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

The Point Reyes Lighthouse

 

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The summer holiday season ends in August. It's the busiest tourist season and some parts of the state can get unbearably hot, but it's a great time for mountain hiking or a trip to the beach.

California Weather in August

The weather in California varies depending on what part of the state you're visiting. In general, the state is pretty warm in August—highs in some places range from the 70s to the 90s (with some places reaching the 90s and low 100s), and lows across the state don't typically dip below the low 60s or mid-50s.

The Central Valley, parts of the Central Coast, and inland areas around Los Angeles can get pretty hot (but still be tolerable). Unless you're a heat-seeker, though, it's best to avoid Death Valley, Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, and the rest of the California desert until things cool off a bit.

You can get details of the highs and lows around the state in August (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 Diego, Los Angeles, DisneylandDeath ValleyPalm SpringsSan FranciscoYosemite, and Lake Tahoe.

Things to Do in California in August

In some years, Labor Day weekend can begin in August. To get some ideas on what you can do over the long weekend, check out Labor Day Fun in California.

To celebrate National Lighthouse Day (August 7), make a visit to the California coast, where you'll find quite a few scenic light stations to visit.

 

Go whale watching in August. They're around all year round and in August, you'll be looking for blue whales, humpbacks, and Minke whales.

While the roads are clear of snow, it's also a good time to go to the mountains or the cross the Sierras over Tioga Pass or one of the other high mountain roads to visit Eastern California along US Highway 395.

What to Pack

Because there are so many things to do in California during August, your packing list can vary depending on what you're doing, but here are a few things to keep in mind.

If you plan on hitting the beach at your destination, be sure to bring a swimsuit and other necessary beach items, but also bring a cover-up—some beaches can cool down in the evening. 

If you plan on spending time outdoors camping or hiking, pack light layers to stay warm and covered (but ones that you can easily shed if it gets too hot), and bring appropriate footwear.

No matter what your plans are, pack plenty of sunscreen, as the sun shines almost every day in August (compared to the parts of the state that can experience overcast days in early summer).

August Events in California

These are some of the most travel-worthing events to attend in California in August. 

  • Outside Lands Festival, San Francisco: You’ll experience a Taste of the Bay while listening to some great music. Past years' headliners have included Paul McCartney, Kanye West, Stevie Wonder, and Metallica.
  • Pageant of the Masters, Laguna Beach: If you've been, it's hard to forget. But it's even harder to describe to someone who hasn't been there. It's a re-creation of classic paintings using real people and some eye-popping, fool-the-eye lighting effects. You may not believe it even after you see it.
  • Concours d'Elegance, Pebble Beach: If you love beautiful classic automobiles, don't miss this event. It's a chance to see some of the finest collector's cars, new models, and concept vehicles. And the surroundings are pretty nice, too.
  • Jazz Summer Fest, San Jose: This is one of the biggest outdoor jazz fests of the summer.
  • Old Spanish Days, Santa Barbara: Celebrate the city's Spanish heritage.
  • Perseid Meteor Showers: The best places to see them are far away from city lights and where there are few trees: Benton Hot SpringsJoshua Tree, or Lake Shasta.
  • San Jose Renaissance Faire: Lose yourself in the merriment and magic of the Renaissance. Enjoy food, crafts, music, and even jesters.

August Travel Tips

  • Laguna Beach's Pageant of the Masters runs July through September, but January is the time to start making plans and buying tickets for the popular event, which almost always sells out far in advance.