Best time to visit Western USA

With the sparkling Pacific Ocean lapping its shore and the vast chain of the Sierra Nevada mountains on its western boundary, California has markedly different weather to the interior western states of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Colorado. All of them are great places to visit at any time of year. It’s really a question of what kind of adventure you’re looking for.

USA's climate by season

  • Weather
  • Temperature (celsius)
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
San FranciscoRainShowersShowersSunny IntervalsSunSunSunSunSunny IntervalsShowersShowersShowers
Los AngelesRainRainRainCloudSunSunSunSunSunSunSunny IntervalsShowers
Las VegasSunSunSunSunSunSunSunSunSunSunSunSun
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
San Francisco141516171820202022211714
Los Angeles202121232426293029262320
Las Vegas141720253137403834271914
Golden gate bridge over body of water

Best time to visit California

Coastal California’s weather is often described as ‘Mediterranean’, with warm sunny summers and mild winters. During the peak tourist season from June to September, temperatures are in the mid 20s. Inland, summers are hotter and drier. Towards the borders with Nevada and Arizona, en route to Grand Canyon and Las Vegas, temperatures are high and National Park Authorities in places like Joshua Tree and Death Valley regularly warn people not to attempt to hike at this time of year.

As autumn arrives, San Francisco and California’s north coast region see some of their sunniest days with less likelihood of sea fog too. It remains pleasantly warm here until late October. Elsewhere expect mild weather and, in higher places like the High Sierra, you’ll see spectacular autumn foliage. It’s also a perfect time to visit if you like wine as the grape harvest is in full swing in the wine regions.

While winter on the coast is mild, up in the mountains of the High Sierra it’s the perfect time for snow lovers. Down in the desert, winter is a great time to visit Death Valley National Park with still days perfect for hiking and clear skies at night ideal for stargazing. Temperatures here in the desert are much more pleasant than during the scorching heat of summer.

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Red rock formations in Bryce NP, USA

Best time to visit Western USA

The climate in the US Western states of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado is hotter and harsher than California’s. Much of the area is desert-like with places like Las Vegas experiencing searing temperatures in summer. Temperatures aren’t quite so extreme in popular national parks like Grand and Bryce Canyons. But it’s still hot and sunny, so carry plenty of water and sunscreen. Rain tends to be in short bursts in late July and August. It can cool off quickly at night as the skies are clear and cloud-free, so pack at least one warm fleece with you.

Autumn is a lovely time to visit this part of the USA. Temperatures drop a little, and it’s perfect hiking and sightseeing weather, with swathes red, yellow and orange leaves. A truly magical sight. Grand Canyon’s north rim sees significant snowfall from November onwards and the visitor centre here is closed right up until mid-May.

Winter lasts a long time here and it’s cold with deep snow at higher elevations. Most of the parks stay open though and they look magical blanketed in white. It’s important to take note of local weather advice if you’re visiting in winter as some roads and certain sections of the parks are closed. The winter weather in Las Vegas is pleasantly mild with day time temperatures in the low teens. However, night time temperatures can often drop below freezing.

Spring temperatures in Western USA are fairly similar to autumn. At high elevations, the snow can hang around right until mid-April, but in the valleys and out on the desert plains wildflowers come into bloom and lush grasses burst into life. Late spring is a great time to visit the national parks as temperatures are ideal for walking but there are far fewer visitors. You’re also likely to see bears as they come out of hibernation and forage for food.

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  • a child in front of a view of San Fran
  • a shooting geyser
  • a tree overlooking a white sand beach
  • a group on a horseback tour

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