The Best Time to Visit California

The Best Time to Visit California

California – the beautiful Golden State – provides many tourists with unforgettable moments every year. The most populous state in the U.S., California captivates thousands of people around the world thanks to its beautiful nature and vibrant cities. From the metropolises of Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego to Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada and the Mojave Desert with Death Valley -visitors can look forward to an exciting and varied time in California! Find out here when the best time to travel to visit California is. I’ll give you an overview of the optimal travel time for different activities. You will also get detailed information about the weather and climate of the American state. So you are perfectly prepared for planning your California vacation.

When is the best time to travel to California?

The best travel time for California is from May to September. In these months it is sunny, warm and the likelihood of rain is very low. April and October are also good months for a Californian getaway! Holidaymakers who can’t stand high temperatures, I would recommend avoiding the period from July to August.

Most domestic and foreign tourists travel to California between June and August. During the peak travel season, you may experience higher fares for flights and hotels. Also, keep in mind that the sights and destinations may be overcrowded during this time. If you want to a relaxing Californian holiday, choose May or September. During those months the weather is good and the chances of a holiday bargain are high. Are you interested in the best time to travel for specific hotspots and destinations in California? Then read on.

Best Time to Travel to Californian Hotspots

The best time to visit California depends on the activities you have planned. The climate in California can vary greatly depending on the region and season. Therefore, different time periods are suitable for different activities. I’ll show you when the optimal months for a beach holiday in the Golden State are or when you should plan a whale watching tour. Maybe you are wondering when the perfect weather for a hike through Yosemite National Park would be? The answer can be found here.

When is the best time to travel to Death Valley?

If you want to visit the Mojave Desert in Death Valley, plan your holiday in spring or autumn. In the summer the temperatures climb to over 40 degrees Celsius and in the winter the temperatures can drop to minus degrees. If you are planning to visit California in the summer and don’t want to miss out on a trip to Death Valley despite the hot weather? I strongly advise you to pack enough sun cream and a hat. Wearing light-coloured clothing can also protect yourself from overheating. I also recommend sturdy shoes for your tour through Death Valley. Take enough water with you to Death Valley (at least 3 litres per person) and fill up your car. Following these guidelines means nothing stands in the way of your adventure to the Death Valley.

When is the best time to travel to Yosemite National Park?

Yosemite National Park is open all year round. However, it is not possible to visit the entire park at all times of the year. Between November and May, some roads in the park may be closed due to weather conditions. In order to pass the steep roads by car, you should definitely put snow chains on your car. Despite snowfall and some inaccessible parts, Yosemite National Park is guaranteed to be an unforgettable winter experience. In contrast to the warm season, from December to March there are much fewer holidaymakers visiting the park, so you can enjoy the snow-covered beauty in peace without masses of tourists.

The months of May to July are perfect for hiking through the Yosemite National Park. Flora and fauna wake up from hibernation after the cold season and delight visitors from all over the world with their splendour. The temperatures during this time are pleasant for a day trip through the beautiful park.

The best time to explore the waterfalls and rivers of the National Park is from May to June. The hot summer temperatures cause the water level to drop again. In autumn it reaches its lowest point and the waterfalls are hardly filled with water and can sometimes be completely dry. Therefore, spring is perfect for visiting the waterfalls in Yosemite National Park. If you are lucky, the first flowers, trees and bushes will blossom in May.

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When is the best time to travel to the beach in California?

The best time for a beach holiday in California is in July and August. During these months you love the beaches of Los Angeles which offer the optimal climatic conditions for topping up your tan. June and September are also good months for a beach holiday in California. These months, however, bring 2 hours less sunshine than July and August. The water temperature during the best travel time is between 19 and 20 degrees Celsius. This guarantees that you will cool off during the summer months. But beware: The water temperatures of the Pacific are only suitable for hardened bathers. In July and August, you can expect an average of 28 to 29 degrees Celsius during your beach holiday in Los Angeles. The breeze blowing from the Pacific Ocean over the coastal region gives you a pleasant feeling on your skin even in hot temperatures. Detailed information about the best travel time for Los Angeles can be found in my travel calendar. But not only the city of angels invites you to relax by the sea. San Diego also attracts sun worshippers to California with its beautiful beaches. Unsurprisingly the city has the generated the nickname “Côte d’Azur California”. The best time for a beach holiday in San Diego is from June to September.

