does it snow in big sur

Does it snow in Big Sur? Big Sur is a historic town in central California. The term is derived from the Spanish phrase meaning “the big south,” “el sur grande.”

The climate is usually very comfortable in the area, but many people want to know, “Is there snow in Big Sur?”

Considering its location, it is quite common to have a good amount of rainfall in certain months. But, does it snow in Big Sur California?

It can snow in Big Sur especially close to the Santa Lucia Mountains, but it is very rare in the region due to its location. 

More about Big Sur Location and Climate

does it snow in big sur

Big Sur is located on the Central Coast of California and features extensive areas of wild, breathtaking scenery.

Over 90 miles long, it stretches out along the untamed Pacific. You can think of it as being around 300 miles north of Los Angeles and 150 miles south of San Francisco.

In addition to being a portion of the Los Padres National Forest, it is home to a number of state parks and two sizable natural areas. 

Getting Familiar with the Climate

Big Sur has a great climate. But, here’s the catch: the terrain is so variable around here that you will find microclimates.

Therefore, describing the weather in detail is challenging. In contrast to the cold and wet winters, the summers and autumns are mild and dry.

Coastal areas typically have more consistent temperatures. If you go deeper, away from the ocean’s influence, you may find more radical shifts. 

Precipitation in Big Sur

big sur precipitation

Annual precipitation at the State Park averages 42 centimeters (16.5 inches), with roughly 62 rainy days.

 In 1983, when 88.85 cm (35 inches) of rain fell, it was the wettest year on record. It did not rain more than 17.9 centimeters (7.1 inches) in any year until 1990.

MonthAvg. Hours of Sunshine/DayAvg. Days with Precipitation/MonthAvg. Sea Temperature (C)
Fact: Big Sur is an iconic American travel destination, but if you want to see it properly, you should plan to remain there for at least four days. 

Does It Snow in Big Sur?

snow in big sur

Okay, so you may be wondering if it snows in Big Sur. And if it does, “When does it snow in Big Sur?”

The truth is that Big Sur’s shoreline is too low for snow to fall.

However, the Santa Lucia Mountains’ higher elevations may get snowfall throughout the winter.

When it rains a lot in the winter, it might cause mudslides and floods. 

How Cold Does Big Sur Get in Winters?

cold level in big sur in winters

Highs average in the high 70s to low 60s, while lows average in the low 50s to high 40s, making for comfortable outdoor temperatures all year round.

Here’s a bit more about maximum and minimum avg. temperatures in Big Sur through the year:

MonthAvg. Maximum Temp (F)Avg. Minimum Temp (F)

While Big Sur bustles with tourists in September and October, the numbers are far more manageable than they are in the summer.

When the rainy season begins in November, that number drops even lower. 

Why Is Snow So Rare in Big Sur California?

why snow so rare in big sur

Big Sur is located in a region noted for its warm climate and coastal appeal.

However, there are a number of circumstances that come together to make snowfall unusual in Big Sur, California. 

Geographic Latitude

Big Sur’s geographic latitude is one of the primary reasons why snowfall is so uncommon there.

Big Sur is on the Pacific coast, meaning it is at a lower latitude than places with regular snowfall.

Nearer the equator, where the sun’s rays are the most direct and intense, temperatures are higher and snow is less likely to accumulate. 

Big Sur Elevation

elevation in big sur

Big Sur’s coastline areas may be milder than inland areas because of the Pacific Ocean. But, the surrounding terrain has a variety of elevation differences that contribute to the lack of snow.

Elevations of the Santa Lucia Mountains, which border Big Sur to the east, move up from the ocean.

Fact: Many of Big Sur's most recognizable landmarks are located in the lower coastal sections, which are typically snow-free through the year. 

Maritime Influences

maritime influences in big sur

The location of Big Sur directly along the Pacific Coast has a major impact on the local weather.

There are maritime-dominated basins to the west of these mountain ranges, and continental deserts to the east.

The California Current travels south along the western coast and helps keep things at a comfortable temperature.

Both the ocean’s moderating effect on temperature swings and the increased humidity it brings to land make it less likely that snow will fall there.

Fact: California's far northeastern corner and the desert region of southern California east of the mountains are both technically part of the Great Basin. 

Rain Shadow Effect

rain shadow effect in big sur

The rain shadow effect is one of the most fascinating aspects of Big Sur’s weather and snowfall patterns.

Beautiful Big Sur and Morro Bay are on the west coast of the Golden State, where the California Current relieves summer heat and helps maintain a constant wintertime temperature.

Both horizontal and vertical movement away from the tempering Pacific causes a shift in the weather, with the former producing hotter summers and the latter colder winters.

But, as Big Sur is in a rain shadow zone, it has relatively dry circumstances, because the air warms and dries as it descends on the leeward side of the mountains.

Rain and snow are uncommon in Big Sur because of the area’s location in a rain shadow.    

Microclimates and Variability

microclimates and variability in big sur

Snowfall at Big Sur is unusual for several reasons, but the above-mentioned aspects are only part of the story.

There are variations in:

  • Elevation
  • Terrain
  • Local conditions

These differences can give rise to microclimates or localized climate variations.

Short distances in Big Sur can experience vastly different temperature and precipitation levels due to the region’s unique microclimates.

Climate Change Considerations

climate change consideration in big sur

It is important to point out that climate change is making the weather less predictable than it used to be.

As temperatures rise around the world and the weather changes, even places like Big Sur that have not had much snow in the past might see changes.

In the past, it rarely snowed along the coast of Big Sur. But because the world as a whole is getting warmer, snow patterns could change.

Fact: Due to climate change, places higher up in the Santa Lucia Mountains might not get as much snow or have as many mudslides or road floods as usual in the winter. 

How Does Snow Impact Big Sur?

snow impact big sur

The combination of factors leads to a variety of issues when they eventually change the climate. The same holds for Big Sur California.

As rain is a rare occurrence, it can cause all sorts of issues when it finally happens.

For instance:

Route changesDue to snow-covered roads, travelers may have to change their plans and look for other ways to get where they are going.
Reduced accessibilitySnow can make hiking paths and lookout points unsafe, making it hard for tourists to get to some tourist spots.
Visitor fluctuationsSnow can keep some tourists away while drawing others, which can change the amount and patterns of tourists.

When is the Best Time to Visit Big Sur and Why?

the best time to visit big sur

Wishing for some sunshine and warmth? The best time to visit Big Sur is in August, when temperatures range from a low of 64.4 °F to a high of 77 °F.

On the other hand, January has a low of 42.8F and an average high of 51.8F, making it the coldest month of the year.

January typically had higher rainfall, at roughly 8.5 inches. The month of July, on the other hand, is typically the driest in Big Sur, with an average of 0 inches of precipitation. 

What to Do in Big Sur?

No matter when you plan to visit Big Sur, you will always find so many things to do here.

For instance:

  • In addition to the wonderful weather, autumn also features spectacular wildlife activity.
  • In September, it is common to see blue whales, humpback whales, and even orcas in the vicinity.
  • Andrew Molera State Park hosts a massive monarch butterfly migration every October.
big sur activities

It is also a great idea to participate in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park’s summer activities and programs like:

  • Nature hikes
  • Campfires
  • Educational youth programs 


Does it snow in Big Sur? Snow in Big Sur is rather uncommon. And that is mainly due to its location, terrain, and microclimates.

But, the good thing is that the weather stays pleasant through the year, which means you can plan a visit whenever you like.

While you may not encounter snow on your trip, you will still have plenty to do to make winters a lot more exciting.