Discover the Coldest Place in California

Written by Brandi Allred
Updated: June 2, 2023
© eyerazor/
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Key Points:

  • The coldest temperature ever recorded in California was in the mountains near Lake Tahoe, but the coldest average daily temperature is just north of San Francisco Bay.
  • Low daily temperatures are caused by marine air coming from the Pacific.
  • It may be only an average of 59 degrees year-round, but there is still lots to do and see in the coldest place in California.

By almost any metric, California is big. That is to say, it’s huge. It has a gigantic population, and parts of it are incredibly densely populated. California is the third largest state in the country, behind only Alaska and Texas. However, with nearly 40 million residents, it has the highest population of any U.S. state. Originally inhabited for thousands of years by Native American peoples, California was first admitted to the United States in 1850. Stretching for hundreds of miles from north to south along the Pacific Ocean, California is home to a diverse climate and ecology. But, what about the coldest place in California?

Here, we’ll find out just how cold California can get, and where the coldest place in the state actually is. We’ll also learn about the coldest temperature ever recorded in California. Then, we’ll go over the history and local ecology of the coldest place in California. Finally, we’ll find out what there is to do in the area, and how to stay warm when you visit.

The Coldest Place in California

San rafael
San Rafael is the coldest place in California.

© Photography

While generally speaking, Bodie is the coldest place in California, when measuring by average maximum temperature, San Rafael is the coldest place in California. San Rafael is located near San Francisco Bay, just north of San Francisco; it has an average maximum temperature of just 59 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s no wonder that a city in the Bay Area comes in first in terms of the coldest average maximum temperature. 

In contrast, the average annual temperature for California in general, is 64 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the Western Regional Climate Center, the low temperatures in San Rafael can be attributed to the effects of the local topography on marine air coming in from the ocean. 

You might be thinking, “wait, aren’t the mountains colder than the coast?” And, in some ways, you would be right. However, it gets much warmer in the summertime in the mountains than it does in San Rafael. These warm summers ensure that other parts of the state have a higher average temperature than chilly San Rafael.

The Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded n California

California’s coldest temperature ever recorded was -45 degrees Fahrenheit, recorded in Boca (near Lake Tahoe). The state record was set all the way back in January 1937. Boca is consistently known as one of the coldest places in the state, with an average January temperature of just 8 degrees Fahrenheit. In contrast, the hottest temperature ever recorded in California was 134 degrees Fahrenheit. Recorded in Greenland Ranch (Death Valley), 134 degrees Fahrenheit is actually the highest temperature ever recorded in the U.S.

The History Of San Rafael

Inhabited by various Native American tribes for thousands of years, San Rafael is home to the historic Mission San Rafael Arcangel. Spanish priests established the mission in 1817, and the town grew from there. Abandoned in 1844, the original mission building no longer exists. But, today, San Rafael boasts of a replica building, which is a popular tourist attraction. 

Today, the coldest place in California has a population of just over 60,000 people. In 1884, the North Pacific Railroad came to town, which greatly boosted the population of San Rafael. Further, proximity to San Francisco, as well as the building of the Richmond and Golden Gate Bridges, further enabled the town to thrive. 

Ecology And Wildlife 

Racoon growling
Raccoons are common in San Rafael.


San Rafael is a largely urban area bordering on both the San Rafael Bay of the Pacific Ocean and the China Camp State Park. Urban creatures include raccoons and coyotes, which also thrive on the city’s edges. China Camp State Park is home to two endangered species; the Ridgway’s Rail and the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse. The park is also home to a wide variety of birds, including bald eagles, turkeys, goldfinches, and pileated woodpeckers. Additionally, visitors may encounter king snakes, gopher snakes, ring-necked snakes, and even the occasional western diamondback rattlesnake.

Things To Do In San Rafael

With its eclectic mix of cityscape and nature, the coldest place in California has something for everyone. Visitors interested in museums and art won’t want to miss the Falkirk Cultural Center, the Museum of International Propaganda, or the Mission San Rafael Arcangel. San Rafael’s downtown area is home to an incredible variety of cuisines and places to shop. Additional stops might include the Smith Rafael Film Center, the historic Dominican University of California, or a visit to the Sunday Marin Farmers’ Market. 

For those interested in checking out the outdoor prospects in San Rafael, there’s a wide variety to choose from. Start with Marin Islands State Marine Park or the China Camp Beach. For hiking, choose one of the many beautiful nature trails in China Camp State Park. The best part? All of this wonderful nature is just minutes from downtown San Rafael!

Where Is San Rafael Located On A Map?

San Rafael is located in Marin County in the North Bay region of the San Fransisco Bay Area in the state of California. It is approximately 18 miles from the city of San Fransisco and lies on the northwestern shore of San Fransisco Bay.

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About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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  1. Western Regional Climate Center, Available here:
  2. Crown Science, Available here: