Places to Visit in California in May

California is a fabulous place to plan your vacation any time of year, but there are specific places to visit in California in May to enjoy the transition from late spring to early summer!

We’ve asked our travel friends to share their favorite places to Visit in California in the spring, specifically during the month of May. You’ll find a variety of locations to visit and sights to see that offer something special for every type of traveler.

California in May places to visit

May weather in California is just about perfect. In the northern part of the state, temperatures average between a pleasant 50 to 70° F, while southern regions, especially around cities like Los Angeles and San Diego, may experience warmer conditions, ranging from 60 to 80° F.

The month of May is an ideal time for outdoor activities before it gets too hot. Rainfall is minimal, ensuring that days are predominantly sunny, making it a perfect time for visitors and locals alike to explore the diverse terrains and scenic beauty California has to offer.

Grab this free California Bucket List Packet for even more things to see, do and eat all around the state in the month of May! Simply click the graphic below to get a ton of vacation ideas for visiting California!

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map of places to visit in California in May

Map of California Vacation Spots in May

Here is a map of places to visit in California in May to help you plan your travel itinerary! This map guides you through California’s most coveted vacation spots in May that include National Parks, beaches, mountains location, and vibrant cityscapes.

We recommend the California GuideAlong App to hear fun behind-the-scenes stories and local tips that play automatically as you drive, based on your GPS location as you drive through the state!

Places to Visit in California in May

Traveling to California in May is an invitation to experience the vibrant beauty and diversity of the Golden State in full bloom.

California National Parks in the Spring: The towering sequoias of Yosemite to the vast deserts of Joshua Tree come alive with spectacular natural beauty and wildlife, offering unparalleled hiking and sightseeing opportunities. May is a good time to visit the National Parks in the south before the heat of summer really sets in!

Southern California Vacation Ideas: In May the blooming jacaranda trees decorate the streets of Southern California with vibrant purples. The climate is particularly inviting, with average temperatures that make beach days delightful.

Northern California Vacation Ideas: The rolling hills of Sonoma and Marin counties are lush and green, with wildflowers painting the countryside. Outdoor enthusiasts will find the month of May an ideal time for exploring the rugged coastline and redwood forests.

We’ve asked our travel friends to share their favorite California vacation spots for the month of May! Here are their recommendations and tips!

Big Pines Lake
Big Pine Lakes

Big Pine Lakes in May

Big Pine Lakes is one of the best hikes in California. While the peak season to hike here is typically in the summer, a dry snow season makes May the perfect time to visit Big Pine Lakes to avoid the crowds, heat, and mosquitos.

The typical vibrant turquoise color of the lake will be a deeper blue color but it’s a beautiful time to see Temple Crag with snow surrounding it. 

There are 7 lakes fed by the Palisade Glacier and the hike to the popular Second Lake is 11 miles out and back with 2,400 ft of elevation gain. This can be moderate to challenging depending on your fitness level.

This is a high-altitude hike in the Eastern Sierra Mountains. Be prepared for possible snow on the trail as the lakes sit around 10,000 ft. While the nearest town of Big Pine may be in the 70s, expect the temps on this hike to be much colder than that since it is at a high elevation. Pack warm layers! (Photo and Recommendation by Tiffany, Follow Tiffs Journey)

Bishop, California Lodging

Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park in May

Known for being the hottest place on earth and the lowest point in North America, Death Valley National Park is a great addition to a road trip through the Southwest. May is the tail end of spring and although it will already be hot, it’s your last chance to explore before the scorching summer heat really kicks in. Average lows fall around 73°F and average highs can reach 99°F.

Wildflowers can still be found at higher elevations in May and if you’re lucky, and it rained a good amount at the right time during winter, you might stumble upon a super bloom of flowers.

The unique landscapes at Death Valley National Park range from golden sand dunes, crisp salt flats, multicolored hills and snowy mountains.

To beat the heat, it’s best to visit certain locations early in the morning or later in the evening. Iconic spots like Badwater Basin, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, and Ubehebe Crater should be explored during these cooler times.

When the midday sun hits, it’s a good idea to drive to attractions like Artist’s Palette, Zabriskie Point, and Dante’s Viewpoint. These scenic spots have breathtaking views without the need to spend too much time walking in the sun.

Fill up your tank before entering the park, driving distances can be big and there are only two gas stations at Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells. (Photo and Recommendation by Charlie, She Roams The Globe)

Death Valley Lodging & Tours

Dole Whip at Disneyland
Dole Whip at Disneyland

Disneyland in May

May is one of the best times of the year to spend with Mickey and crew at Disneyland. The hot summer temperatures have yet to arrive, but it’s still warm enough to walk around with short sleeves and enjoy a cool Disney treat like a pineapple Dole whip or frozen strawberry lemonade! 

May temperatures range from the mid-60s to the mid-70s. Make sure your Disney Packing List includes a jacket for the cooler mornings and evenings.

