California in October is magical. It’s also a great time for a California road trip. With summer travelers gone, it’s crowd-free while still offering the very best weather.
Whether you’re seeking sunny beaches, fall festivals, or off-the-beaten-track hikes, the Golden State has you covered.
California Weather in October
California’s weather in October is gorgeous!
It’s the very best time to visit California as long as you keep an eye on wildfires that are often fanned by the warm Santa Ana winds this time of year.
Obviously, the weather varies depending on where you go. In Southern California, it’s summer-like days with brilliant sunshine and no rain.
You can expect daytime temperatures in Southern California cities in the mid to high 70’s and 80s with occasional warm Santa Ana winds. Overnight lows are in the high 50s.
In Northern California, it ranges from brisk to cool. Lake Tahoe in October has increasing cloud cover, with average daytime temperatures in the low 60s and overnights in the high 30’s.
San Francisco weather in October is at its best with clear sunny days around 70 degrees and cool nights in the mid-50s.
Head to the desert for clear skies and days in the lows 90’s with overnights in the low 60s.
Best Places to Visit in October in California
1. San Diego in October
Looking for the best weather in California? Head to San Diego!
It’s arguably also the best weather in the United States, and that’s especially true in October. (But San Diego in winter is also beautiful!)
While other places in America are getting colder, San Diego still has perfect beach weather without oppressive heat or humidity, making it one of the best vacation spots in California in October.
Be sure to head to beautiful Balboa Park while you’re here. There are so many attractions that you could easily spend several days there.
In fact, the world-famous San Diego Zoo could take up an entire day all by itself. If you’ve got kids, Halloween festivities at the San Diego Zoo last for most of the month.
If you’re more interested in culture, visit the San Diego Museum of Man in the California Tower.
And if you’d rather be outside enjoying nature, take a moment to smell the stunning blooms in the rose garden. Or enjoy the beach scene in Encinitas.
Travelers who want to soak up some rays—those in search of the best beaches to visit in California in October—will love Coronado Beach.
This beach has often been voted one of the best beaches in the world, and if you’re from a colder climate it feel amazing to spend all day outside basking in the sunshine this time of year.
This beach is located on Coronado Island, so take the lovely Coronado Ferry from downtown San Diego to get there.
Arguably the most fun event in San Diego in October is the Dia de los Muertos celebration in Old Town.
The whole area comes alive with giant colorful skeletons and music performances.
Just a short walk away is the haunted Whaley House which has extended hours and special ghost tours in October only for the Halloween season.
Where to stay in San Diego
Stay in swank La Jolla at the historic Valencia Hotel. With its old world charm and sea views, this Mediterranean villa is one of my favorite staycations when I’m in town!
Stella | Around the World in 24 Hours
2. Joshua Tree National Park in October
One of the best places to visit in California in October is Joshua Tree National Park. It makes a great weekend getaway in Southern California.
Straddling the Mojave and Colorado deserts, Joshua Tree cools down enough in October that being outdoors during the day is pleasant.
If you enjoy rock climbing, you will love visiting this desert park, which is famous for the huge boulders that dot the park landscape.
Even if you are not a professional climber, you can have fun rock scrambling; many boulder masses are flat and it’s easy to find your way up to the top.
Apart from rock climbing, hiking is one of the most popular things to do in Joshua Tree National Park.
There are several short, family-friendly trails as well as more challenging ones, like the hike to the top of Ryan Mountain for great views over the park.
You can also tour historic ranches in the park, built by early ranchers and miners.
Enjoy driving through the park and observing its diverse flora and fauna.
If you decide to spend a night or two, stargaze: Joshua Tree is a dark skies area and you can see the Milky Way clearly on a cloudless, moonless night.
Where to stay in Joshua Tree
How about a romantic hideaway for two in a secluded canyon? Hawks View House is just 6 minutes from “downtown” Joshua Tree and a short drive from the park.
This 1950s homesteader cabin was built from scratch…with all the amenities! It’s the perfect spot for stargazing.
Looking for more ideas? See a list of bucket list places to stay in Joshua Tree here.
Dhara | Roadtripping California
3. Redwood National Park in October
For some of the best displays of fall foliage in California, head to the Redwood National Park/Forest in Northern California; it’s one of the best nature places in California to visit.
The majestic redwoods span a wide area, but the main bulk of trees can be found between Crescent City and Eureka on the ancestral lands of the Yurok, Tolowa, Wiyot, and multiple Athabascan tribes and bands.
