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

Poppies in Antelope Valley

TripSavvy / Amanda Capritto

If you want to visit California in March, you picked a good month. During the lull between the holidays and spring break, the weather is often delightful, the skies are mostly clear, and crowds are generally low to enjoy major attractions without feeling overwhelmed. You may also get hotel rooms at a reasonable price, especially in the first part of the month.

But look out for spring break. When families and college students take advantage of a break from the classroom, you'll find crowds at all the major attractions.

California Weather in March

California's notoriously great weather is one of the best reasons to visit in March. While most parts of the country are still thawing after a long winter, California is fully in spring and sunny days are the norm. It may not be hot enough that you can plan on a beach trip, but the idea isn't out of the question.

  Average High Temp.  Average Low Temp. 
San Francisco  62 F (17 C)  51 F (11 C) 
Los Angeles  70 F (21 C)  52 F (11 C) 
San Diego  66 F (19 C) 54 F (12 C) 
Yosemite  58 F (14 C) 33 F (1 C) 
Napa 64 F (18 C) 44 F (7 C)
Lake Tahoe 48 F (9 C) 25 F (minus 4 C)

The wet season of winter begins to wind down throughout March, although some rain is likely, especially at the beginning of the month. Even though clouds and stormy weather aren't ideal, there are plenty of things to keep busy on a rainy day, whether you're in San Francisco, Los Angeles, or San Diego. And even if your trip does coincide with some rain, it's likely to be followed up by days of sunshine (this is California, after all).

At higher elevations, including Yosemite and Lake Tahoe, snow gets less likely throughout the month but is still a possibility. At the California ski resorts, March is usually the perfect month for sunny spring skiing.

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. In March, water and air temperatures at the beach limit most people to oceanside strolls. Pack a bathing suit in case you get lucky with a warm spell, but don't be overly optimistic and forget to bring a couple of jackets and pants for walking along a windy beach.

If you plan to spend time outdoors camping or hiking, pack layers to stay warm and covered. Popular hiking areas like Yosemite are still very cold in March and may even have snow, so you'll need snow gear and proper boots if you plan to visit.

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 March

The good news is that in March you're pretty much assured of seeing some wildflower blooms regardless of what part of the state you're in. The bad news is that wildflowers are unpredictable and the results can range from a spectacular "superbloom" to an unimpressive smattering of flowers.

However, some places in California are better suited for wildflower viewing than others and offer a greater chance at seeing picturesque fields of vibrant colors. 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. 
  • Blossom Trail, Fresno: In California's Central Valley near Fresno, you can take a drive on the blossom trail through miles of orchards filled with pink and white blooms.
  • California Poppies, Antelope Valley: It can be years between the best bloom seasons in Antelope Valley near Los Angeles, but when the conditions are right, the landscape erupts in orange-colored California poppies.

March Events in California

One of the biggest March events is St. Patrick's Day, which sees parades in major cities across the state. There are also all kinds of wildlife-related activities, from swallows to spiny lobsters to gray whales.

  • Saint Patrick's Day: The St. Patrick's Day Parade in San Francisco is only part of the fun, since there's also a festival held at Civic Center Plaza. St. Patrick's Day in Los Angeles includes festivals, a drinking marathon, music performances, and pub crawls. Saint Patrick's Day Parade in San Diego includes a lively parade.
  • Cinequest Film Festival, San Jose: Cinequest is the first big film festival after the Academy Awards and one of the best film fests in the state. Taking place in the heart of Silicon Valley, it hosts an impressive number of movies and an A-list guest list, as well.
  • Return of the Swallow, San Juan Capistrano: Held at the Mission in San Juan Capistrano, this festival celebrates when the swallows return after their winter migration south and usually coincides right around St. Joseph's Day on March 19. The event includes a parade and festival around the Mission for the birds and the local community.
  • California Spiny Lobster season ends in the middle of March. They don't have the big claws like Maine lobsters but are sweeter than their East Coast counterparts. You may find them on the menu in southern California restaurants, but get 'em quick or wait until next September.
  • Whale Watching in March: California grey whales are on their annual 5,000-mile migration from Alaska to Baja California and can often be seen right from the coast. The best area to see them is in the large region between Monterey and San Diego.

March Travel Tips

  • If you want to go camping at a California state park in March, make your reservations six months ahead of time in September when reservations open. Many of them fill up immediately, especially popular sites like Yosemite.
  • Cesar Chavez Day is a state-recognized holiday in California and celebrated on March 31. Schools have the day off, as do all state employees.
  • The dates of spring break vary in California by each school district, but it's worth checking to see if the city you're visiting is out-of-school when you'll be there.
  • If you want to make a trip to Disneyland, early March is one of the best times to go if you want to avoid the crowds. By mid-March, spring break groups start arriving and lines get longer.
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