May also brings fewer crowds than summer months, but note that there will still be crowds over Memorial Day and during designated Grad Nites. With less people in the park, take the opportunity to join shorter lines to get on some of the most popular rides like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Space Mountain, and Indiana Jones Adventure!  

You’ll also find some great rates at hotels during May (except for the times mentioned above). And don’t forget to visit Disney California Adventure next door! (Recommendation by Candice, Go See Learn)

Anaheim Lodging & Tours

Hollywood Sign
Hollywood Sign

Los Angeles in May

When you think of California, you almost instantly think of Los Angeles and there isn’t a better time to visit LA than in the month of May.

Firstly, the weather is perfect for exploration. You avoid the intense heat in the summer months as the temperatures are usually around 75°F. Plus, although tourism tends to pick up during this time, it will still be far less busy than if you visit during the months of June to August.

Most importantly, though, this is when LA really comes to life. There are plenty of activities to do, including visiting theme parks, such as Universal Studios, hiking to the iconic Hollywood sign, or browsing the shops at Rodeo Drive. You also don’t want to miss Venice and Santa Monica on your Los Angeles itinerary!

LA also hosts a variety of tours, including visits to famous sites and food-tasting tours, where visitors can indulge in all of California’s treats. Visiting Los Angeles during May just makes for the perfect early summer vacation! (Photo and Recommendation by Samantha, Find Love and Travel)

Los Angeles Lodging & Tours

Mammoth, California

Mammoth Lakes in May

Tucked in the eastern Sierra Nevada, Mammoth Lakes offers endless outdoor adventures and epic views. May is a lovely time to visit. Given the fact that Mammoth Lakes enjoys one of the longest ski seasons in the country, you may be able to squeeze in a last couple of runs on the season’s powder at its world class ski resorts, like Mammoth Mountain or June Mountain.

Conversely, the snow and ice have melted away at the town’s lower elevations and been replaced with vibrant alpine wildflowers. To explore Mammoth Lakes’ beautiful landscape, head to the nearby Inyo National Forest, which offers 3,000 square miles of pristine wilderness that are packed with incredible hiking and paddling opportunities. 

Of course, no trip here would be complete without taking advantage of the incredible hot springs in Mammoth Lakes, like the Rock Hot Tub or Wild Willy’s Hot Spring. Nothing beats soaking in steamy water while taking in the breathtaking views of the snow capped Sierras. (Photo and Recommendation by Jessica, Uprooted Traveler)

Where To Stay Near Mammoth Lakes

Muir Woods National Monument
Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods National Monument in May

Muir Woods National Monument is a short drive from San Francisco and a paradise for hikers and nature lovers. It is home to some of the tallest and oldest trees in the world: the redwoods. These majestic trees can live for over 1,000 years and reach over 350 feet in height, making them worth visiting. 

May is the perfect month to visit Muir Woods because the weather is warm but not too hot, like in June and July. May is also at the end of the shoulder season, so visitors can expect fewer crowds than in the following summer months. The park generally opens from 8:00 am to approximately 30 minutes before sunset. Remember this US National Monument requires a parking reservation year-round. Book at least a week in advance since there is limited parking or shuttle space to get to Muir Woods. 

Muir Woods consists of countless hiking and walking trails for people of every fitness level. The Main Trail is less than an hour long and wheelchair and stroller-accessible, ensuring no one is left out. Hikers looking for more of a challenge can check out the Canopy View Trail, which takes visitors above the canopy to get a bird’s eye view of the redwoods. For an even bigger challenge, trekkers can take on the 10.5 mile loop to Mount Tamalpais, the highest peak directly north of San Francisco. (Photo and Recommendation by Shar, Sightseeing Shar)

Paso Robles winery
Paso Robles winery

Paso Robles in May

Paso Robles and its surrounding wineries are great places to visit in May. The temperature in May ranges from 50°F to 75°F and is great for outdoor and indoor activities. The pleasant temperature combined with wildflower occurrences make the month of May a perfect choice to visit Paso Robles.

May is also ideal to visit the best wineries of Paso Robles along the wine trail like Tablas Creek, DAOU, Justin and enjoy wine tasting outdoors.

Downtown Paso Robles comes to life in May with festivals like Olive and Lavendar festival and Paso Robles wine festival and is a fun place to visit while in Paso Robles.

The Sensorio Light Installation, featuring thousands of illuminated spheres across the landscape, by Bruce Munro is another attraction not to be missed while in Paso. This incredible light display is a unique blend of art and nature. (Photo and Recommendation by Aswani, A Charming Escape)

Paso Robles Lodging

Pinnacles National Park
Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park in May

Pinnacles National Park is a must-visit park in California during the month of May. The temperatures are warming up, but not too hot yet. The rain will also be less likely during the month of May, making it the perfect time to comfortably hike and camp. It’s also a great time to go before schools get out for summer and the park gets busier during the summer months.