During the month of October, the area transforms into a painting of red, orange, and yellow leaves amongst the giant redwood trees.
Plus, by October, most of the large and busy summer crowds have returned home.
And yet, there is still enough daylight for hiking and visiting the park centers and cafes.
There isn’t a bus service or direct shuttle from the major “nearby” cities (San Francisco or Sacramento), so having your own car would be highly preferred if you don’t want to book a tour group experience.
For short day trips, a drive through the “Avenue of the Giants” will take you through the tallest redwood trees, cafes, gift shops, and restaurants.
However, for longer trips, base your trip in Klamath. Explore some of the many popular things to do in Redwood National Park, such as hiking Redwood Creek Trail and Fern Canyon.
Where to stay near Redwood National Park
Stay in seaside farm home nearby Orick. Located on 10 acres with panoramic ocean views and surrounded by forest, it’s just a short drive to the park.
Check availability on on the Orick farmhouse here.
Kay | The Awkward Traveler
4. Mammoth Lakes in October
Mammoth Lakes is beautiful mid-October. In fact, it’s one of the nicest places to go in California.
The trees turn shades of yellow and orange and hug the granite Sierra Nevada peaks.
The days are still warm and the nights are cool, making it perfect for hiking, backpacking, stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, boating, fishing, or any other outdoor activity.
If you’re not feeling like camping, you have several hotel and cabin options in town.
For camping, Twin Lakes or Lake Mary campgrounds are great options. You can also find free dispersed camp by the Mammoth hot springs.
There are many scenic drives throughout the area to see the fall colors like the Mammoth Scenic Loop of Convict Lake.
There are also many day hiking and backpacking options too.
If you’re looking for a hike or a backpacking trip, the trails from Reds Meadow, Devils Postpile and Agnew Meadow lead through beautiful fall colors.
Ediza Lake, Rainbow Falls, Minaret Lake, and Thousand Island Lake are also delightful hikes.
There are many stops along the 395 highway to explore the local charms and fall colors.
If you’re coming from the south, you can stop and watch the sunrise over Mt. Whitney from Alabama Hills, hike and explore around Lake Sabrina out of Bishop, explore around Mono Lake, or head into Yosemite from the Eastside.
Go further north into Bridgeport and check out the fall colors and trails there.
Where to stay in Mammoth
Stay in a cozy ski in-ski out home with a woodsy feel. This is the perfect place to gather for an upscale base nestled in the pine trees.
Jenny | Campsite Vibes
5. San Francisco in October
While the City by the Bay can feel downright icy to visitors in the summer, days are soft and sunny in October.
(Bring a jacket for evenings though when the chilly fog settles back around the city!) It’s one of the best times to visit Northern California.
There’s no just no better month to explore San Francisco’s iconic neighborhoods. Steep yourself in 1960’s Haight Ashbury. Taste tea in Chinatown. Hike Twin Peaks to catch a sunset.
Looking for something spooky? Take a night tour of Alcatraz or a haunted walking tour.
October is also the month for San Francisco’s beer and spirits festivals. Check out Oktoberfest or the Botanicals and Brews Beer Garden at the tropical Conservatory of Flowers.
Meander through a pumpkin patch near Golden Gate Park or celebrate Fleet Week, the navy air show and parade of ships honoring those who serve in the armed forces.
October is also an excellent month for a hike in nearby Muir Woods or a bay cruise to see the city lights twinkle in the night.
If you’re looking to celebrate autumn in California, you can’t beat San Francisco!
Where to stay in San Francisco
Stay at Inn San Francisco in the Mission District. This plush Victorian B&B includes a daily breakfast buffet, hot tub, and garden to relax in.
Check price and availability at the Inn San Francisco here.
Chris | Explore Now or Never
6. June Lake in October
June Lake is a fantastic location to visit during October in California because of the incredible fall color display, water activities, and scenic hikes!
Tucked away in the Sierra Nevada mountains, June Lake is just a short 20-minute drive from Mammoth Lakes in Northern California.
Mid-October is peak color season to witness the vibrant yellow and orange leaves!
Experiencing seasons in California, in general, is rare, so this spectacular location is a must-see.
Rent a local Airbnb or stay at the Big Rock Resort located steps away from June Lake.
