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Have you ever wanted to visit Southern California but did not know which season was best for you? Well, this post will help you choose the perfect season to pack your bags and visit the wonders of Southern California. Each season offers its unique characteristics, and planning it right will allow you to make the most out of any SoCal nomad adventure.
The answer is simple; there is no bad season in Southern California. The real question is, what season is perfect for you? Each season offers unique experiences and adventures that will keep you entertained and wanting to come back year after year.
The perfect season for you might be just lying on the beach, hiking in the mountains, or skiing and surfing on the same day. Each person is different, so determining which season is best for you is the first step in having a fantastic experience.
Although I said there is no bad season in Southern California, I believe there is a perfect season. I will not tell you that season right now, but I think you can figure it out as you read the blog post.
If you are into hiking, camping, skiing, surfing, and fishing, knowing the best season for each is essential. So, I jotted down real fast what I believe is the best season for each activity. Although it is just a short subset, it gives you a quick understanding of what season I think is best for you.
Now that we have a quick understanding of what activities are best during each season, we can figure out where to do those activities. We must grasp what each season is about to understand each season’s specific nuances. You do not want to go surfing for big waves but end up going in the summertime when the waves are smaller.
One of the most significant factors determining which season to visit Southern California is the weather. The weather can range significantly throughout the year between the beaches, deserts, and mountains.
As much as I love the desert, you do not want to end up visiting the Mojave Desert in the middle of August when temperatures can reach as high as 120 degrees.
Air temperature also plays an important role when visiting the beach. Although the beach temperatures are not as extreme as the desert, it is crucial to understand that the beach can get cold at night and produce a lot of moisture.
Along with air temperature, a good understanding of the water temperature will help you choose a good season. The Pacific Ocean is naturally very cold, especially during the wintertime when ocean temperatures reach 52 degrees. (Cold)
The table below will give you a quick understanding of the average seasonal temperatures for each of the main locations I have highlighted. The locations range from the desert to the coast and the mountain areas. It will give you an idea of the vast temperature differences throughout the seasons.
|Anza Borrego Desert State Park||70/44||82/51||104/73||87/58|
|Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve||59/31||73/45||95/67||67/36|
|Joshua Tree National Park||63/38||78/46||100/71||81/52|
|Oceano Dunes SVRA||66/44||69/46||71/53||72/50|
|San Onofre State Beach||64/50||64/54||70/62||70/59|
Winter is one of the most underrated times to visit Southern California. If you have ever had the goal of surfing and skiing on the same day, this is the season for you.
On multiple occasions growing up in Southern California, I went surfing early in the morning and afterward hopped in my car and drove up to Big Bear to ski. Although I did not do this a lot, it makes for an authentic Southern California experience.
The winter temperatures in Southern California can range from cool on the beaches to extremely cold in the mountains and the desert.
Some people are shocked to find out that desert temperatures can reach below freezing during the winter. This does not make for the best boondocking an RV nomad experience.
The table below will give you a rough estimate of the highs and lows throughout the winter season for the desert, beach, mountains, and inland coastal areas. Each of these areas is depicted by a popular van and RV nomad location.
|San Onofre State Beach||71/54||73/55||71/53||74/53|
|Joshua Tree National Park||58/35||60/37||63/38||71/42|
|Oceano Dunes SVRA||65/43||64/43||65/44||67/45|
Best Winter Adventure
Ski and Snowboarding: the biggest winter adventure in Southern California is skiing and snowboarding. Although Southern California is not the most extensive ski destination in the world, it does have a couple of decent size ski resorts located two hours outside of Los Angeles.
The most popular ski resorts are in the towns of Big Bear and Wrightwood. These ski resorts are Snow Summit and Bear Mountain. Each of these ski resorts offers a beautiful day of skiing and snowboarding. Snow Summit is my favorite because it is where I learned to ski.
The town of Wrightwood is also located two hours outside of Los Angeles and has a ski resort called Mountain High. Mountain High is a smaller ski resort but a fun place to ski and snow.
Other smaller ski resorts in Southern California include Snow Valley and Mt. Baldy. I have not skier either of these resorts.
The skiing and snowboarding in Southern California can get crowded. However, I think you can find a few good days where you can enjoy the mountain to yourself.
The only problem is that most campgrounds are closed in the mountains during the winter. A few RV resorts might stay open, but most close. That means you must find a campground or boondocking location off the mountain.
Surfing: The winter has the best surfing conditions in Southern California. This is the time of the year when northwest swells hit the beaches and cause bigger waves. Make sure you are at a west-facing beach to get these big swells. However, every beach will be affected by these swells regardless of their facing direction.
Below is a list of good beached for winter surfing.
Just remember to pack your wetsuit because the ocean temperature can get freezing. The average ocean temperature in the wintertime is 56F, but I have seen it get down to 52F. The cold water will wake you up the moment your toes hit the water.
Surf and Ski in the Same Day: The goal of every surfer and skier in Southern California is to ski and surf on the same day. Most surf breaks in Los Angeles and Orange County are within a two-hour drive of Big Bear, which is possible.
If you surf early in the morning, you can be on the road to Big Bear by 8 am. You will be hitting the slopes by 11 am depending on traffic, with a two-hour drive. Then you can tell your friends that you surfed and skied on the same day.
Best Secret Winter Adventure
Photography: the best secret adventure during the wintertime in Southern California is photography. Throughout most of the year, the air is hazy and even smoggy in the big cities. That does not make for the best photography. The air can get downright gloomy during the famous May grey and June gloom.
However, during the wintertime, the winds force the haze and smog out to sea. The air quality clears up to see from the mountains to Catalina island off the coast. This makes for the perfect time of getting that ideal mountain, beach, or night photo you have always wanted.
