails in large parks like Joshua Tree.
October in California

October in California may be the best time to visit, with comfortable to warm daytime temperatures up to 80° degrees in Southern, Central, and Northern California areas, and up to 90° degrees in the desert regions. Evening and morning temperatures, and temperatures at higher elevations will be cooler in all parts of California. Be mindful of wildfires, which occur during this time of year, as this will make the air difficult to breathe. In the case of wildfires, visit the desert.

Northern and Coastal California | San Francisco, San José, San Diego, Santa Barbara

During October in Northern and Coastal California, expect cool mornings and warm daytime temperatures up to 75° degrees. This is one of the driest, warmest months, and wildfires are more likely.

  • Clothing: Expect dry, warm weather. In the daytime, you’ll want to wear a t-shirt then transition to wearing pants and a light sweater for the evenings. You won’t need any rain gear. As always, layering is the best way to prepare for temperature variations here.
  • Best Time: Due to October’s warmth, you’ll still have time to visit the beach. Most of this month is off-season for tourism, and you’ll be surrounded by locals and other visiting Californians. Attend lively Halloween events in any of these cities or see Outside Lands, an independent music festival in San Francisco.

Southern California and Central Valley | Los Angeles, Disneyland, Yosemite National Park, Sacramento

During October in Southern California and the Central Valley, expect cool mornings and warm daytime temperatures up to 80° degrees. This can be a dry and windy month, with warm Santa Ana winds that can ignite wildfires in the mountains. October is an extension of summer weather, particularly in Southern California.

  • Clothing: Expect dry, warm weather. In the daytime, wear a t-shirt. In the evening, bring a light jacket. Rain is unlikely here, so you won’t need any waterproof clothing. Bring warmer clothing if you’re visiting Yosemite, where the autumn weather is cooling.
  • Best Time: You will want to visit the beach and the mountains in October. This is off-season, so you’ll see fewer tourists and more locals. Disneyland will be decorated brightly in fall colors and less crowded than it is in the summer. Yosemite will also see nearly half of the people it does in July and August. For unique experiences, visit a pumpkin patch, pick apples in Oak Glen, or celebrate the late-October holiday Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

California Desert | Palm Springs, Coachella Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park

October is hot in the Californian desert, up to 91° degrees. However, temperature varies greatly and may drop to freezing. October is a transitional time and marks the beginning of winter here. Desert air can be clear and windy. Consequently, the desert is a good region to visit if there are wildfires in other parts of the state.

  • Clothing: It will feel like summer and autumn on the same day, so layers are important in the desert. You may wear sunscreen and a winter jacket within a few hours. Bring layers such as t-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, windbreakers, puffer vests, and even winter hats and gloves for the colder hours.
  • Best Time: This may be the best month all year to visit the desert. Both Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks have fewer visitors, more campsites, and emptier trails. Joshua Tree National Park also hosts a gem and music festival.

 

November in California

In November, temperatures drop across California to an average of 50-60° degrees in most areas. This is the beginning of the cool, rainy season Californians call “winter.” Wildfires may continue, but rain usually shortens these fires. The rain is usually light and starts later in the month. If you are traveling to California in November, expect cool daytime temperatures and cold nighttime temperatures.

Northern and Coastal California | San Francisco, San José, San Diego, Santa Barbara

In Northern and Coastal California, expect high temperatures between 60° and 70° degrees. San Diego will be the warmest city and Lake Tahoe will be the coldest area, with little rain or snow but temperatures below freezing. Layer up for the cool, damp winter ahead.

  • Clothing: Expect fall and winter weather, so layer up with long-sleeved shirts, pants, sweaters, scarves, and a waterproof, hooded jacket for the rain. In colder areas, pack heavier winter clothing like long underwear, hats, gloves, and puffer jackets.
  • Best Time: Thanksgiving week in late November will have the most crowds of people traveling to visit families. Early and mid-November is best for visiting, due to better weather and less traffic. This is a great month to watch the 49ers, a football team, see a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, or go on a “Turkey Trot” run on Thanksgiving Day.

