Weather & Timing Your Visit arroyo burro beach santa barbara damian gadal 1280x642
Damian Gadal/Flickr

Weather & Timing Your Visit

Weather & Timing Your Visit
Learn more about California's renowned climate

California is a year-round destination, with weather that has something for everyone—from sun worshippers to snow bunnies. The best time to visit really comes down to what you want to see and do. Here’s some general information to help you know what to expect statewide.

Weather & Seasons

Much of California has a Mediterranean-like climate with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. On the coast, the average daily high temperature hovers around 70°F/21°C and up), but can occasionally spike to 80°F 27° C or more on hottest summer days; freezing temperatures are rare, even in winter. The state’s legendary fog often hugs the coast from roughly Monterey north, usually during summer months; it often burns off by midday before rolling in again at dusk. Farther inland, summers are hot and dry, winters cool and wet, with occasional brilliant blue days and temperatures cold enough to freeze puddles on the ground, but not much more than that. At higher altitudes, the weather reflects more of a four-season cycle, with beautiful summers, striking fall color, and cold, snowy winters followed by snowmelt springs (waterfall season!).

As you cruise this site, check out the average temperature by season for the regions and destinations you are considering.

Timing Your Visit

Most vacationers head to California during the peak summer months (June through August); that’s when you can expect the biggest crowds at top attractions, and high-season rates at lodgings and resorts. But even in the midst of summer it’s possible to hop off the beaten path and have forests, fields, and even beaches almost to yourself.

If you love the high country, you might need to wait until summer to access the highest roads and trails through the Sierra Nevada, as well routes into wilderness areas around Mount Shasta and Lassen Peak, the state’s tallest volcanoes.

Springtime (typically March through early May) is one of California’s most beautiful times of year. Although it can still be cold at higher elevations, temperatures are comfortable and fresh throughout much of the state. Hillsides are blanketed with lush green grass and wildflowers. California’s deserts, awash with poppies, paintbrush, and other desert blooms, are much more pleasant during the spring than during the scorching heat of summer. During these months, you’ll also encounter shorter lines and better deals: Many of the state’s top tourist attractions are still operating at a slower pace, and hotels often charge low-season rates until June.

Autumn (September through November) brings mild weather and, in some parts of the state, spectacular foliage (especially the High Sierra). This is a great time to visit California’s beautiful wine regions during during grape harvest time, known as “the crush” (generally August to October). The San Francisco and North Coast regions, often shrouded in fog during summer, typically see some of their sunniest days during “Indian summer,” (September through October).

If you plan to ski, snow usually coats the mountains November to March, with some resorts staying open into April or beyond. (If Mother Nature is fickle, snow-making equipment often supplements with amazingly good manmade snow.) Look for downhill runs for skiers and boarders, terrain parks, cross-country and snowshoe trails, and ice-skating rinks.

 

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Time to hit the road and explore the Golden State

Road Trips

Weather & Timing Your Visit vca_maps_no-region
56
December
Average (°F)
Dec - Feb
65°
High
48°
Low
Mar - May
69°
High
53°
Low
June - Aug
76°
High
62°
Low
Sept - Nov
76°
High
54°
Low

Endless sunshine, amazing cities, best-in-class theme parks, incredible natural treasures—no matter what you want to do and see on your next vacation, California has it. But here's the best part: California has all the iconic destinations you've dreamed of visiting, plus a countless number of incredible off-the-beaten-track experiences. With our exclusive trip itineraries, you can visit bucket-list landmarks like Yosemite, then follow a wine road or visit a craft brewery. Top theme parks, secret beaches, city finds—they’re all here in easy-to-follow road trips that visit every corner of the state. So start dreaming about your next California vacation—and dream big.

10 Super-Scenic California Road Trips
Jeffrey Murray/Getty Images

10 Super-Scenic California Road Trips

Follow these classic routes for magical scenery and worthy stops

The Highway 1 road trip that passes through Big Sur on California’s Central Coast is perhaps the most famous scenic drive in the...