When is the best time to travel to the Golden State for winter sports?

Are you a winter sports fan? Then pack your bags between October and April. This is the best time to travel to California for winter sports. The American state has 1,194 kilometres of slopes ready for you. Visit the Sierra Nevada which includes California’s most popular ski resort – Mammoth Mountain.

No other winter sports resort in the state has been in operation as long as Mammoth Mountain. You can even go skiing there until the beginning of July. Head to the top of the mountain at an altitude of 3,350 meters, enjoy the view and whiz down the slopes. Cross-country skiers will also get their money’s worth and families with children can enjoy the special snow slides. There is also a separate area for sledging with tyre tubes. The Badger Pass is suitable for inexperienced skiers and families. The Badger Pass is located in the Yosemite National Park and also has red and black slopes for ski professionals.

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When is the best time for a city break?

For a city trip to California, I recommend the months of March, April, May and October. The temperatures are not too high during this time. This allows you to enjoy pleasant sightseeing tours through the metropolises of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento or San Diego. Even if you don’t mind the Californian heat, avoid the summer. During this time many tourists come to California, which makes the prices for flights and hotels more expensive than the rest of the year. In addition, popular summer attractions are very crowded and waiting times for entrance to museums or viewing platforms are very long. For a city trip to San Francisco, you will need to pack warm clothes. Even if you can expect pleasant temperatures during the day, it can be quite cool in the evening. More information about the climate in San Francisco can be found in the article about the best travel time for San Francisco in my travel calendar.

When is the best time to travel for whale watching?

The best time to travel for whale watching depends on the region where you are in California. Gray whales swim from Alaska to Mexico from November to April. Depending on the month, they can be seen in other areas of California. During whale watching tours you can get very close to the animals and with boat tours you can go out to the open sea, to catch an impressive view of these mammals. You might even see a whale make a spectacular jump out of the water. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!

In California you most often see grey whales, but also humpback whales, orcas, blue whales and dolphins surface up to the water surface and inspire holidaymakers. In the following table I provide you with the optimal travel time for whale sightings at various Californian locations:

 

Region Whale Species Travel Time
Monterey Humpback whales

Grey whales

Blue whales

March till November

December till April

May till September (mainly Jun. to Sept.)

Santa Barbara Grey whales

Humpback/Blue whales

January till mid-April

June till November (mainly Jun. to Sept.)

San Diego Grey whales

Blue/Finback whales

December till March

May till November

Mendocino Grey whales November till April
San Francisco Grey whales December till May

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Holiday Guru Tip: Drive down the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway from north to south which will give you the chance to see the bright blue Pacific Ocean and with a bit of luck you’ll see a group of whales swimming by. Take a break at one of the many vantage points and watch the marine mammals glide through the Pacific Ocean. Sun, sea and a breathtaking natural spectacle – what more could you ask for? You will never forget this experience.

What is the weather like in California?

When holidaymakers think of the weather in California, they often picture sunshine, blue sea and warm temperatures in their heads. But sunshine and warm temperatures don’t prevail all year round in the state. In parts of California, there is quite heavy snowfall, while in other regions only heavy rainfall is expected in winter. The climate in the north and south is very different from the climate in Death Valley or the Sierra Nevada. Read here what weather awaits you in the California state.

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What’s the weather like in Northern California?

Using a climate table for Sacramento, I’ll show you what the weather is like in northern California. This part of the state belongs to the Mediterranean climate zone. While the summers are hot with little rain, the winters in Sacramento are relatively rainy and mild. The hottest months of the year are July and August with an average of 34 degrees Celsius. These are also the driest months with less than 1 day of rain per month. The coolest months are December and January with maximum temperatures of 12 degrees Celsius and minimum temperatures of 3 degrees. The sunniest months are June and July with 14 hours of sunshine per day, closely followed by May and August with 13 hours of sunshine per day. In December and January tourists will experience only 5 hours of sunshine per day, whilst in November and February, it is 7 hours.

