You’ll see some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in the world at California National Parks in the spring. Whether you’re an avid hiker, a wildlife enthusiast, or just someone who appreciates natural beauty, spring at California’s national parks offers an experience that’s captivating and truly unforgettable.
When planning a vacation to visit the National Parks in California, spring is a great time to go. The weather is just right – not too hot, not too cold, and the landscapes are absolutely stunning.
There are nine US National Parks in California which is more than any other state. Depending on the location of the National Park, early spring 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.
Each California National Park has its own unique weather patterns and ecosystem, making every visit a distinct experience. So regardless of the time of your spring visit, be sure to check the specific weather conditions of the National Park you’re visiting 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!
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Tips For Visiting California National Parks
When planning a California vacation during the spring months of March, April, and May 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 in the winter 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!
USA AUDIO TOURS (GuideAlong)
“Download the app to your phone – no cell or wifi service needed. Based on your GPS location, the app takes you on a guided tour of the area and points out all the interesting features and stops. It’s like having a guide in the car with you.”
California National Parks in the Spring
California is a terrific vacation destination any time of year. Spring is a popular time to travel to the sunshine state. 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 and experiences for visiting the California National Parks during the spring months of March, April, and May.
Channel Islands National Park in the Spring
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.
Make a spring visit to this California National Park for temperate weather and to see the wildflowers in full bloom. April and May make great months to visit since the rainy season is coming to an end with daytime temperatures a comfortable average of 60°F.
To get to the islands you must make a ferry reservation with Island Packers. There is no fee to enter Channel Islands since it is included in your ferry ticket cost. On the ferry ride over you’re likely to spot dolphins and if you’re lucky a whale.
The two most popular and easily accessible islands in this National Park are Santa Cruz Island and Anacapa Island. However, spring on Anacapa Island is the prime Western Gull nesting season and the island can become overrun with so many birds- and bird poop!
Santa Cruz Island is larger with more hiking trails, but both have unique wildlife viewing opportunities and ability to go kayaking into sea caves and arches. One of the best things to do on Santa Cruz Island is to go backcountry camping at the Del Norte Campground with amazing ocean views from your tent! (Recommended by Kate, Kate Roams the World)
Channel Islands Lodging & Tours
Death Valley National Park in the Spring
Visiting Death Valley National Park in the spring is the perfect time of year. During this season, temperatures are mild, typically ranging from the mid-70s to 90s Fahrenheit.
This US Southwest National Park famously holds the world record for the hottest air temperature (134°F!). Visiting Death Valley in the spring makes outdoor activities more enjoyable compared to the extreme heat of summer.
Spring is the ideal time to witness the park’s rare and beautiful wildflower bloom. It’s a phenomenon that transforms the desert landscape. However, it doesn’t happen every spring. It’s heavily dependent on the winter’s rainfall and it can vary from year to year.
Hiking and sightseeing are at their best in spring. You don’t want to miss the popular spots like Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, and the scenic Artist’s Drive. The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes offer a surreal desert experience, especially at sunrise or sunset when the light plays beautifully over the sands. If you go in the morning, you can even see the snakes’ tracks.
It’s good to know that you don’t need any permits or timed tickets to visit Death Valley National Park. (Recommended by Emilie, Love Life Abroad)
Death Valley Lodging & Tours
Joshua Tree National Park in the Spring
Joshua Tree National Park looks like it’s from another planet, with massive monzogranite boulders, cholla cactuses, and, of course, the namesake Seussian-looking Joshua trees.
The springtime is a wonderful time to visit, thanks to its pleasantly warm temperatures and beautiful wildflowers in bloom. It also happens to be the busiest time in the park—so if you’re visiting on a weekend, consider getting here bright and early!
The park has a variety of hikes where you can enjoy spectacular landscape, like the easy Hidden Valley Trail, which loops through a grove of Joshua trees and enormous boulders.
Of course, Joshua Tree’s main claim to fame is its rock-climbing scene, with endless bouldering options and several bolted routes to choose from as well. Some of the most popular places to boulder are the Jumbo Rocks Trail and Skull Rock, which, well, looks like a giant skull!
Given that you can see most of the park’s highlights in a day or two, it’s easy to add to your spring vacation in the Southwest.
For example, it’s located just three hours and 45 minutes from Sin City, making it the perfect addition to any Las Vegas itinerary. It’s also a little over two hours from Los Angeles or 45 minutes from the quirky city of Palm Springs. (Recommended by Jess, Uprooted Traveler)
Joshua Tree National Park Lodging & Tours
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Lassen Volcanic National Park in the Spring
Lassen Volcanic National Park is a unique National Park in Northern California. It is located about 3 hours northeast of Sacramento, or about an hour east of Redding, California.