Southern California and Central Valley | Los Angeles, Disneyland, Yosemite National Park, Sacramento

With cool evenings and warm days, Southern and Central California still offer moderate days in November. Temperatures reach a high in the upper-60° degrees, and there is little rain. The Sacramento area will be the wettest, with approximately half an inch of rain this month. You may also see continued wildfires, though the rain often stalls these fires.

  • Clothing: This will feel like fall, so wear layers of shirts, pants, sweaters, and waterproof jackets. In colder areas such as the mountains, pack winter layers like puffer jackets for the low-40° degree temperatures.
  • Best Time: Thanksgiving week in late November will be the busiest time for airports and other travel hubs. Early and mid-November is best for visiting due to less traveler traffic. In particular, visit Disneyland in early November, when it is emptier. November is a spectacular month for colorful festivals like the unmissable “Día de Los Muertos,” or Mexican Day of the Dead, held across Los Angeles, or the Magic Lantern Art Festival in Arcadia, where you walk through a “Moonlight Forest” of lanterns.

California Desert | Palm Springs, Coachella Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park

November is glorious in the desert, when temperatures are ideal: an average of 60° degrees and sunny. November is as perfect a time to visit the desert as it gets, as long as you’re prepared for cold temperatures at night hovering just above freezing.

  • Clothing: During the day, you may opt to wear summer clothing like t-shirts or long-sleeved shirts and shorts, but at night you’ll want to layer up with sweaters, scarves, and puffer jackets. Temperatures vary greatly in the desert and will trend cooler by the end of the month.
  • Best Time: The desert cities are busier in November, thanks to their temperatures, and host banner events like Palm Springs Pride and the Ridgecrest Petroglyph Festival. Thanksgiving week will be busier for tourism, so early and mid-November is best for visiting as the days are warm and the traffic is light.

 

December in California

December is the coldest month in most of California, with daytime averages between 45-55° degrees. This is also a wet month, with between 1 and 2 inches of rain falling across the state, except in the desert. If you are traveling to California in December, expect cool daytime temperatures and cold nighttime temperatures.

Northern and Coastal California | San Francisco, San José, San Diego, Santa Barbara

In Northern and Coastal California, expect high temperatures around 60° degrees and low temperatures around 40° degrees. San Diego will be the warmest city, and Lake Tahoe will be the coldest area, with freezing temperatures. This region receives between half an inch to two inches of rain in December.

  • Clothing: This is winter, so layer up with long-sleeved shirts, pants, sweaters, scarves, puffer jackets, hats, gloves, and a waterproof, hooded jacket for the rain. You may have mild, sunny days but the evenings will be cold.
  • Best Time: The weeks before Christmas are busy with shopping and tourism, but the week after Christmas is one of the best times to visit this area, as cities like Santa Barbara and San Francisco will be emptier, quieter, and more affordable. Visit San Diego for Christmas celebrations as they offer excellent holiday events like their December Nights at Balboa Park.

Southern California and Central Valley | Los Angeles, Disneyland, Yosemite National Park, Sacramento

Southern and Central California will still have moderate days in December with sunshine and temperatures reaching a high between 50-60° degrees. Temperatures drop to low 40° degrees. The Sacramento area is the wettest, with approximately two inches of rain this month, while other cities may receive up to one inch.

  • Clothing: It is winter, so wear layers of shirts, pants, sweaters, and waterproof jackets. In colder areas such as Yosemite National Park, pack additional winter layers like puffer jackets for the low-40° degree temperatures.
  • Best Time: December is a busy month at popular places like Disneyland, but it is also the prettiest time for decorations as most major buildings decorate with Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa colors. Celebrate Christmas with a “posada” party at Olvera Street in Los Angeles, volunteer to decorate a Rose Parade float in Pasadena, stay at Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel, or see the decorations at Disneyland.

California Desert | Palm Springs, Coachella Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park

December is still a grand time to visit the desert, as the daytime averages 40-50° degrees and sunny. It is freezing at night, though, and may be windy. It will, however, be dry with no rain.

  • Clothing: During the day, plan to wear fall weather clothing like long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and at night you’ll want to layer up with sweaters, scarves, hats, gloves, and puffer jackets.
  • Best Time: The desert is ideal for visiting in December, and tourist crowds will not be as busy as they are in the rest of the state. Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Park are great to visit now, as you’ll probably have them to yourself.