I like to go out to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park during the wintertime and take my night photography shots. Although it is cold during the night, I can get some fantastic photographs.
The spring temperatures throughout Southern California range from cool at the beaches and coastal sections to perfect in the mountains and the desert.
Springtime is without a doubt my favorite time to be a van nomad in Southern California. The temperature in the deserts is perfect, and the mountains have mild temperatures. The odds of you running into uncomfortable temperatures during this time are exceedingly rare.
The table below will give you a rough estimate of the highs and lows throughout the spring season for the desert, beach, mountains, and inland coastal areas. Each of these areas is depicted by a popular van and RV nomad location.
|San Onofre State Beach||74/53||74/54||78/57||82/59|
|Joshua Tree National Park||71/42||78/47||85/53||96/62|
|Oceano Dunes SVRA||67/45||69/46||70/48||71/50|
Best Spring Adventure
Desert Hiking: exploring and hiking throughout the desert during the springtime is probably one of my most enjoyable adventures. If it were not for surfing, it would be number one.
The desert offers endless miles of hiking through its stunning terrain during this time. This is when you will get rain showers that allow the desert to bloom and, even on occasions, have super blooms.
Hiking throughout the desert during a super bloom is probably the most beautiful thing I have ever done. You will find miles and miles of poppies and various flowers of different colors from purple, orange, and blue throughout the desert.
My favorite place to go in the desert during the springtime is the Anza-Borrego Desert. It has plenty of boondocking areas for you to camp and pleasant and mild temperatures.
It is also an excellent time to explore the Antelope Valley in northern Los Angeles County. There you will find the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve, which is a fantastic place during any super bloom.
Best Spring Secret Adventure
Kite Surfing: the best secret adventure during the springtime is kite surfing. From spring to summer, the winds pick up around Southern California and offer an excellent opportunity for anyone to learn or go kite surfing.
Kite surfing is a fun sport, but it takes a lot of equipment, practice, and perfect weather condition. But if you ever feel like learning how to do it, this is the perfect season to try.
A few of the good locations for kite surfing in Southern California are Long Beach, Mission Bay in San Diego, and Pismo Beach. Each of these locations offers great kite surfing when the wind is blowing. A few kite surfing schools are located at each of these locations.
The summertime is still a good time to go kite surfing, but the winds are less predictable, and the crowds are higher, so that’s why I prefer the springtime.
The summer temperatures throughout Southern California can range from warm on the beaches to hot in the inland and desert areas.
Warning: This is not the time to explore the desert due to the scorching temperatures and lack of water. The temperatures in the desert might start as mild in the morning but can reach over 100F by midday.
The table below will give you a rough estimate of the highs and lows throughout the summer season for the desert, beach, mountains, and inland coastal areas. Each of these areas is depicted by a popular van and RV nomad location.
|San Onofre State Beach||82/59||90/64||91/65||91/65|
|Joshua Tree National Park||96/62||100/71||99/69||93/64|
|Oceano Dunes SVRA||71/50||71/53||72/53||73/53|
Best Summer Adventure
The Beach: the beach is the number one activity during the summertime, no competition here. This is the perfect time to go surfing and work on your tan.
Summertime is when most kids are out of school, and the beaches are crowded. However, the water temperature is a lot warmer, and the swells are smaller and gentler to learn on, unlike the winter swells.
If you are not into surfing, that is OK. The beach is still a wonderful place to hang out for the day, have a barbecue, or go camping. Just make sure you understand that finding a campsite on the beach during this time is difficult unless you make reservations months in advance.
Best Secret Adventure
Paddle Boarding: the best secret adventure during the summertime is paddle boarding on the various mountain lakes throughout Southern California. This is the time when these lakes are open and offer an excellent opportunity to go paddleboarding.
The lake water temperatures are also warmer, so it’s no big deal if you end up falling in. This is when you can find that perfect mountain lake and have an enjoyable experience.
The fall temperatures throughout Southern California can range from warm to cool. The beaches will cool down, but the rest of the region will stay warm and comfortable.
Although the desert can still see days where temperatures can reach over 100F, they are smaller in numbers.
The table below will give you a rough estimate of the highs and lows throughout the fall season for the desert, beach, mountains, and inland coastal areas. Each of these areas is depicted by a popular van and RV nomad location.
|San Onofre State Beach||91/65||83/62||79/58||71/54|
|Joshua Tree National Park||93/64||81/52||69/43||58/35|
|Oceano Dunes SVRA||73/53||72/50||69/46||65/43|
Best Fall Adventure
Camping: the best fall adventure is camping. During the fall, the crowds are a lot less, the weather is mild, and there are fewer bugs. This is the perfect time to go camping at that campsite you always wanted to try.
I especially recommend campsites in the mountains around Kernville and the northern Southern California beach Pismo Beach and Morro Bay. This is the perfect time to go camping in those areas.
Best Secret Fall Adventure
Exploring the Cities: this might not seem like a secret adventure but exploring the big cities of Southern California is perfect during this time. There are fewer people on the roads, the tourists have gone home, and gas prices are lower.
With the campgrounds less crowded, this is the perfect time to find campgrounds or boondocking locations close to the cities. This will allow you to explore the city and see what it offers.
The cities I recommend exploring are Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Monterrey. These towns and cities are extremely crowded during the spring and summer months, allowing you to explore them without the crowds during the fall.
As you can see throughout this blog post, there is no bad season to visit Southern California. The only season I would indeed avoid is just visiting the desert during the summertime, but I do not think I have to explain that to you. Southern California is a beautiful place that offers endless amounts of adventure throughout every season. I hope you found this blog article interesting, informative, and helps you plan your next trip. See you out there.
What are the top 5 boondocking locations in SoCal for van and RV lifers? The top 5 boondocking locations are: Anza Borrego Desert Joshua Tree