Places to Visit in California in the Summer

With its diverse landscape and mild weather, you’ll find a variety of places to visit in California in the summer. Whether you’re drawn to the beaches, national parks, or world-renowned vineyards, there are fun and unique locations waiting to be explored.

We’ve put together a list with our travel friends of California vacation ideas for visiting during the summer months of June, July, and August. This guide includes things to see, do, photograph, and eat at amazing must-see locations around the state!

places to visit in California in the summer

In Southern California, summer is synonymous with perfect weather. Expect temperature averages that hover in the delightful 70s to mid-80s Fahrenheit. Desert areas can experience much hotter temperatures, so if you’re venturing inland, prepare accordingly.

In contrast, Northern California presents a different summer experience, marked by a more varied climate. Unlike the consistent warmth of the south, this region can surprise visitors with its range of temperatures – from mild coastal fog in cities like San Francisco, where you might need a light jacket even in July, to the hotter, dry heat found further inland.

Check out this free California Bucket List packet for even more things to see, do and eat all around the state any time of year! Simply click the graphic below to get a ton of vacation ideas for visiting California!

California Bucket List optin
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map of summer vacation spots in California

Map of California Vacation Spots in the Summer

Here is a map of places to visit in California in the summer to help you plan your travel itinerary! This map guides you through California’s most coveted vacation spots during the summer months 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 the Summer

Both Northern and Southern California share a deep appreciation for the outdoors. Hiking, camping, and beach activities are popular in both regions, with numerous national parks and scenic spots to explore.

California National Parks in the Summer: These parks offer something for everyone, from guided tours to educational programs and interactive exhibits. You can learn about the history and geology of the parks, or even participate in conservation efforts through volunteer opportunities.

During the summer months of June, July, and August there are some National Park required reservations for Yosemite National Park and Muir Woods National Monument. It’s always best to check the specific park website for the most updated information for the time you’ll visit. 

Southern California Vacation Ideas: Enjoy a vibrant mix of picturesque beaches, sprawling cities, and sun-kissed deserts. It’s home to iconic destinations like Los Angeles, known for its entertainment industry, and San Diego, which boasts beautiful parks and a world-renowned zoo. The region also features stunning natural landscapes, from the serene Joshua Tree National Park to the dynamic Santa Monica Mountains.

Northern California Vacation Ideas: From the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to the serene beauty of Lake Tahoe, the region is a treasure trove of natural wonders and bustling urban areas. Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or a taste of culture, this region offers endless possibilities.

We have enlisted our travel friends to help us put together this list of places to visit in California in the summer. We share travel tips, things to do, and recommendations based on our experiences!

Big Bear Lake in California
Big Bear Lake

Big Bear, California in the Summer

Big Bear is a cozy small town nestled in the mountains where the Californian’s go to escape the bustling city and those from Arizona take a break from the heat. In fact, the location is absolutely perfect for experiencing all the seasons. Generally in the winter, it reached a low of 22 degrees Fahrenheit making it a winter wonderland. Throughout the rest of the year it stays about 50 to 80 degrees, being the perfect temperature for summer activities, without an overly intense heat. 

Of course, the small and cozy town of Big Bear in California is filled to the brim with activities for all ages, skill levels, season, and interests. It’s home to a very small population, filled with mom-and-pop shops, and locally run businesses hosting events and gear for your fun. Their most well known and prized activities are usually hiking, walking around the lake, visiting the farmers market, camping, kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, snowboarding, skiing, snowshoeing, biking, and even riding electric bikes.

No matter how you choose to enjoy the cozy small town of Big Bear, I’m that you’ll always keep a small place in your heart for it. It’s a place loved by many, and who knows, maybe you’ll choose to move there! (Photo and Recommendation by Serenity, Manifesting Serenity)

Where to Stay in Big Bear Lake

Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, California
Bixby Bridge in Big Sur

Big Sur, California in the Summer

Big Sur is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in California in summer. A fantastic place for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, Big Sur is a rugged stretch of California’s central coast between Carmel and San Simeon. 

