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

The Point Reyes Lighthouse

 

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Summer vacation season wraps up in August. As people rush to get out before the sunny season ends — or race to get out of hotter-than-hot locales like Phoenix, August becomes one of the busiest times of the year at every single attraction in the state.

Some parts of the state can get unbearably hot, especially in the desert and parts of the Central Valley.

That doesn't mean that your August vacation dooms you to standing in long lines, sweating like the proverbial pig. Instead, go visit a lighthouse, take a drive over the mountains to Eastern California, or go watch some whales.

California Weather in August

The weather in California varies depending on what part of the state you're visiting. But no matter where you go, it's probably not going to rain. In fact, it would be considered a deluge if any California location got more than 0.2 inches of rain during the entire month.

In general, the state is pretty warm in August—highs 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 get hot (but are still tolerable). Unless you're a heat-seeker, 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 years when the first Monday in September is also September 1, Labor Day weekend begins in August. To get some ideas on what you can do over the long weekend, get some ideas for 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 California light stations to visit

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

While the roads are clear of snow, it's also an excellent 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.

Football for Free: If you want to see professional football play for free, don’t miss this. In July and August, the Dallas Cowboys football team hold their training camp in Oxnard. You can watch their practice games and you don’t even need to get a ticket. Just show up early: Admission is first-come/first-served until capacity is reached. You can get more details at the Visit Oxnard website and see the schedule on the Dallas Cowboys site.

What to Pack

Because there are so many things to do in California during August and temperatures vary by location, your packing list will depend 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. Just ask any Californian who lives near a beach, and they'll tell you how much it 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. Lyme disease can be a concern if you go hiking in the woods, especially in Northern California, Use these precautions to avoid the tick bites which transmit it.

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, Janet Jackson, 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. The pageant is 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 pleasant, 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 sometimes sells out far in advance.
  • If you want to go camping at a California state park in August, make your reservations six months ahead of time in February. Use this guide to making reservations at California state parks.
  • If you're planning to camp at Yosemite next year from July 15 through August 14, be ready at 7:00 a.m. Pacific Time on February 15 to make your reservations online. For August 15 through September 14, mark your calendar for April 15. But get prepared first. Find out all you need to know about making camping reservations at Yosemite.
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