There is perhaps no better month to visit California than March. Our California locals March guide to help you know what to wear, what to do, and the best places for a visit.
Except for spring break crowds in late March, you will encounter fewer tourists during your stay. We also love this month for the mild, dry weather.
Make sure to bring at least one California guide (via Amazon, affiliate link) for the region(s) you are planning to visit.
March in California is mild by day and night, with only a 50% chance of clouds and even less rain or wind. Of course, temperatures differ greatly between day and night and higher elevations where the snow is beginning to melt. However, this month is almost ideal for visiting California.
March Weather Overview
March is the end of the rainy spring season in California, and daytime temperatures are very pleasant throughout the month as skies clear. The average high temperature varies from around 50°F (10°C) degrees in Lake Tahoe to around 80°F (27°C) at Palm Springs.
The ocean is filled with traveling whales, the desert blooms with wildflowers, and the mountains are covered in fluffy snow, making California an idyllic spring destination. If you’re visiting from another state, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by California’s spring season with its flowers and warm days.
The Best March Events
- Desert Wildflowers (Southern California): Local Californians look forward to March every year so they can photograph the many wildflowers, particularly in the desert, which blooms colorfully. There are multiple flower festivals, such as the month-long Coachella Valley Wildflower Festival. And many parks like Death Valley National Park and Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve dedicate websites to their flower conditions, so you’ll know before you go. Note: The bloom depends on weather conditions such as rainfall and heat, and the last “super bloom” was in 2019.
- Whale Festivals (state-wide): In the spring, the warm coastal waters of California attract gray whales and orcas. In Dana Point, Southern California, celebrate the Festival of Whales in early March. Another excellent festival, the Whalefest, is held in Monterey Bay, Central California. And the multi-weekend Whale Festival is the pride of Fort Bragg in Northern California.
- North Lake Tahoe Snowfest (North Lake Tahoe): Celebrate the end of the ski season with an eccentric week of events, including a dog sled contest, milk jug curling, snow sculpture competition, parades, fireworks, and various food events. Read more here.
- Holi, the Festival of Colors (Los Angeles): Holi is a famous festival originating in India that celebrates colors and spring. Once you’ve attended a Holi festival, you’ll want to make it an annual tradition. Enjoy one of the nation’s largest celebrations with live music in El Monte, slightly east of Los Angeles. Read more about Holi here.
- LA Marathon (Los Angeles): Cheer on runners attempting to complete the city’s most famous road race, the 26.2-mile LA Marathon. Better yet, run along! This marathon is one of the most-recognized races in the U.S., with over 20,000 visitors each March. Read more about LA Marathon here.
Northern and Coastal California | San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, San Diego, Santa Barbara
March in Northern and Coastal California brings temperatures between 61°F (16°C) and 67°F (19°C) degrees. One exception is Lake Tahoe, where daytime temperatures are about 10°F (5°C) degrees cooler and nighttime temperatures still drop below freezing.
Tip: For the clearest and sunniest skies, visit Coastal California cities like Santa Barbara and San Diego.
What to Wear
This California region has a slim chance of rain during March, with less than 20% most days. In particular, the end of the month is dry and sunny in most Northern and Central California cities. However, with cooler morning temperatures and the occasional rainfall, you’ll still need to pack layers for a visit in March. Layers should include waterproof clothing.
Packing tips: Your wardrobe should consist of long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, long pants, and short-sleeved shirts for the middle of the day when the sun is out. You shouldn’t need much winter clothing unless you’re visiting Lake Tahoe; pack a puffer vest, leather jacket, or other similar shoulder season outer layers for other cities in this region.
Guide Book Tip
Best Time | Crowds
March is one of the least crowded months to visit California unless you’re at a spring festival or visiting during the spring break season in late March. In addition, March is one of the most affordable months to book a hotel in California.
Nature and wildlife: March is the ideal month to experience nature, whether you’re whale-watching in Fort Bragg, snowshoeing in Lake Tahoe, or photographing wildflowers in San Francisco’s Mount Diablo State Park.
This month, you can visit almost any Northern and Coastal California location because it will feel like the whole state is celebrating spring. Some highlights include the North Lake Tahoe Snowfest and multiple whale festivals.