There is plenty to do here including renting a kayak for $25 a day at the Silverlake Resort General Store and taking in the breathtaking mountain views as you glide across the calm waters of the lake.
Four different lakes make up the June Lake Loop including June Lake, Gull Lake, Silver Lake, and Grant Lake.
Incredible hikes for all levels are available to explore such as the Parker Lake Trailhead, a 3.6-mile round trip hike that brings you to the secluded Parker Lake.
To complete your trip, stop by the local pub, June Lake Brewing, for a crisp beer and grab a bite to eat from the featured food truck on-site.
Where to stay in June Lake
Stay in a lakefront cabin next to the marina and across the street from June Lake.
With fully equipped kitchens and a 5 minute walk to anything else you might need, this is the perfect base for your June Lake getaway.
Check price and availability on the June Lake cabin here.
Erin | The Gal on the Go
7. Santa Barbara in October
Santa Barbara, 100 miles north west of Los Angeles, is undoubtedly one of California’s most charming and elegant cities.
Located on a south-facing section of the Pacific coastline, Santa Barbara boasts miles of wide sandy beaches with the stunning backdrop of the Santa Ynez Mountains.
Beach time should definitely be on your Santa Barbara itinerary.
This is a city that offers visitors copious opportunities to enjoy a diverse range of activities.
It’s the perfect environment for outdoor sports, a world-class reputation for food and wine, and a city center of beautiful white stucco buildings and red tile roofs celebrating the city’s Spanish influence.
A visit to Santa Barbara in October’s shoulder season is the perfect time to enjoy all these experiences away from the busier summer months while still enjoying golden sunshine and warm temperatures.
One of the best reasons to visit Santa Barbara in October? The famous Harbor & Seafood Festival.
What better way to celebrate the region’s rich local products?
The festival features the freshest shellfish from lobster and crab to oysters and mussels, all premium quality and sustainably sourced.
Wash it down with a glass or two of local wine from the Santa Ynez Valley as the sun sets over Stearn Wharf, California’s oldest working pier to enjoy a day you will never forget.
Where to stay in Santa Barbara
Stay at Bath Street Inn right downtown. This adorable Victoria B&B offers a full hot gourmet breakfast daily, daily wine and cheese hour, and evening desserts.
Check price and availability on Bath Street Inn here.
Paul | The Two that Do
8. Yosemite in October
Yosemite National Park is a world heritage site in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains.
It is famed for its amazing vistas, giant sequoia trees, and spectacular cliffs. Plus, fall and it’s fewer crowds makes a great time to visit Yosemite with kids.
October is a fantastic time to visit this 3,000 square kilometre California park.
Visitor numbers are considerably lower than during the summer but the majority of key attractions are still open.
This means minimal traffic and fewer people on key walks and hikes.
But perhaps the best reason to visit Yosemite National Park in October is the fall foliage and the crisp light at this time of year.
Throughout the park, leaves have turned every shade of yellow and red.
While these colors are stunning on their own, they are spectacular when they frame Yosemite’s iconic views like El Capitan and Tunnel View.
The Yosemite Valley is the most visited part of Yosemite National Park for good reason.
This stunning 8-mile loop road is flanked by deciduous trees that transform into a near rainbow of colors in the fall. The valley is also home to the Half Dome and El Capitan rocks.
My favorite October viewpoint in the Valley is just past El Capitan bridge at the Merced River picnic area.
Don’t miss Glacier Point, Tunnel View, and the giant sequoias at Mariposa Grove.
Where to stay in Yosemite
Stay at The Ahwahnee, the crown jewel of lodges in the U.S. national parks. Designed to highlight views of Half Dome, Glaicer Point, and Yosemite Falls, staying here is a bucket list experience.
Check prices and availability on The historic Ahwahnee Hotel here.
Amanda | The Boutique Adventurer
9. Los Angeles in October
Los Angeles is the perfect California destination in October. Whether you’ve got one day in LA, or several, fall is always a great time to visit.
By the time October rolls around, the kids have gone back to school and the summer crowds will have long since gone home.
This means you’ll get to experience many of the city’s biggest attractions with shorter lines and less traffic.
October in LA is perfect for visiting the city’s most popular outdoor destinations like Griffith Park, Runyon Canyon, Santa Monica Pier, and Venice Beach.
The mild temperatures in October will make any of these locations an ideal place to spend an afternoon.
October is also the perfect time to visit LA if you enjoy Halloween.