Bordered to the east by the Santa Lucia Mountains and the west by the Pacific Ocean, Big Sur’s picturesque seaside cliffs and spectacular coastal views are truly a sight to behold. You may recognize the Bixby Bridge coastal section from its many appearances in TV and movies. 

Big Sur is popular for its numerous state parks, amazing hiking trails, great camping locations, and stunning beaches. But you can also find some of the best restaurants in California, exciting art galleries, high-end glamping, and five-star hotels like Post Ranch Inn and Ventana. 

To get to Big Sur you’ll need to traverse the winding Pacific Coast Highway to a point midway between Carmel and San Simeon. It’s approximately 5 hours south of San Francisco and 6 1/2 hours north of Los Angeles by car. 

Summer is peak tourist season in Big Sur, with the weather reaching pleasantly warm and sunny temps in the mid-70s, so be sure to book your accommodations early. (Photo and Recommendation by Jenn, Sick Girl Travels)

Big Sur Lodging & Tours

Central California Coast
Central California Coast

Central California Coast in the Summer

The Central California Coast is known for its amazing wine region and beaches, making it a perfect place to visit in the summer! San Luis Obispo is the perfect hub for exploring. While there, visit the many wineries in this region (I love Sextant Winery). Los Olivos has lots of excellent wineries as well and is a short drive away. 

Other great things to do include Sycamore Mineral Hot Spring, hiking in Pismo Beach Reserve, and Avila Beach. While at Avila Beach, don’t miss Pirate’s Cove. It’s just a short drive and walk along the coast. It’s a beautiful location for sunset and relaxing at the end of the day.

Take a bottle of wine from your winery exploring and enjoy a gorgeous California sunset! This is truly such a perfect destination in the summer and far less crowded than other parts of California, well worth considering a visit. (Photo and Recommendation by Meghan, The Traveling Teacher)

Where to Stay in Pismo Beach

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Crescent City, California in the Summer

When most people think of California, they are thinking of Southern California, and I want to tell you why you should head North. I have visited many beautiful places in California, but one of my absolute favorites is Crescent City and the Northern Redwoods.

This hidden gem of a destination has so much to offer, I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an unforgettable summer adventure. The temperatures are slightly cooler in Northern California during the summer months than more Southern locations. Average temperatures in the months of June, July and August are in the low 60’s Fahrenheit.

Crescent City is just south of the Oregon border and has incredible access to nature. The city is located right on the coast of the Pacific Ocean with beautiful beaches, wildlife, amazing restaurants, and is nestled in the stunning Northern Redwoods.

Some of my favorite things to do in the most Northern part of California includes: eating seafood; walking along the Fern Canyon trail; exploring Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park to see enormous ancient Redwood trees; tidepooling and viewing ocean creatures; and hunting for agate on the beaches close to Crescent City. 

Because of its location close to Oregon, it’s easy to continue heading North from here to explore all of the West Coast gems, including the Sol Duc River Valley and Olympic National Park in Oregon as well. (Recommendation by Jessica, Next Up Adventure)

Where To Stay Near Crescent City

Joshua Tree National Park in California
Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park in the Summer

Whilst the summer months in Joshua Tree National Park tend to be the hottest, it’s still an incredible place to visit as long as you’re prepared! The landscapes themselves are other-worldly and provide an awesome playground for short hikes, as well as rock climbing and photography.

Perhaps one of the highlights of Joshua Tree National Park, aside from its iconic nature, is its stargazing. The desert creates awesome dark skies where you can watch the Milky Way and practice your astrophotography! 

Located just a short drive from Los Angeles in southern California, it’s easy to add a day trip here to your itinerary. I recommend a scenic drive around the park (in your air-conditioned car) including stops at Arch Rock and Quail Springs; followed by a sunset at Cottonwood Springs Oasis; and ending the day watching the stars from Skull Rock. (Photo and Recommendation by Matt, Matt’s Next Steps)

Joshua Tree National Park Lodging & Tours

Hollywood Sign
Hollywood Sign

Los Angeles, California in the Summer

Los Angeles, often referred to as the “City of Angels,” is a sprawling city that offers an incredible array of attractions, making it the perfect destination for a summer getaway. The sunny, dry climate allows visitors to enjoy a wide variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains, biking on the Strand, and shopping in Beverly Hills. 

