April in California: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

California Golden Poppies Antelope Valley,California

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April is a good month for a California vacation. Weather will be pleasant in most of the state. However, the roads that cross the High Sierras and especially Tioga Pass will stay closed because of snow until May.

If you're looking for a beach vacation, you should wait a few more months until it gets warmer.

California Weather in April

California varies depending on what part of the state you're visiting. In general, coastal areas will be comfortable in April, but the deserts will start to heat up. In the mountains, snow will be melting — or already melted.

Lake Tahoe will in the 50s in the day and below freezing at night. In some years, the ski resorts will still have snow, but it's unlikely to be the powdery, freshly-fallen kind.

You can get details of the highs and lows around the state in April (and all year round) by consulting these guides to some average highs, lows, and more weather considerations in some popular tourist destinations, such as San DiegoLos AngelesDisneylandDeath ValleyPalm SpringsSan FranciscoYosemite, and Lake Tahoe.

What to Pack

In a state with as much geographic diversity as California, your packing list will vary depending on where you go and what you're doing. These are a few things to keep in mind.

In April, water and air temperatures at the beach will limit most people to oceanside strolls. The beach areas are always colder than inland, and they get even chillier when the sun goes down.

If you plan to spend time outdoors camping or hiking, pack layers to stay warm and covered, and in case it's colder than expected, take a couple of extras.

No matter where your plans take you, pack plenty of sunscreen. Even if the sun isn't shining, its UV rays can reflect off water and snow, and you'll still end up with a sunburn.

California Wildflowers in April

It takes a lot of things going right to get a spectacular wildflower bloom. If there's been winter rain, things are off to a good start. But it's not enough — weeds can start growing too soon and choke the sprouting flowers before they can get a good start — or that rain can come too early or too late.

Unfortunately, the wildflowers bloom according to weather conditions and not the date on the calendar. And despite whatever hype you may have seen, they don't put on an exuberant show every year. The California Wildflower Guide will give you some resources to track the current year's conditions.

Here are some of the best places to see where the flowers bloom:

  • Daffodil Hill, Sutter Creek: During mid-March and early April, this gold rush era ranch explodes with over 300,000 daffodil blooms. 
  • Poppies in bloom, Antelope Valley: It can be decades between the best bloom seasons in Antelope Valley near Los Angeles, but when the conditions are right, the landscape erupts in orange California poppies.

April Events in California

  • Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Indio: One of the largest music festivals of its kind (held over two weekends) it’s the place to see the year's most popular groups. Besides an eclectic musical lineup, Coachella attracts some innovative food makers and exciting visual artists.
  • Toyota Grand Prix, Long Beach: It’s like a live version of a fast-driving video game, with Indy-style race cars zipping through the streets of downtown Long Beach at more than 200 miles per hour. If you’re starstruck, check out the celebrity race where you can see big names like Ricky Schroeder and Olympic medalist Dara Tores take a turn behind the wheel.
  • LA Brewery Art Walk: In what is considered the world's biggest art complex; resident artists hold an open studio weekend. You can get a chance to speak to artists directly, purchase a fabulous new piece of art and even grab a bite to eat at the on-site restaurant.
  • Del Mar Horse ShowThis three-week event is held April through May. It's one of the most significant equestrian events in Southern California and more exciting than it sounds.
  • Yosemite National ParkIn the spring, thawing snow fills the streams and brings waterfalls to their prettiest flow, the dogwood trees bloom, and plants sprout delicate green leaves. 
  • Stagecoach Festival, Indio is billed as California's Country Music Festival, with scores of performers and crowds of music-lovers. It's held near Palm Springs towards the end of the month.
  • Pacific Coast Dream Machines Show is an opportunity to see all kinds of motorized vehicles. If it has wheels, motors or propellers, it most likely will be on display.
  • Lyrid Meteor Shower: The best places to see the meteor shower's light show are far away from city lights and where there are few trees. The dark skies at Joshua Tree or Lake Shasta are excellent choices.
  • Whale Watching in April: Still migrating north this month, there may be a few gray whales. Humpback whales and orcas start to appear.
  • Watch a Yacht Race: The Newport to Ensenada race kicks off in late April and watching them take off is fun, even if you don't get to see the ending of the three-day event which has been going on since 1948.

Once in a while, Easter falls in March. In 2019, it's on April 21.

April Travel Tips

  • The Stagecoach Festival often sells out by January.
  • Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival also sells out far ahead of time. In fact, your best bet for tickets is to buy them when they're first released and before they announce the next year's lineup, which is about a week after the festival ends.
  • If you want to go camping at a California state park in April, make your reservations six months ahead of time in October. Everything you need to know is here.
  • If you're planning to camp at Yosemite between March 15 and April 14, be ready at 7 a.m. Pacific Time on December 15 to make your reservations online. For April 15 through May 14, mark your calendar for January 15. You can do that online or by phone at 877-444-6777 or 518-885-3639 from outside the US & Canada. Get an overview and more options.
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