San Francisco Climate and Weather

Coit Tower

 

Sabrina Dalbesio / Getty Images 

Getting today's weather or a forecast for the upcoming week is easy, but if you're planning a visit, you want to know about the climate - what it's normally like. The averages above may be more helpful than what's going on right now.

If You're Planning a San Francisco Vacation, go to the San Francisco vacation planner for more information. Page 2 of this guide gives some tips for what to wear in San Francisco and what to pack if you're going there. 

A Few Things You May Not Know About San Francisco Weather

  • It's a rare day when everything about San Francisco weather is exactly "average." You can use the climate information above to get an idea of what things will be like, but the last time we checked, the city was not issuing any weather guarantees.
  • Average rainfall is particularly deceiving in California. Rainfall depends on what happens in the Pacific Ocean. When the ocean experiences El Nino conditions, it can rain a lot. In other years, you'll hardly see a drop all winter. And when it does rain, a whole month's rainfall often comes in just a day or two.
  • June Gloom is real. If you don't know Pacific coastal weather patterns, this may sound wrong - but it's true. June is San Francisco's driest month. It's also the month that gets the least sun, with lots of fog that keep things chilly. Some years, foggy, overcast conditions last longer than a month. It can start as early as "May Gray", sometimes lingering into "No Sky July", or even extend to "Fogust". To find out more and what causes June Gloom, check out this guide.
  • It's cold on June and July evenings. This isn't a joke. I live here, and I'm telling you how it really is, not the pretty visitors' bureau version. Fog is wet. It generates a cold, damp wind as it comes in. I've been in the city on Fourth of July and New Year's Eve and the mid-summer night feels colder.
  • San Francisco is at its best in spring and fall, when skies are clearer and rain less likely.

What to Wear in San Francisco

You know how to match temperature to your wardrobe selection, so this list focuses more on style and practical considerations you might not think of.

  • Casual clothing is fine most of the time in San Francisco, even in some of the nicer restaurants.
  • A few restaurants may have dress codes. If you're thinking high-end eating, check ahead. 
  • You may also want to get a little dressed up if you plan to go to a theater performance.
  • San Francisco is full of microclimates and the temperature can change a lot in a single day. Whether or not it's fashionable, planning your wardrobe with lots of layers is a good way to go.
  • Summer fog in San Francisco is colder than you can imagine. If you're going from May through July, pack all the layers you think you'll need, then pack one more. Or be prepared to make an emergency sweatshirt purchase.
  • Good walking shoes are a must, with all those hills you may want to walk up and down.

What to Pack for San Francisco

These are a few things that I have found helpful to have along when going to San Francisco:

  • If your hair tends to frizz in humid places, bring extra products to keep it tamed.
  • In winter, you might need an umbrella or raincoat. Just looking at the averages doesn't tell the whole story and weather patterns vary a lot from year to year. Your best bet to stay dry is to check the forecast just before you go.