Los Angeles is a city of diverse offerings. It is home to miles of sandy coastline at beaches like Manhattan Beach and Zuma, where visitors can sunbathe, swim, and surf.  The city also boasts an array of cultural activities including numerous art, history, and science museums. 

For those who love music, there is nothing like seeing a concert at the iconic Hollywood Bowl or Walt Disney Concert Hall. You’ll find a variety of luxurious activities in Los Angeles like helicopter rides over the Hollywood sign, high-end day spas, boating excursions, and incredible restaurants. 

Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, explore world-class museums, or indulge in delicious cuisine, Los Angeles has something for everyone. (Photo and Recommendation by Michelle, The Trav Nav)

Los Angeles Lodging & Tours

Lassen Volcanic National Park in California
Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park in the Summer

Lassen Volcanic National Park is located in Northern California and features one of the world’s largest plug dome volcanoes. Summer (June to October) is the best time to visit this park since the snow tends to take a longer time to melt here. In fact, there have been spring snow storms even as late as June. In general, the weather is pleasant in summer, with daytime temperatures range from 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

With volcanic features, calm lakes, and lush forests, Lassen Volcanic National Park offers many opportunities for hiking. Bumpass Hell Trail is a moderate hike that’s popular among visitors as it takes you down to a hydrothermal area with bubbling mud pots. If you’re looking for a challenge, you can hike the summit trail to Lassen Peak for a rewarding view of the surrounding wilderness.  

As you drive through the park make sure to stop by some of the beautiful lakes, like Helen Lake, Emerald Lake, and Manzanita Lake. If you have more time, you can also go kayaking in Manzanita Lake for a refreshing relief from the summer heat. (Photo and Recommendation by Janice, Where’s Janice)

Lassen Volcanic National Park Lodging

Lake Mamie, Mammoth Lakes
Lake Mamie

Mammoth Lakes, California in the Summer

If you’re looking for a summertime getaway in California, Mammoth Lakes is one of the best destinations. Tucked into the jaw-dropping eastern Sierra Nevadas, this small mountain town is the perfect place for outdoor summer adventures. 

In the summertime, the snow and ice has melted at many of the world-class hiking trails in the surrounding area, like Minaret Falls, an easy trail to a rushing waterfall or the challenging but spectacularly beautiful Duck Pass and Pika Pass Trail, which leads to vibrantly hued alpine lakes. 

True to its name, the town also has plentiful lakes to kayak or paddle board in. For example, both June and Convict Lakes offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains. However, if you plan to actually get in the water at all, be prepared for it to be chilly—even in the summertime, these lakes are frosty! 

After all your outdoor adventures, finish your days off by enjoying the hot springs in Mammoth Lakes, like the Rock Hot Tub or Crab Cooker Hot Springs. Not only can you relax in the steamy waters, but you can also enjoy the fantastic views of the surrounding scenery. Just be sure to visit early in the morning or at sunset so that you can enjoy Mother Nature’s own hot tub without being in the heat of midday under the Californian sun. (Photo and Recommendation by Jessica, Uprooted Traveler)

Where To Stay Near Mammoth Lakes

Palm Springs, California
Hiking trail in Palm Springs

Palm Springs, California in the Summer

Visiting Palm Springs during the summertime is hot but the popular time to get away from LA and other Southern California locations to hang out with the locals in the desert, or more-so the oasis converted from the desert areas in the region.

Once a desolate and arid region that was only inhabited by the local indian people here called the Cahuilla Indians from Aguas Calientes. An alternate winter destination and cheap properties lured investors and the movie star elite to build vacations homes and eventually become a year – round destination on its own.

With great weather visitors flock to Palm Springs to live, have active outdoors lifestyles and celebrate outside. You’ll find fantastic promenades, shopping venues, a plethora of dining options to keep you entertained from day time and late into the night.

