California is a top location to visit all year round. Being on the West Coast, the weather stays warm and mild even during the ‘cooler’ months and sees very little rainfall – hence why it’s nicknamed The Golden State.
Whether you’re looking to avoid crowds, enjoy the Cali heat, or visit during an affordable period, we’ll break down the season in this guide to let you know when’s the best time to visit California.
Spring (April to May) and Fall (September to October)
Temperatures in April and May start to increase following the winter months, and snow on California mountains starts to melt away opening up hiking trails. Spring sees the forest and national parks start to bloom, so sights like Yosemite see an increase in visitors. The beaches in Southern California benefit from warmer days as tourists and state natives head to the shores.
During the autumn, the climate is mild and the foliage can start to turn in some parts of the state revealing fall colours. September and October are the best months to visit California’s wine regions, as this is when the grape harvest takes place. Northern California starts to lose the fog from summer humidity, and during the autumn the North has some of its sunniest days; often touted as an ‘Indian summer’.
Summer (June to August)
California in the summer is HOT! Temperatures in many major cities stay above 30 degrees Celsius, as the consistently sunny days see major attractions staying open longer to accommodate crowds. Visits to Cali’s beaches are recommended but expect them to be busy.
Lake Tahoe is a popular destination during the summer, offering activities such as kayaking, rafting, and swimming with a stunning view. The summer season brings large crowds and peak prices, so staying in California between June to August will come at a premium than any other time in the year.
With the heat comes the risk of forest fires due to the dry climate and forests surrounding most of Cali’s cities, so be mindful of any road warnings if you’re travelling through the state by car.
Winter (November to March)
Winter months in California bring changeable weather, with the chance of showery weather amongst the mild days. The winter months are less crowded so are a great option to travel and visit if you’re looking to enjoy the cities without being too bothered by how hot it is.
Palm Springs is a great winter destination as the days are warm and clear, so the glamour and relaxation of resorts in the region can be enjoyed without the desert heat. If heading to Central or North California, expect some misty and cooler conditions, especially in mountainous regions.
San Francisco and the Bay Area are cooler coastal regions in the winter months, whereas Los Angeles and San Diego stay sunny and warm. Travelling in the winter months is some of the most affordable times of the year to travel, but some attractions do close during this period so check if any places you want to visit are open before booking.