Climate chart for Sacramento

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. Temperature in °C 12 16 18 22 27 31 34 34 31 26 17 12
Min. Temperature in °C 3 5 6 8 10 13 15 14 13 10 6 3
Sunshine hours per day 5 7 9 11 13 14 14 13 12 10 7 5
Rainy days per month 7 7 7 4 1 1 0 0 1 3 6 7
Precipitation in mm 98 71 65 32 8 3 1 2 9 26 68 65

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What is the weather like in southern California?

As a helpful guide of the weather in southern California, I provide you with a climate chart for San Diego. During the summer months, you will enjoy a pleasant Californian holiday with warm temperatures. The warmest months are July, August and September with maximum temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius. Even at night, it is still 19 to 20 degrees Celsius warm. In winter, the maximum values different from the minimum values by up to 10 degrees Celsius. During a San Diego trip in winter, pack clothing warm clothing so you don’t freeze in the evening. It gets coldest in January and December with minimum temperatures of 9 degrees Celsius. Most sunshine awaits travellers in July and August. January and December with 7 hours per day bring the least amount of sunshine. In San Diego, water temperatures in the Pacific only reach 21 degrees Celsius in August – that’s the feel-good temperature for bathing in the sea. Otherwise, the Pacific Ocean values range between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius. In San Diego it doesn’t rain very much throughout the year, the maximum value is 6 rainy days in February and March.

Climate chart for San Diego

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. Temperature in °C 19 19 19 20 21 22 25 25 25 24 21 19
Min. Temperature in °C 9 10 12 13 15 17 19 20 19 16 12 9
Sunshine hours per day 7 8 8 9 8 8 10 10 8 8 8 7
Rainy days per month 5 6 6 2 2 0 0 0 0 2 3 4
Precipitation in mm 48 33 46 21 6 2 1 4 7 9 38 42

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What’s the weather like in Death Valley?

Death Valley has the highest temperatures in the country. The hottest measured value was reached in 1913 and was 56.7 degrees Celsius. In summer the thermometer climbs to over 40 degrees Celsius. The hottest month is July with an average of 46 degrees Celsius. In winter, the values range from 16 degrees in December to 21 degrees in February. At night the temperatures drop to 1 to 4 degrees. It is quite possible that the values in Death Valley in the cold season are below 0 degrees Celsius. June, July and August bring the most sunshine hours with them – 13 to be precise. The sun shines the least in December with 5 hours per day. In Death Valley, there is hardly any precipitation throughout the year. The maximum value is 3 rainy days per month. May and June are the driest months.

Climate chart for Death Valley

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. Temperature in °C 18 21 25 30 35 41 46 44 40 31 22 16
Min. Temperature in °C 1 4 7 10 16 21 25 23 19 12 6 1
Sunshine hours per day 6 6 9 10 11 13 13 13 11 9 7 5
Rainy days per month 3 3 3 2 1 1 3 3 2 2 2 3
Precipitation in mm 18 20 14 6 4 2 9 9 7 4 13 13

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What is the weather like in the Sierra Nevada?

The climatic conditions in the Sierra Nevada are very different because it is the highest and longest mountain range in the USA. In the heights of the mountain range there is an arctic climate. In winter it is very cold and there are heavy snowfalls. The western and eastern part of the Sierra Nevada is subject to different climates. The west is influenced by a maritime climate; in this region, both summers and winters are mild. In contrast, the seasons in the east are distinct. This part of the Sierra Nevada is determined by a desert climate – summers are hot and the winters cool. The amount of precipitation also varies from area to area. Generally, it can be said that the altitudes are more affected by precipitation than the valley regions of the Sierra Nevada.

My conclusion on the best time to visit California

The best time to visit California is from May to September. The summer months of June and August should be avoided by heat-sensitive travellers. In addition, this is the high season for California travel so you can expect higher prices and long queues.

 

With powder white beaches, mountain regions and dry deserts – there is something to suit every type of traveller with a holiday to California. There are different optimal travel periods for different activities in the sunny Golden State. Therefore, you should consider what you would like to do before planning your trip. If you’re planning a long stay in the USA and want to visit other destinations, California is an excellent starting point for a round trip. The Golden State borders on the states of Nevada, Arizona, Oregon and Mexico.

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