Outdoor enthusiasts can visit all the Indian canyons and parks along with the Federal national park at Joshua Tree National Park just a short gorgeous drive out in the desert. Check out the tram for some views or hiking adventures, visit the wildflower fields or so many different adventure experiences you can only do from Palm Springs. 

It really is a dream California destination and worth visiting to understand why the desert lifestyle is so appealing to Southern Californian’s and visitors from around the world. (Recommendation by Noel, Travel Photo Discovery)

Palm Springs Lodging & Tours

San Diego, California
San Diego

San Diego, California in the Summer

Summer in San Diego! The perfect time to enjoy baja-style fish tacos with a view. While you’re here, check out the sea lions sunbathing at La Jolla Cove and hop in the water for a bit of kayaking and paddle boarding. Take a surf lesson if you’re up for a new sport!

San Diego’s summers are perfect for strolls through its historic Gaslamp Quarter. Here, you can marvel at the old buildings or shop the trendy boutiques. A trip to Coronado is also a must. Take the ferry over, enjoy a gelato at Gelato Paradiso, and explore some great restaurants and historical spots. You can take a historic trolley ride if you want to learn more about this little gem off the coast of San Diego.

Summer temperatures here are unbeatable with highs in the 70s and virtually no rain. As someone who spends much of the year in Oahu, the weather is comparable – you can get paradise without the long trek!

You’ll notice everyone is out and about taking advantage of the outdoors, making it all the merrier. While the weather is warm, the ocean can still be a bit chilly, but that doesn’t stop locals and visitors alike from enjoying the city’s endless beaches, bays, and coves. (Photo and Recommendation by Rachel, Oahu Travel Secrets)

San Diego Lodging & Tours

San Francisco, California
San Francisco’s foggy view

San Francisco, California in the Summer

San Francisco, with its iconic landmarks and vibrant culture, is a captivating destination to explore during the summer months. The city’s mild climate makes it an ideal escape from the scorching heat experienced in other parts of California. Summer in San Francisco is characterized by cool temperatures, often shrouded in the city’s famous fog, creating a mystical ambience.

Visitors to San Francisco can embark on a multitude of adventures, from strolling along the historic waterfront at Fisherman’s Wharf to marveling at the engineering marvel of the Golden Gate Bridge. The city’s diverse neighborhoods offer an array of culinary delights, with farmers’ markets brimming with fresh produce and seafood.

Summer in San Francisco also brings a wealth of cultural events and festivals, including the renowned San Francisco Pride Parade and the Outside Lands Music Festival in Golden Gate Park. Art enthusiasts can explore world-class museums like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) or attend outdoor performances at the Stern Grove Festival.

For outdoor enthusiasts, hiking in the nearby Marin Headlands or biking across the Golden Gate Bridge provide breathtaking views of the city’s skyline and surrounding natural beauty. (Photo and Recommendation by Victoria, Guide Your Travel)

San Francisco Lodging & Tours

Sequoia National Park, California
Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park in the Summer

Sequoia National Park in the southern portion of the Sierra Nevada mountains of California is an awe-inspiring experience ANY time of year, but because of the elevation, summer is certainly the most comfortable time of year to visit this park. 

Currently the NPS does not require reservations to visit either Sequoia, or nearby Kings Canyon National Park at any time of the year, but it’s always smart to check the websites in advance of your visit, as rules frequently change. 

Consider hiring a naturalist/private tour guide to show you the highlights of the park, and some of the most incredible off-the-beaten path places that most tourists won’t be able to experience. I highly recommend Sequoia Tours that’s owned by a husband and wife team who met while working in Sequoia and have worked in and around the park for 20+ years.

Do not miss seeing the General Sherman tree (the largest tree in the world), and strolling amongst the giant sequoias on the 2-mile (a loop and fairly flat) Congress Trail. Summer is the only time you can experience the ranger-led evening campfire programs which are not only free, but always amazing, and never disappointing. (Photo and Recommendation by Heather, National Parks Mom)

Sequoia & Kings Canyon Lodging

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