The city takes its Halloween celebrations seriously, and you’ll definitely want to participate if you can.
Some of the city’s best Halloween celebrations happen in West Hollywood and at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Be sure to plan ahead for these events as you’ll want to show up in costume.
Where to stay in LA
Stay at the Huntley Santa Montica Beach Hotel. Just a 5 minute walk to the 3rd Street Promenade, this luxe hotel offers awesome ocean views and an onsite restaurant.
Check prices and availability on the Huntle Santa Monica Beach Hotel here.
Eden | Rock a Little Travel
10. Lake Tahoe in October
Lake Tahoe is one of those destinations that is beautiful year-round and October is no exception.
Nestled in the basin of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, this alpine lake destination is filled with gorgeous views, plenty of outdoor activities, and cozy cabins when the weather turns chilly.
Hiking in October in Lake Tahoe is simply perfect.
Cooler temperatures are just right for climbing high for incredible vistas like the ones found on the Tahoe Rim Connector Trail in Van Sickle Bi-State Park.
Take in the views on this 2.2 mile round trip hike or continue up all the way up to the rim for more of a challenge.
Eagle Falls and Fallen Leaf Lake are also great trails to add to your list.
The brand new, paved East Shore Trail is a must-do no matter what your skill level, and provides an up close and personal view around the edge of the lake from Incline Village to Sand Harbor.
Stroller and bike-friendly, with plenty of lookout points and rest stops, the beauty on this trail is breath-taking.
If you are lucky, the warm weather may extend into the month just enough to add paddle boarding or kayaking to your daily activities.
You’ll likely find the lake too cool to swim in during October, but experiencing the water by boat would be a perfect option.
While much of the trees are evergreen, you’ll find that the aspens turn a gorgeous golden color in early to mid-October.
Zephyr Cove, Hope Valley, and Fallen Leaf Lake are all spots to visit if leaf peeping is on your bucket list.
Lake Tahoe weather in October is beautiful but crisp. Temperatures will fall in the evenings, so cozy accommodations are a must.
Where to stay in Lake Tahoe
Stay in at the rustic and romantic Brockway Cabin. It’s historic Tahoe Charm + easy access to groceries and restaurants.
Check prices and availability on the Brockway Cabin here. Or this list of best Airbnbs for families here.
Sierra | Free to Travel Mama
11. Palm Springs in October
Less than two hours by car from Los Angeles, Palm Springs is a popular desert getaway for many, particularly in October.
It’s also one of the best places to visit in the U.S. in November.
October is the perfect time to visit when the triple-digit temperatures start to subside and the sunny days become more bearable for outdoor activities.
Palm Springs hosts festivals every October ranging from art fairs to music festivals to Oktoberfest, so there is something for everyone.
In the 1920s and 30s, famous Hollywood stars began to visit Palm Springs, making it popular well beyond those living in Southern California.
Many built houses that remain there today, drawing onlookers for the fame or the architecture. Certain areas still have such charming buildings, houses, and shops.
My favorite activities in Palm Springs typically revolve around time outdoors…whether lounging near the pool, hiking in the nearby Joshua Tree National Park, or taking the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up the mountain to take in the views.
All of these things are best done when temperatures start to cool in the fall.
In the evening, restaurants, bars, and shops on Palm Canyon Drive are a great stop for dinner and entertainment.
Another unique experience best saved for fall evenings is to soak in natural hot spring mineral water, which can be found at a number of hotels in the area and really do leave your skin feeling soft.
Where to stay in Palm Springs
Stay (and save) at El Morocco Inn & Spa in nearby Desert Hot Springs…just 15 minutes from Palm Springs.
This four star B&B offers a lounge, garden, and continental breakfast served up with luxe So Cal style ambiance.
Check price and availability on El Morocco Inn & Spa here.
Monica |This Rare Earth
12. Pismo Beach in October
As a coastal city in California, Pismo Beach makes a perfect destination for those looking for a beach vacation with great ocean views.
From the historic Pismo Beach pier and Dinosaur Caves Park to Monarch Butterfly Grove and stunning Oceano Dunes, there are plenty of places to visit in Pismo beach.
If you are a foodie and visit Pismo Beach in October, don’t miss the Pismo Beach Clam Festival that’s held each October. Most of the events take place near the pier parking lot at Pismo Beach.