March in San Francisco is pleasant, with clear days and mild temperatures. Daytime temperatures may reach up to 64 F° degrees, with the occasional day at 70 F° degrees or more.
The evening and morning temperatures are around 50 F° degrees, meaning there is slight temperature variation throughout the day.
The March temperatures in Napa are similar to that of San Francisco, though Napa has more variation. Daytime temperatures in Napa reach a high of 67 F° degrees while evening and morning temperatures drop to mid 40 F° degrees. This is a city for layers.
March is still fantastic for visiting Lake Tahoe, as the ground is typically covered in snow and daytime high temperatures average 50°F degrees. Nighttime temperatures remain cold in the mid-20s.
With mild weather and nearly a 50% chance of sunshine during March, Tahoe is excellent for late-season skiers and other snow enthusiasts.
Southern California and Central Valley | Los Angeles, Disneyland, Yosemite National Park, Sacramento
In Southern and Central California, March consists of warm days, cool nights, and maybe only a little rain. Temperatures reach an average high of 70°F (21°C) degrees. There is often only a 20% chance of rain, with even less in sunny Los Angeles.
What to Wear
March is a warm, often dry, spring month. In Southern and Central California, plan to wear summer layers of short-sleeved shirts, loose pants or shorts, and sunscreen.
Colder regions/mornings: You’ll need warm sweaters, scarves, and jackets in the morning in colder regions like Yosemite National Park. In Yosemite, evening and morning temperatures drop to the mid-40s. Bring waterproof clothing for the occasional day of rain.
Best Time | Crowds
March is the low season for hotels in California, except for the spring break season in late March. You’ll see fewer tourists except at ticketed events like festivals and the LA Marathon.
Disneyland: At amusement parks like Disneyland, you’ll be happy to get on the rides sooner and encounter fewer crowds. However, try to avoid weekends as it’s always busier compared to mid-week.
March is pleasant in Los Angeles, with sunny days for the majority of the month. By late March, there is a less than 10% chance of rain. Daytime temperatures reach an average high of 70 F° degrees.
Inland: Further inland, east of LA, you can expect temperatures in the 80s and even lower 90s. Temperatures vary significantly between night and day.
Morning and night: Morning and evening temperatures in Los Angeles are mild, with an average low of 52 F° degrees. As long as there is no rain, these temperatures will be comfortable. However, a light jacket is always a good idea for cooler evenings.
Yosemite and Central Valley
March daytime temperatures in Yosemite National Park are mild, around 60 F° degrees in lower elevations. At higher elevations and night, temperatures drop to the 40s.
High-elevation roads like Tioga Pass are still closed, so find out about road closures before visiting the park. There is a smaller chance of rain, ice, or snow in the park in March, and the above-freezing temperatures bring a melting, flowering landscape.
California Desert | Palm Springs, Coachella Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park
The California desert is vibrant in March. Temperatures are warm, sometimes even hot, in destinations like Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, and Death Valley. Most days are clear and sunny, with an average high temperature at mid-70 F° (mid-20°C) degrees, and some cities like Palm Springs in the mid-80s (up to 30°C).
Evenings and early mornings are mild, in the mid-40s or lower-50s. Freezing temperatures, even at night, are rare in March. These conditions allow for the most exceptional wildflowers.
What to Wear
In the desert in March, you’ll want to dress for the spring and summer with clothing like shorts, loose shirts, hats, and sunscreen.
Evenings and early mornings: At night, wear spring layers like sweaters and jackets. Most importantly, daytime temperatures vary significantly in spring, and all travelers should prepare for a shift between hot and cold.
Best Time | Crowds
The high season in the desert runs from winter through spring, so you’ll still meet enough other visitors in locations like Joshua Tree and Palm Springs.
In March, many visitors travel to the desert to see California’s famous wildflowers like its state flower, a neon-orange poppy. Several of these wildflower sites like the Coachella Valley are crowded on weekends, so it’s best to visit wildflowers during a weekday if possible.
Remember to follow “wildflower etiquette” by leaving no trace but your footprints.