Weather & Timing Your Visit CoastalRocks_FortBragg_LH_1280x642

Trip 4 days 10 stops

Wild North Coast

Wine, Romance & Sunsets
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Kodiak Greenwood

Trip 4- 6 days 10 stops

Volcanoes to the Sea

Booming Waterfalls, Craft Breweries
Weather & Timing Your Visit Sacramento_TowerBridge_DeltaKing_1280x642_0

Begin your trip in the center of the state, home to the capital city of Sacramento. Like many cities, California’s state capital is undergoing an energetic renaissance. Young adults looking for an urban vibe are moving into this low-key city, with microbreweries, gastropubs, and trendy boutiques...

Weather & Timing Your Visit EurekaCarsonMansion.CourtesyRedwoods.info__1

After so much wildness for so much of your trip, Eureka is an inviting and lively switch. This once rough-and-tumble seaport town, the largest coastal city between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, has split-personality charm: a sense of history in the handsomely restored, Victorian-era Old...

Weather & Timing Your Visit VCW_D_GC_T8_HelwigWinery_Flippen-1280x642

Trip 4 days 10 stops

California Gold

Whitewater Rafting, Tucked-Away Wineries
Weather & Timing Your Visit Sac_StateCapitol_1280x642

Begin your trip in the center of the state, home to the capital city of Sacramento. Like many cities, California’s state capital is undergoing an energetic renaissance. Young adults looking for an urban vibe are moving into this low-key city, with microbreweries, gastropubs, and trendy boutiques...

Weather & Timing Your Visit VCW_D_GC_T7_WellsFargo_Columbia_Flippen_Webdam-1280x642

With throwback charm and a treasure trove of historic artifacts, this park presents the Gold Rush in living, breathing color. Costumed docents do more than lead tours of this carefully preserved Mother Lode town—the state’s second largest city at the peak of the Gold Rush; they actually live and...

Weather & Timing Your Visit VCW_D_Yosemite_Hero_20140503_Yosemite_hero_1280x642

Trip 6-7 days 10 stops

Sierra Adventure

Granite peaks, alpine valleys, towering trees-the High Sierra is nature's playground all year-round
Weather & Timing Your Visit VCW_D_HS_T3_Tahoe_Swim_Farnum_0

Blue as a topaz and circled by majestic peaks, this High Sierra gem straddling the California-Nevada border is a bucket-list staple, a place where the air is “very pure and fine...it is the same the angels breathe,” according to author Mark Twain. Lakefront towns dot the shoreline, each with...

Weather & Timing Your Visit CalaverasBTSP_sized

On your way to this park, save time to visit the charming Gold Country town of Murphys (a great place for wine tasting and innovative dining along the town’s main street). Then continue north and east to discover peaceful groves of giant sequoias at this under-the-radar park. Established in 1931...

Weather & Timing Your Visit VCW_TI_5_Hero_Baybridge-IMG_5424b copy

Trip 3-5 days 10 stops

San Francisco Bay Loop

Discover this something-for-everything loop tour around an iconic bay
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End your road trip by exploring one of the world’s great cities. Famous for grand-dame Victorians, classic cable cars, dynamic diversity, a beautiful waterfront, and a soaring crimson bridge, the “City by the Bay” truly has it all. Trend-defining cuisine ranging from Michelin-starred dining to...

Weather & Timing Your Visit VCW_TI_6_Hero_CC_BigSur_coast_TS_1280x648

Trip 5-7 days 10 stops

Highway One Classic

Take the trip that captures the heart and soul of the Golden State
Weather & Timing Your Visit SanDiego_Skyline_JohnBahu_1280x642

Start in one of California’s sunniest destinations, not just in terms of the weather, but also in attitude. In the heart of the city, shop in Horton Plaza, or catch a baseball game at Petco Park. See the giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo. Next, explore one of the city’s diverse neighborhoods,...