The geography of Lassen National Park is unique and stunning. The park includes all 4 types of volcanoes, cinder cones, smoke vents, incredible diversity of plants and wildlife, hiking trails of varying lengths and difficulties, and beautiful gem colored alpine lakes.
This park sees significantly less visitors each year than other California National Parks, and so remains somewhat of a hidden gem. Because of the enormous amount of snow pack (sometimes 40 feet!!) visiting in the spring can be very different depending on the year.
You’ll want to check the park website about road conditions. Most often the road through the park opens in stages, and sometimes the entire road is not open until June. A unique thing to do in Lassen Volcanic in the spring is to bike some of the roads that have been cleared before they are open for car traffic.
Accommodations within the park are only open from June to October, although multiple lodging options are available at nearby communities. The closest town to the park is Chester. (Recommended by Jessica, Next Up Adventures)
Lassen Volcanic National Park Lodging
Pinnacles National Park in the Spring
Visiting Pinnacles National Park in the spring is a perfect time to visit. With daytime temperatures around 60-70°F, you can enjoy activities like hiking the diverse trails, observing wildlife like California condors, and capturing the unique landscapes through photography.
Pinnacles National Park has talus caves formed by massive boulders wedged into narrow canyons. The Bear Gulch Cave hike is the most unique and popular trail in the park. You’ll pass Tallus caves as you hike to the Bear Gulch reservoir. The Balconies Cave Trail is another fun hike that takes you through a Tallus cave.
For the bird enthusiasts, grab your binoculars and head out for some condor spotting. These majestic birds are a sight to behold.
Check the park’s schedule for any ranger-led programs or guided hikes that may be available during your visit. These programs can provide valuable insights into the park’s geology, history, and wildlife. (Recommended by Dave and Jamie, Photo Jeepers)
Where to Stay Near Pinnacles National Park
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park in the Spring
Located in the southern Sierra Nevada east of Visalia, California you’ll find Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. Combined, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park is an impressive 1,353 square miles and home to the world’s oldest
Sequoia National Park is a beautiful destination year-round, and it truly shines in the spring. The weather is beginning to warm up in the springtime bringing wildflowers, lush vegetation, and cascading waterfalls from all the snow melt.
The roads are mostly completely open including the Generals Highway, a winding road with multiple breathtaking overlooks that connects Sequoia to Kings Canyon National Park.
The giant sequoia groves can still have snow in the early spring months and late spring snowstorms are common, so be sure to plan ahead, check weather forecasts before you visit, and be prepared with extra layers if hiking.
If you are only able to spend one day in Sequoia National Park, don’t miss visiting General Sherman- a 2,300-year-old tree that boasts being the largest living tree in the world by volume! (Recommended by Erin, The Simple Salty Life)
Sequoia & Kings Canyon Lodging
Redwood National Park in the Spring
Redwood National Park is a magical area to visit any time of year, however if you plan a trip in the spring, you are in for a treat. There will be much less rain, more sunshine, wildflowers in bloom, and lush green forest everywhere.
Redwoods National Park is unique in that it is jointly managed and is actually known as Redwoods National and State Parks. There are 4 geographic areas included in the park.
Although the highlight of Redwoods National and State Parks is the enormous Redwood trees that are thousands of years old, there are also many spots along the coast with beautiful tide pools, sandy beaches, and wild elk.
There are multiple free activities and guided walks that are offered through the Parks Department. I learned so much about Redwood trees, and it turns out it’s not just their age and size that is so incredible!
Hiking, accessible walks, exploring beautiful beaches, and unique tidepools are some of the best things to do within Redwoods Parks. (Recommended by Jessica, Next Up Adventure)
Redwood National Park Lodging
Yosemite National Park in the Spring
Yosemite National Park is a wonderful place to visit in the spring. Reservations are not required, but it’s best to arrive early in the morning for the smoothest entrance into the park.
The weather in Yosemite in the spring is unpredictable. Some days are all sunshine, while others usher in snow storms. Because much of Yosemite may still be under snow come spring, tire chains may be required. Certain areas of the park, including Tioga and Glacier Point Roads, will likely be closed until early summer due to snow conditions.
Snow makes hiking in Yosemite in the spring quite limited. Some trails in Yosemite Valley, Wawona, and Hetch Hetchy may be open by April.
Spring is one of the best times to visit the waterfalls in Yosemite. A tour of the different falls is one of the best things to do in Yosemite with kids. The melting winter snow recharges the falls, bringing them bursting back to life.
The Merced River also gets a runoff boost during the spring and can make for a fun whitewater rafting adventure. Fishing and stargazing during the spring are great, too! (Recommended by Candice, CS Ginger)
Yosemite National Park Lodging and Tours
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California Bucket List
To help make your trip planning easier, 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!