Visiting California National Parks in March

You’ll see some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in the world at California National Parks in March. As the chill of winter begins to thaw, the forests, mountains, deserts, and coastlines of the National Parks in California begin to spring back to life!

When planning a vacation to visit the California National Parks in the spring, check out this list of things to see, do, and photograph at all nine National Parks!

visiting California National Parks in March

There are nine National Parks in California, more than any other state. Depending on the location of the National Park, March could still be cold and snowy in the higher elevations. Parks on the coast will be chilly with spring rain. The desert parks will be crowded as people visit to enjoy the moderate temperatures and possibility of wildflowers.

Each California National Park has its own unique weather patterns and ecosystem, so be sure to check the specific weather conditions of the National Park you’re visiting in March and dress accordingly.

Use our US National Park Packing List  to make sure you have the right clothing and gear for visiting in the spring! Grab your free printable packing checklist by clicking the image below!

National Parks packing list for spring summer fall and winter
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Tips For Visiting California National Parks

When planning a California vacation in March, be sure a National Park or two are on the list! Due to the varied climates and weather around the state, visiting National Parks in California during the month of March can be different depending on the location.

If you’re heading to the northern National Parks, be prepared with insulated winter clothing and layers for the cold and snowy conditions in March. For the southern parks you’ll want a fleece jacket for cooler days plus a rain jacket and waterproof hiking shoes are good to have in case of rain.

We recommend the Guide Along App to hear fun behind-the scenes stories and local tips that play automatically as you drive around the California National Parks. It’s like having a Ranger in the car with you!

California National Parks in March

California is a terrific vacation destination any time of year. March is a popular time to travel to beat the crowds! Check out this list of things to see, do, and photograph at all nine National Parks!

We asked our travel friends to share their tips, things to do, and experiences for planning a March vacation to the nine California National Parks… and one National Monument!

Channel Islands in the spring
Channel Islands in the spring

Channel Islands National Park in March

Off of the Southern California coast, there are a string of 8 islands that make up Channel Islands National Park. Commonly referred to as the ‘Galapagos of North America’, the Channel Islands come alive during the spring.

March will probably be rainy, but you’ll still enjoy temperate weather and can enjoy the wildflowers in full bloom.

You’ll need a ferry reservation to get to there, we recommend Island Packers. There is no additional fee to enter Channel Islands, it is included in the cost of your ferry ticket.

Watch for dolphins or even whales on the ferry ride over! The other wildlife you might see include pelicans, peregrine falcons, bald eagles, and harbor seals.

Santa Cruz Island and Anacapa Island are the two most popular and easily accessible islands. Santa Cruz Island is larger and offers more hiking trails. You can enjoy kayaking into sea caves from both islands.

Spring is the prime Western Gull nesting season and Anacapa Island can become overrun with birds and bird poop! You might want to get updated information about conditions there before you go! (Recommended by Dave & Jamie, Photo Jeepers)

Channel Islands Lodging & Tours

Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park in March

Death Valley National Park is known for the lowest point in North America as well as the hottest place on the earth with temp that goes up to 134 °F in summer! Though you can visit the valley year-round, March is the perfect time to visit it. It is a perfect month as the season in the valley changes from Winter to Spring! The temperatures remain pleasant during the day with temperature ranges from 13 °F – 30 °F !

Spring in Death Valley is characterized by wildflower blooming! With flowers blooming, the Valley shows an impressive floral display. It is so interesting how the Death Valley is so diverse in landscape! But make sure to keep your eye on local reports when you plan to see the blooming!

If you want to avoid the crowds, March is a seemingly less crowded month to visit this US Southwest National Park! You will not see many tourists around and plenty of places to yourself only! Also, the accommodations will be cheaper!

If you are planning to hike or two, March offers the best weather. You can avoid the heat, making it the perfect time for outdoor adventures.

Death Valley is divided into north and south! If you want to cover the major sightseeing places, two days in Death Valley is highly recommended. You can visit the famous Bad water Basin (Lowest Point in North America), Dante’s view, Zabriskie Point, Artist’s Palette, and Mesquite Sand dunes for stunning views.

You can also opt hiking Golden Canyon for stunning rock formations or twenty Mule Team. If you have more time, you can squeeze in visiting Rhyolite Ghost town and Harmony Borax works!