Although this local festival prioritizes various kinds of foods, you can also enjoy live music, food trucks, a wine walk, parade, and many more entertaining activities.
This three-day festival offers an unparalleled chance to taste some of the best seafood and clam chowder as well as to enjoy countless fun activities including a clam dig, local clam chowder contest, and surfing.
The first clam festival in Pismo Beach was held in 1946. Today, this community tradition attracts more than 15,000 people each year.
Pismo Beach Clam Festival has something for all age groups.
While you are enjoying the live band performance of the best local musicians, the smallest member of your family can enjoy the clam dig where the kids dig in the sand for clams in order to win prizes.
The wine walk is a must for wine lovers. Enjoy a tasting here to explore the developing wine culture of this small California beach town.
Entry is free for all, but activities are available for a fee.
Where to stay in Pismo Beach
It’s just 1,000 feet from Pismo Beach Pier! Check price and availability on Ocean Palms Motel here.
Tijit | Budget Travel Buff
13. Knott’s Berry Farm in October
One of the best places to visit in California during October is Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park.
That’s when the oldest theme park in the United States transforms into a Knott’s Scary Farm, a spooky Southern California destination full of Halloween fun!
Now, it’s not just a few Halloween decorations.
The entire park actually transforms with more than a thousand creepy creatures hiding around every nook and cranny in the park for an immersive experience.
Plus, there are haunted mazes, blood-curdling shows, and terrifying attractions.
While most of the nightmare-inducing Halloween festivities are geared for teens and adults, there is an event geared for little kids. It’s called Knott’s Spooky Farm.
These not-so-scary Halloween activities happen during the daytime and include trick or treating, watching magic shows, and participating in a costume contest.
It’s just one of the many fun things to do at Knott’s Berry Farm with kids.
On top of all this, Knott’s Berry Farm also has special Halloween treats you’ll definitely want to try.
Where to stay near Knott’s Berry Farm
I recommend staying at the Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel since it’s just steps away from the park.
Plus, you can book a suite where Snoopy himself will come and tuck you in at bedtime! Check prices and availability on Airbnb here.
Marcie | Marcie in Mommyalnd
14. Coronado in October
October is a great month to visit Coronado. The summer crowds have disappeared but the weather is still very pleasant with an average high in the low to mid 70s.
If you are lucky, you might even get a few days in the mid 80s, which would be perfect for a day on the beach.
There are also quite a few fun events in Coronado in October that are worth checking out.
Each year, the city of Coronado organizes a little Octoberfest. It takes places at the picturesque Coronado Ferry Landing docks with stunning views of San Diego downtown.
With your ticket, you will get unlimited refills of 20 varieties of German and local craft beers.
Also, Coronado has been named one of the top 10 places to go trick-or-treating in the United States and one of the best places to celebrate Halloween.
Many of the houses put out elaborate Halloween decorations and give out tons of candy.
If you are up for a spooky event for adults, visit the Hotel Del Halloween party. This adult-only costume party includes a wine-tasting, delicious treats, and a costume contest.
Where to stay on Coronado Island
If you are staying at the Hotel Del with your family, they also organize a Halloween party for kids.
Otherwise, stay at Loews Coronado Bay Resort. With three pools and a full servie marina, this luxury resort is a treat!
Check prices and availability on Loews Coronado Bay Resort here.
Maria | San Diego Explorer
15. Monterey in October
Monterey is a coastal city off of the central coast and only a stone’s throw away from San Francisco.
In the fall, the weather in Monterey is ideal, with moderate temperatures, less coastal fog, and beautiful sunny skies. It is truly the perfect season for outdoor activities.
Explore Monterey’s Old Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row for a glimpse into Monterey’s vibrant history and the fishing and canning town it used to be.
You can also take a walk along the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail to travel between Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row; it’s a great way to see Monterey while getting in a bit of exercise.
You can even take the same trail over to Pacific Grove, check out the harbor seals there, see Lovers Point Park, and make your way over to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary.
During the month of October, monarch butterflies rest at the eucalyptus grove here and you’ll get a chance to see them nesting in the trees.
Spend a weekend in Monterey and you’ll get a chance to explore the rugged coastline, beautiful hikes, and so much more.
Where to stay in Monterey
Stay at The Merritt House Hotel, a beautiful boutique hotel within walking distance of Fisherman’s Wharf.
Check price and availability at The Mertitt House Hotel here.
Constance | The Adventures of Panda Bear
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