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California's shoulder seasons April/May & Aug/Sept

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California's shoulder seasons April/May & Aug/Sept

Hi I am planning a roaming trip to California next year. I'm trying to decide which month to go. Our trip will last 3 weeks and we will be spending aprox 2 weeks traveling around south California but whit a week/5 days around the San Francisco/Yosemite/ Monterey area's.

I understand the climate can be quite different north to south and the spring and autumn seasons each have their own pro's and con's.

My understanding is spring is lovely and green, mild weather, low crowds, cheaper than summer but can have foggy cooler days in the north. Autumn having similar if not warmer weather than spring, no fog and similar cost and busyness to spring.

It doesn't sound like there is much difference to me and as it stands I think I would prefer the spring as its sooner (don't want to wait 18mths to go), I like the thought of the place being in bloom, waterfalls, and I'm not that deterred by the fog in and around San Fran partly because I would like to see it and also we wont be spending much of the trip there.

The big concern for me is the us of the term "mild weather". I've looked up season averages etc and spring seems to be around 21C average. I guess most brits have a different idea of mild and I'm hoping that when that say mild that is comparable to a hot summers day in the UK.

Would love to hear from people who have travelled at there at these times and the pros and cons etc


Los Angeles...
1 post
1. Re: California's shoulder seasons April/May & Aug/Sept

Russell Berney:

Southern California is always nice.

Goldfield, Nevada
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2. Re: California's shoulder seasons April/May & Aug/Sept

April and May are good for the wildflowers, especially April in the southern part of the state. April weather is generally cool throughtour California. May is a great month for the waterfalls of Yosemite Valley. Some park roads and trails might still be closed in May, though, depending on how much snow falls in the winter. This year Tioga Road and the convenient Tioga Pass entrance of Yosemite are not expected to open until July. May can often see overcast weather in coastal southern California, with heat starting in the deserts.

August is terrible - hot, crowded and expensive everywhere. Extreme heat in the deserts, thunderstorms in the deserts and mountains, cities are hot and muggy, high prices and long lines everywhere. The ocean temperature peaks in late August, so that's the best time for swimming in the ocean, but even then it's not very warm. The warmest the ocean ever gets in California is about 75 F and that's at the south end of California (San Diego area).

After Labor Day (first Monday in September) crowds magically drop by half because kids return to school and family vacations are over. So the rest of September is less crowded but it's still summer weather. Excellent on the coast throughout California, as fog and overcast are much less likely. September typically sees warm, dry, sunny weather throughout California. Probably the best month for beachgoing in southern California.

In the mountain areas such as at Yosemite, all mountain roads are open in September so travel is easier. The only thing that might close a road might be a forest fire. Deserts are atill very hot but not with the intense heat of June, July and August. Southern California can be very hot with bone-dry air and strong hot, dry winds if a "Santa Ana condition" is prevailing, where a huge high-pressure system rotates clockwise and pushes hot, dry air from east to west into coastal southern California. By September, wildflowers are long gone and the famous waterfalls have slowed down to a trickle or in some years have gone dry.

Grover Beach...
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
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3. Re: California's shoulder seasons April/May & Aug/Sept

I love it here in the spring months when the hillsides are green from winter rains. But spring can also be chilly with stiff winds and cold fronts still pushing through. Just be aware that by late April, all the green starts to fade and turn brown. That's why we're called the Golden State. Because for the majority of the year, our hills and mountains are a golden brown color.

Our fog isn't the pea soup variety. It's more prevalent in the evenings and early morning hours, but tends to retreat by mid morning. And if it's a windy day, fog will be a non issue.

Don't come in August for the very reasons sunrisesandiego pointed out. If you come in September, come mid month. While it's true that crowds thin out after our Labor Day holiday, it's also the time the empty nesters hit the road, so there will still be a good amount of travelers out there. Especially given that the weather is so nice that time of year.