There is no permit needed to visit Death Valley in March but make sure to check out the road conditions in Death Valley before you start your journey. Camping is available in March but make sure to reserve the campgrounds in advance! (Recommended by Mayuri, Fernwehrahee Blog)

Death Valley Lodging & Tours

Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park in March

Joshua Tree is one of the best National Parks to visit in California in March. What’s cool about visiting Joshua Tree National Park, no matter what time of year you choose to visit, is that it’s split between two deserts – the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert.

Even though Joshua Tree has plenty of epic glamping and campsites, it’s only a 45-minute drive from Palm Springs, which has more hotel and dining options. If you plan to explore Joshua Tree, having your own vehicle or a rental car is best.

March is the ideal month to plan a spring vacation in the Southwest. Visiting Joshua Tree National Park in March you’ll enjoy perfect weather for desert hiking. You can experience average highs in the mid 70s°F to lows in the lower 40s°F. It barely rains in Joshua Tree during early spring, which draws more crowds.

It’s important to note that Joshua Tree National Park doesn’t require advanced reservations to enter. However, you can purchase a pass upon arrival, which will be valid for seven days. Joshua Tree also accepts the America the Beautiful Pass!

If you plan to camp in Joshua Tree National Park, it’s first-come-first-serve; however, springtime is popular for tourists to visit this area, so reservations are encouraged. You will also need a permit if you plan to backpack and stay overnight, host a special event, hold a specific educational program, and do research.  

Some of the best things to do at Joshua Tree National Park are hiking at Arch Rock, seeing the Cholla Cactus Garden, checking out Skull Rock, and watching the sunset at Cap Rock. Before doing any of these activities, it’s best to download AllTrails for hikes and always bring a refillable water bottle. (Recommended by Taylor, Brown Eyed Flower Child)

Joshua Tree National Park Lodging & Tours

Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park in March

Spring at Lassen Volcanic National Park means fewer crowds but a higher level of flexibility on your part. The park gets snow into June some seasons, which means some of the park may only be accessible on foot. The weather in this part of the state fluctuates a lot, though. You may see temperatures in the 70s but snowpack underfoot. Watch the weather and come prepared for both!

If you don’t mind snow, a visit in early spring can mean opportunities for sledding, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing among some of the most beautiful vistas in California.

Feel the warmth of steaming vents at Sulphur Works year-round. If you’re here mid-spring, get your hikes in on lower-elevation trails at Manzanita Lake. Enjoy the wildflowers and scenic views along Lanes Valley Road, a plowed area that passes through those lower elevations. 

If you don’t have an America the Beautiful pass, there is a standard entry fee per vehicle. The lower winter rates are good from Dec. 1 – April 15. Rate are higher the rest of the year from April 16-Nov. 30. (Recommended by Agnes Groonwald, Travel on the Reg)

Lassen Volcanic National Park Lodging

Muir Woods National Monument
Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods National Monument in March

Due to the lower crowds, March is a fantastic time to visit Muir Woods National Monument. Many tourists gravitate to the area in the warmer months when school is out. The weather in March is nice, crisp, and cool, but not too cold. Temperatures range from lows in the 40s and highs in the 60s. Pack layers as the weather does vary. 

Muir Woods is known for their majestic redwoods. In the park, guests can explore 6 miles of trails. Three different hiking loops vary in time, so there’s something for guests of all ages. Children can complete the Muir Woods Junior Ranger Activity Book. 

Children 15 and under are free, while 16 and older requires an entry fee. All vehicles need a reservation to enter, so please make sure to plan accordingly, especially if visiting on a weekend or during a busy time. 

The Muir Woods Shuttle begins in mid-March and carries visitors from off-site parking. Tickets are a small fee for guests 16 and older, while 15 and under are free. You need reservations for the arrival and departure ride, so don’t forget to make both! As a side note, there is no wifi or cell phone service in the park, so download your tickets before you arrive. (Recommended by Rebecca, Fab 5 Family Travel)

San Francisco Lodging & Tours

Balconies Cave Trail at Pinnacles National Park
Balconies Cave Trail

Pinnacles National Park in March

Pinnacles National Park is a relatively new national park in California. In fact, up until 2013, Pinnacles was a national monument, not a park. 

The unique geological rock formations are known to climbers all around, but the park isn’t just for climbers. There are many hikes in the park ranging from easy hikes to full day adventures. 

