A sunset on Arroyo Burry Beach
Arroyo Burro Beach by 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 is 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. Further 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 autumn colour, and cold, snowy winters followed by snow melt springs (waterfall season!).

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

Timing Your Visit

Most visitors head to California during the peak summer months (June through August); that is when you can expect the biggest crowds at top attractions, and high-season rates at hotels and resorts. But even in the middle of summer it is 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.

Spring (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 wild flowers. 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 will 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 the summer, typically see some of their sunniest days during the “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. And, if Mother Nature is fickle, snow-making equipment often supplements with amazingly good man-made 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
13
December
Average (°C)
Dec - Feb
18°
High
8°
Low
Mar - May
20°
High
11°
Low
June - Aug
24°
High
16°
Low
Sept - Nov
24°
High
12°
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.

Trip 4 days 10 stops

Wild North Coast

Wine, Romance & Sunsets
Weather & Timing Your Visit VC_Hero_Manley -1280x642

Start your trip to one of the world’s great cities. For a novel way to explore “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 WildNorthCoast_Stop9_CrescentCity_RF_691599628

The last stop on this spectacular road trip ends at the very last city in California. Only 20 miles south of Oregon, sea-faring Crescent City is home to the northernmost of California’s lighthouse stations. Overlooking the town’s harbor, the 1856 Battery Point Lighthouse, built with 22-inch/56-...

Mt. Shasta by Kodiak Greenwood

Trip 4-6 days 10 stops

Volcanoes to the Sea

Booming Waterfalls, Craft Breweries
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 capitol 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__2

This lively 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 Town district, a still-working seaport where crusty fishing boats chug in and out of a protected harbor,...

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-...

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 SierraAdventure_Stop1_LakeTahoe_RF_136930569

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...

Trip 3-5 days 10 stops

San Francisco Bay Loop

Discover this something-for-everything loop tour around an iconic bay
Weather & Timing Your Visit PaintedSisters_SanFrancisco_1280x642

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...

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 VC_Hero_Manley -1280x642

Start your trip to one of the world’s great cities. For a novel way to explore “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...

Laura Flippen

Trip 3-5 days 10 stops

California's Heartland

Pick fresh produce, relax in cool gardens, and learn about local farming heritage
Weather & Timing Your Visit SundialBridge_1280x642

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 Highway99_Stop1_Bakersfield_BuckOwens_TF7N8A1694

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...

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. Santa Barbara, nicknamed “the American Riviera,” may have a burnished antique look of much of the...

Trip 3-4 days 10 stops

Route 66 - The Mother Road

Legendary Highway, California Dream
Weather & Timing Your Visit SantaMonica_BikePath_JoakimLloydRaboff_1280x642_0

Start your trip in this idyllic oceanfront city, surrounded by a 3.5 mile 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 south) make it a...

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....

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Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing

Trip 8-10 days 11 stops

Ultimate Northern California

Explore the best of Northern California's Great Outdoors
Weather & Timing Your Visit VC_Hero_Manley -1280x642

It may measure less than 50 square miles/130 square kilometers, but San Francisco justly ranks as one of the greatest cities in the world. Famous for grand-dame Victorians, classic cable cars, dynamic diversity, a beautiful waterfront, and a soaring crimson bridge, the  “City by the Bay” is the...

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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...

Trip 3-4 Days 8 stops

San Luis Obispo to Ragged Point

Venture from San Luis Obispo up Highway 1 to discover pristine coastline, small beach towns, and a fabled landmark