In the spring, the Golden State turns green. After the winter rains, flowers burst into bloom, turning fruit trees into clouds of blossoms and sometimes transforming deserts into flowery carpets.
And contrary to any urban legends you may have heard, California does have four seasons.
What to Expect
- Clearest skies of the year in San Francisco and along the coast.
- When schools are on spring break, theme parks get very crowded. With staggered schedules, spring break extends through March and April.
- Wildflower blossoms depend on the year's rainfall and temperature patterns, which makes recommending the best place to see them nearly impossible. We've listed some of the most promising areas below.
- Spring weather varies, with snow falling in the mountains as late as April in some years. Check the average temperatures and rainfall
Places at Their Best in Spring
- The Spring Weekend Getaway Guide has some great ideas for you.
- Yosemite is scenic in spring, as the winter snow melts and the waterfalls are in full flow. It's also less crowded than in summer. Find out more in the guide to Yosemite in spring.
- Weather is most comfortable in Anza-Borrego Desert and Joshua Tree National Park and in a good year, you'll find flowers blooming, too.
- Spring is also a good time to visit San Francisco, before the crowds (and summer fog) arrive.
Flowers and Wildflowers in Spring
Flowers are everywhere in California in the spring.
The list below includes some of the most spectacular spots, but many factors affect which ones are best and when. Use the Theodore Payne Foundation hotline for up-to-date reports every spring.
- In the best years, spring wildflowers carpet the desert, but if you remember all the fuss about the blooms in Death Valley a few years ago, it's a rare phenomenon. The best spots to check are Anza-Borrego Desert and Joshua Tree National Park.
- A getaway to Palm Springs is without a doubt a great time to visit the desert without feeling like you're going to melt. Temperatures are perfect, fewer crowds and the flowers are in bloom.
- It doesn't happen every year, but when the California poppies bloom in Antelope Valley, there's not a prettier spot in the state. They blossom between March and May, peaking in mid-April.
- Hite Cove Trail near Yosemite is said to be one of the state's best wildflower trails.
- For a more man-made show, the fruit-growing area around Fresno erupts in spring blossoms, which you can enjoy by taking the Fresno Blossom Trail.
- More reliable are the Carlsbad Flower Fields just north of San Diego, where a fifty-acre sea of ranunculus flowers put on their best for visitors. The flower fields are at their peak from early March through May.
- California's public gardens are an obvious spring choice. Try Huntington Garden near Pasadena for camellias or Mendocino's Coast Botanical Garden for rhododendrons.
Mother Nature in Spring
- March begins the nesting season for herons and egrets. Our heron and egret guide cover the best places to see them.
- Shooting Stars: The Lyrids meteor shower occurs in mid-April. Death Valley, Big Sur, Mendocino and locations along Scenic Highway 395 are some of the best places to see it. Check the exact dates for this year.
- Spring is also a time for migration. California grey whales can be seen at many points along the coast, making their annual journey from Mexico back to Alaska. Every year like clockwork, the swallows return to the mission at San Juan Capistrano on March 19.
Driving in Spring
Late rain, snow, and mudslides keep some California highways closed well into spring.
Roads that may still be closed include:
- Tioga Pass in Yosemite may open anytime after April 15. It all depends on when they can safely get all the snow cleared away.
- The main entrances to Sequoia National Park are open year round, but the road to lower Kings Canyon is closed until early summer.
- California Highway One is especially susceptible to mudslides and closures during rainy winters. A big slide can keep the highway closed for months. Enter "1" after clicking on this link to check its status.
Holidays and Festivals in Spring
It's not a holiday or a festival, but in spring, special Hearst Castle night tours give a glimpse into daily life at the castle.
Outstanding in the Field: Bringing the dinner table to the farm, this traveling event invites diners to enjoy and celebrate food, with the people who produce it, right at the source.
Mid-month brings Mother's Day. We've got some great ideas for how to celebrate it.
Spring goes out with a bang, as the Memorial Day Weekend signals the beginning of summer.