Oakland, California
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for Big Sur
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4. Re: California's shoulder seasons April/May & Aug/Sept

The concept of a "shoulder season" doesn't really apply in California; there are tourists year-round in most places. Summer is often the height of fog season on the coast, not spring. Moreover, September and October are often some of our warmest months on the coast. San Francisco has several conventions that can drive hotel prices through the roof in September and October. In Monterey, be careful of Car Week in August because people from all over the world are booking hotel rooms.

The main difference in temperature isn't north to south, it's inland vs. coast. On the coast, temperatures are almost always mild and above 16C during the day all year. Inland, temperatures are much more variable, with cold nights in winter and hot days.

San Diego
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for San Diego
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5. Re: California's shoulder seasons April/May & Aug/Sept

August and September are not "fall weather" months or "shoulder season" here in southern California. They are our hottest months and still have high summer prices at beach hotels.

Not sure where you are getting your weather info??

Be aware that there are very different climates not only north to south but from the coastal /ocean strip inland there can be temp differences of more than 10 degrees.

In San Diego County alone there are 4 different weather forecasts given each day:

coast, inland(about 10miles in) mts. and desert-- all within a 2hr drive.

Washington State
Destination Expert
for Yosemite National Park
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6. Re: California's shoulder seasons April/May & Aug/Sept

If anything, November might be considered a "shoulder season" for some destinations in California.

August / September is high season. August is the busiest time of year in many destinations.

San Francisco, Ca
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7. Re: California's shoulder seasons April/May & Aug/Sept

>>I'm hoping that when that say mild that is comparable to a hot summers day in the UK.<<

Um, no. "Mild" in most of California (especially the coast) is comparable to mild in the UK. In fact, I've been in Cornwall on a hot day when it was far hotter than San Francisco on a "hot" day. And I think San Francisco at say 18 degrees feels colder than London at 18, probably because we're right on the coast and there's pretty constant wind from the ocean.

Look at the actual temperatures, not someone's interpretation of how they felt at that temperature.

>>with a week/5 days around the San Francisco/Yosemite/ Monterey areas.<<

Unfortunately, 5 days for 3 places isn't practical (a week would be minimum, and even that's rushing things). You'll want 1 night (2 days) for the coastal drive from LA to Monterey [stopping somewhere like Cambria or Pismo Beach], at least 2-3 nights in Monterey and another 2-3 in Yosemite. Plus whatever time in San Francisco proper.

One advantage of waiting until Fall of 2018 is that there's a much better chance the spectacular Hwy. 1 coastal drive will be fully open between Cambria and Carmel. Right now, and for the better part of a year, the road is closed due to a collapsed bridge.

Corona del Mar...
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for San Diego, Orange County, California
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8. Re: California's shoulder seasons April/May & Aug/Sept

There is no "shoulder season" in California. It isn't like the East Coast (Cape Code, etc) where some cities become virtual ghost towns when summer is over. CA is always busy.

There are not just big differences in weather in North vs South, but within areas are micro climates. It can be foggy and cool in SF and hot and sunny just 15 miles east. The same is true for LA. The coast can be 70 degrees and the San Fernando Valley 90 degrees.

I would post your proposed itinerary or sights you want to see and people can recommend based off that.

Carmel, California
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11 reviews
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9. Re: California's shoulder seasons April/May & Aug/Sept

Except for April, I don't really consider any of those months shoulder season especially not August (unless you're heading to the desert). May is a very popular month in Yosemite because of the waterfalls.

On the central coast, spring can be windy and overcast but there are also sunny days in between. Spring is more cloud cover than fog and it can stay that way all day. As it gets toward summer the fog increases but fog is usually in the mornings and late afternoon/evenings burning off mid day. It's rarer for fog to linger all day. September/October are typically warmer and sunnier with less chances of fog or cloud cover. Winter days can be sunny and crisp in between rains.

San Francisco...
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149 reviews
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10. Re: California's shoulder seasons April/May & Aug/Sept

i would not overthink this. Unless money is no object, focus on airfares, hotel rates instead of the weather. People visit Ca year around -- tourists, businesses, conventions -- at least in the larger cities and if you want to do the National parks in the Sierras then winter is not when one should come -- other than that you will be fine. If you are looking for hot summer weather, there are plenty of places in SoCal for that