Pinnacles National Park is known for its towering pinnacle formations, but it is also a California wonder thanks to the caves you can explore below and the return of the California Condors, which are an endangered species. Being able to see them in person is a once-in-a-lifetime type experience, and hiking up to the Pinnacles allows visitors to get close to these amazing birds. Be sure to stop by a visitor center for any cave or trail closure and don’t forget to look up! (Photo and Recommendation by Elizabeth, Elizabeth Adventures)

Where to Stay Near Pinnacles National Park

Redwood National Park
Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park in May

One of the most underrated places to visit in California in May is Redwood National and State Parks. Located along the northern California coast, here you’ll find lush, emerald green forests, full of towering redwood giants, in addition to stunning coastal views. 

Lace up your hiking boots because some of the best things to do in the Redwoods are hitting the trails. For an easy, but incredibly rewarding hike, you’ll want to do the 1-mile roundtrip hike through Fern Canyon, a beautiful canyon whose walls are covered in ferns.  

For a longer adventure, grab a permit to hike the Tall Trees trail, which will take you through a shady forest to groves of redwood trees, and where you can watch for yellow banana slugs! 

The weather is cool and mostly dry during the month of May, but the best part will be the almost non-existent crowds. Plan to spend at least two days in Redwoods National Park for the best experience – it’s a little hard to get here, but worth it! (Photo and Recommendation by Ale, Sea Salt & Fog)

Redwood National Park Lodging

San Diego
San Diego

San Diego in May

If you’re wondering the best time to go to San Diego, May offers great weather, with temperatures in the 60s to low 70s Fahrenheit, ideal for outdoor activities without the summer crowds. Be prepared for “May Gray,” a common occurrence of overcast skies early in the day.

Take advantage of this time to visit the Carlsbad Flower Fields, enjoy hiking at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, or explore the city’s beaches, perfect for water sports or relaxing. Sports fans can catch the San Diego Padres in action at Petco Park or support the San Diego Wave FC at Snapdragon Stadium.

May also brings cultural events like the Gator by the Bay and Cinco de Mayo celebrations, adding to the list of things to do. Remember to pack layers for the cooler evenings. (Photo and Recommendation by Melodie, Travel Must Do’s)

San Diego Lodging & Tours

San Francisco cable cars
San Francisco cable cars

San Francisco in May

The city of San Francisco in California radiates a beautiful appeal in May, making it an exceptional time to visit. This vibrant city, nestled by the bay, boasts a pleasantly mild climate, with average temperatures ranging from the high 50s to the mid-60s Fahrenheit. The weather in May is typically characterized by clear, sunny days interspersed with cool breezes, providing an ideal backdrop for exploring the city’s numerous attractions.

A visit to San Francisco is complete with admiring the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, whose majestic structure offers a picturesque setting against the azure sky. Take a ferry to Alcatraz Island, where history comes alive within the walls of the notorious former prison, now a fascinating museum. Stroll through the bustling streets of Chinatown, the oldest in North America, for an immersive cultural experience.

The city’s vibrant neighborhoods, such as the Mission District, are alive with art, music, and culinary delights, offering a taste of San Francisco’s diverse culture. For those seeking tranquility, the serene beauty of the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park provides a peaceful retreat amidst lush landscapes. (Recommendation by Victoria, Guide Your Travel)

San Francisco Lodging & Tours

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park in May

The Ahwahneechee people call it home. California considers it one of her treasures. Yosemite National Park is one of the most scenic national parks of the United States. I have visited Yosemite multiple times over the past few years. May is when I consider the park blooming in its most beautiful attire. Those ancient woods are beaming with new leaves and fresh life of spring. 

Beside massive waterfalls, giant sequoia trees, lush green meadows, multiple trails opening up to awe inspiring natural beauty, Yosemite celebrates the advent of spring in May. Most of the trails are snow free and easily accessible.

In May, Yosemite entrance reservations are required on Saturdays, Sundays, and Memorial Day holiday weekend. Unless you are extremely pressed for time, allocate at least a couple of days to really enjoy and explore Yosemite.

Services inside the park include a shuttle system that goes to almost every point of interest! You can try to book a luxury stay at Wawona hotel or the Yosemite Valley Lodge is an affordable yet nice option. A few options to stay outside the park can be found at the Hetch Hetchy area and Big Oak Flats.

To explore Yosemite, start with the Valley Floor Loop drive.This route will take you to the Yosemite Falls, El Capitan Meadow, Sentinel Bridge, Valley View point etc. During sunset, visit the Glacier point for a bird’s eye view of the park and many attractions like Half Dome, Nevada Falls, Vernal Falls, and the Valley Floor.

The Mariposa Grove is home to the giant Sequoia trees. Hike the easy to moderate trail  along the Grizzly Giant Loop and marvel at the beautiful blooms.

During late May, depending on weather conditions, drive through the scenic Tioga road connecting the East and West side of the Sierra and stop at Tenaya Lake overlook and Tuolumne Meadow. If you love to hike, the iconic Half dome hike in Yosemite is a breathtaking experience. Don’t forget to apply for a permit for that.
(Photo and Recommendation by Madhurima, Orange Wayfarer)

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