March is the perfect time to visit Pinnacles for fewer crowds and more moderate temperatures with the heat coming off the rocks on most hikes!

Spending a few days at Pinnacles, you can really soak in everything the park has to offer. Grab this easy camping meals guide and pack your bags for an epic weekend in Pinnacles! 

While all the hikes in Pinnacles are pretty awesome, there’s one you just can’t miss – the Balconies Cave Trail. This trail takes you though a cave where you’ll hike over and under boulders, climb stairs made out of rocks, and even over a small creek if the water is flowing. This trail is accessible from both entrances, and you must bring a flashlight to be able to light up the way through the cave! (Recommended by Heather, ArboursAbroad)

Where to Stay Near Pinnacles National Park

drive through the famous Redwood tree
Drive through the famous Redwood tree

Redwood National Park in March

One of the best national parks in California to visit in March is the Redwoods. It covers almost one-third of the northern part of California.

March is a great time to visit because you will have fewer crowds compared to the summer months. The weather is pretty consistent in the Redwoods year round with March being around 61 degrees. 

If you are visiting the Redwoods for the first time it is important to note that it is unlike most national parks. It is so big that there are multiple ranger stations throughout northern California. The Redwoods also comprise of 3 state parks and 1 national park. 

The best Redwood tree groves are Stout Grove, Lady Bird Johnson Grove, and Tall Tree Grove. This is where you will see the older larger trees. They are amazing and worth visiting first. There are many places to hike around and enjoy the groves. Fern Canyon is another great Redwood hiking area. 

You will also want to take some time and make sure you drive through the famous Redwood tree near Klamath. It is so much fun! 

Redwood National Park also has coastal beach areas where you can see wildlife and sea life. Tide pools are common along this coast. The Redwood National Park is amazing and one of the best parks in California! (Recommended by Lisa, Planningaway)

Redwood National Park Lodging

Sequoia National Park
President Tree at Sequoia National Park

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park in March

Visit two national parks in one at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. They are both filled with magnificent trees! In March, you can expect snow on the ground with heavy snowfall possible. The average high temperature in March for the Sequoia groves is 46°F/8°C and the low is 26°F/-3°C.

The Generals Highway, the main thoroughfare between Sequoia and Kings Canyon, is unplowed from January to mid-March and often closes due to snow, so it’s a good idea to check road conditions before you head out.

Reservations are not required to enter the parks, but you’ll need one for most of the campsites. Wilderness permits are free in March, self-issued, and don’t require a reservation.

Visit the General Sherman tree, the world’s largest tree by volume. It’s 275 feet (83m) tall and over 36 ft (11m) in diameter. The General Sherman trail is very short at .5 m (.8km) and draws a crowd. It has a few stairs, but there’s also a wheelchair-accessible trail.

Near the General Sherman trail is the Congress Trail, a 2.7 mile paved trail, where you can see the House and the Senate tree groups and the President tree. Stroll through the Big Trees Trail, a 1 mile (1.6km) loop with informational exhibits.

Visit the General Grant tree, the world’s second largest tree, located in Kings Canyon. The trail is a 1/3 mile (.5km) paved loop. (Recommended by Natalie, Outsider Odyssey)

Sequoia & Kings Canyon Lodging

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park in March

Whilst still technically winter, March brings the first hints of spring to Yosemite National Park and with it, some of the most breathtaking scenery in California.

March is possibly the best month to visit Yosemite if you want to avoid crowds and have the highest chance of observing some of the parks more elusive animals such as the Sierra Nevada Red Fox, the Mountain Lion and dozens of species of birds and rodents.

The low sun and plentiful snow make for a photographers paradise and whilst some of the roads will be closed, there is plenty to explore on those that are not. With your camera gear ready, be sure to stop and capture the incredible vista of El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls from the Tunnel Overlook.

A short hike from the road will take you to the Mariposa Grove with its snow-dusted giant sequoias towering majestically into the air. A pair of snow-shoes are a must for any off-road hiking and are well worth the investment.

Before entering the park you should check on the official National Park Service website for any reservation or permit requirements. These do change regularly and you may be refused entry if you haven’t booked ahead. (Recommended by Tom & Katie, Trekking The Dream!)

Yosemite National Park Lodging and Tours

California Bucket List

We’ve compiled this comprehensive list of must-do activities that belong on every California Bucket List: things to see, do and taste all around the state! Grab the free download by clicking the graphic below!

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