Weather & Timing Your Visit SF_Harbor_Myles_1280x642

Finish your trip in one of the world’s great cities. For a novel way to visit “the City by the Bay” park your car and explore by foot, bike, and unique public transportation. Pedal bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge and back, then explore the lush Presidio, a former military base that’s now a...

Weather & Timing Your Visit VCW_TI_7_Hero_CV_SunflowerField_Flippen.jpg_1280-sized_downsized_0
Laura Flippen

Trip 3-5 days 10 stops

California's Heartland

Pick fresh produce, relax in cool gardens, and learn about local farming heritage
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This relaxed city has some secret gems that make a pleasing start to your trip. Start at Sundial Bridge, a functional work of art, the remarkable pedestrian bridge, designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, spans the tree-lined, trout-filled Sacramento River in Redding’s Turtle...

Weather & Timing Your Visit VCW_D_CV_T9_Buck Owens Crystal Palace 4_sized

This rapidly growing city in the southern Central Valley is full of pleasant surprises. Once known for oil and agriculture, Bakersfield is morphing into a Central Valley hub for arts, culture, and sports, while still offering a glimpse of the region’s past. One fascinating historical site worth...

Weather & Timing Your Visit VCW_TI_8_hero_Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 11.35.53 AM_v3
Myles McGuinness

Trip 4-5 days 10 stops

Pacific Coast Highway - South

Beach Towns, Iconic Theme Parks
Weather & Timing Your Visit VCW_D_SantaBarbara_Hero_CC_SBarbaraPier_KG_1280x642

Start your coastal cruise in this elegant city hugging the coastal mountains, where classic Spanish architecture gives the region a sun-washed European look straight out of the Riviera. The Santa Barbara, nicknamed “the American Riviera,” may have a burnished antique look of much of the...

Weather & Timing Your Visit BalboaPark_night_1280x642

End your trip with at this sunny, waterfront city. Downtown, shop at Horton Plaza, or catch a baseball game at Petco Park. See the giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo. Next, explore one of the city’s diverse neighborhoods, Little Italy, North Park, South Park, East Village—pedestrian-friendly...

Weather & Timing Your Visit VCW_D_IE_T10_DE_Route66_Barstow_Lauridsen1280x642

Trip 3-4 days 10 stops

Route 66 - Mother Road

Legendary Highway, California Dream
Weather & Timing Your Visit SantaMonica_BikePath_JoakimLloydRaboff_1280x642_0

Start your trip in this idyllic oceanfront city, bounded by a 3.5-mi/5.6-km-long beach, and feeling more like a weekend getaway spot than a city just a few minutes west of downtown Los Angeles. Car-free options, including a shuttle to Los Angeles International Airport (8 miles/13 km south) make...

Weather & Timing Your Visit VCW_D_DE_T5_Anza-Borrego_Manley-1280x642

On your way to this park, you’ll pass through the little community of Borrego Springs. Stop in at the town’s visitor center to get driving maps to an astounding collection of enormous prehistoric animals—metal sculptures made by artist Ricardo Breceda—that dot the surrounding desert landscape....

Weather & Timing Your Visit VCW_D_NC_T1_RedwoodNP_Manley-sized
Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing

Trip 8-10 days 10 stops

Ultimate Northern California

Explore the best of Northern California's Great Outdoors
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Trip 8-10 days 10 stops

Ultimate Southern California

Beach Towns & Big Thrills
Weather & Timing Your Visit LA-GriffithObs-1280x624_0

Your trip begins in California’s largest city. L.A. has nonstop action and things to do, but it can be a challenge to navigate, so planning your trip in advance is a big plus. Start in the coastal city of Santa Monica, with a wide, uncrowded beach, a signature pier topped by carnival rides and...

Weather & Timing Your Visit KingsCanyonNationalPark_TomHilton_1280x642

Famous for their giant sequoias, soaring mountains, deep canyons, and roaring rivers, this tandem set of parks have plenty to see, even though they are less well known than Yosemite, roughly 75 miles/120 kilometers north. Within the borders of Sequoia & Kings Canyon are Mount Whitney, the...