The 25 best places to visit in Northern California
Between Lassen National Forest and Shashta-Trinity National Forest lies the extremely small 3.7 square kilometre (1.4 square mile) McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, the second oldest state park in California. Offering camping, fishing, water sports and hiking, the centrepiece of the park is the 39 metre (129 ft) Burney Falls, constantly flowing all year round thanks to the natural underground springs that feed it, it is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in California.
25. Burney Falls
Carved in the early 1930's, measuring 84 metres (276 ft) high is the Chandelier Tree, a Giant Redwood that is arguably one of the most famous trees in the world. One of three Giant Redwoods with tunnels large enough to drive a car through, the others can be found in Klamath and Myers Flat.
24. Chandelier Tree
Between Sequoia National Park and Death Valley National Park, east of the Sierra Nevada are a range of hills and rock formations known as the Alabama Hills. Overlooked by the towering Mount Whitney, standing 4,421 metres (14,505 ft) above sea level, it is a beautiful landscape of rounded stones and natural arches. Highlights of the scenic area include the Mobius Arch, Lathe Arch, The Eye Of Alabama and Whitney Portal Arch.
23. Alabama Hills
In the central part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains Range, measuring 48 kilometres (30 miles) in length and 34 kilometres (21 miles) across are the Palisades, a group of particularly steep and rugged peaks considered the finest alpine climbing location in California. One of the highlights of the region is a hike known as the North Fork Trail, a 17.7 kilometre (11 mile) six to ten hour hike taking visitors past a number of lakes, glaciers and fantastic mountainous views.
Pictured is Temple Crag and Big Pine Lake.
In the far north east of the state, close to the border with Oregon is the 6,695 square kilometre (2,585 square mile) Modoc National Forest, encompassing part of the Cascade Range known as the Warner Mountains. Despite being made up of rolling hills and beautiful open meadow sloped mountains, the forest remains one of the least visited locations in California. One of the highlights for hikers is the Summit Trail, approximately 36 kilometres (22.4 miles) in length it takes visitors across the forests finest terrain with some incredible views.
21. Modoc National Forest
In the east of the state, within Inyo National Forest are a set of geothermal hot springs known as Hot Creek, sitting at an elevation of 2,610 metres (8,563 ft) above sea level. Set within gorgeous natural surroundings, the picturesque Hot Creek Pools make for a wonderful sight.
20. Hot Creek Geological Site
In the north west of the state, covering some 3,875 square kilometres (1,496 square miles) is Six Rivers National Forest, named after the Eel, Van, Duzen, Klamath, Trinity, Mad and Smith Rivers which pass through the forests boundaries. Made up of wilderness areas, mountains, large old growth forests and beautiful alpine lakes, Six Rivers National Forest is an often overlooked tourist destination.
19. Six Rivers National Forest
North east from the city of Sacramento and north west from Lake Tahoe is the 3,527 square kilometre (1,362 square mile) Tahoe National Forest, a landscape of large forests and rugged mountains. Containing the northernmost grove of giant sequoias, known as 'tiny' giant sequoia grove, a host of alpine lakes and large old growth forests, Tahoe National Forest is another beautiful protected area in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.
Pictured is Snow Mountain.
18. Tahoe National Forest
In the far north west of the state, bordering Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Six Rivers National Forest and the State of Oregon is the 7,032 square kilometre (2,715 square mile) Klamath National Forest, encompassing part of the Klamath Mountains. Home to black bear, mountain lion and a whole host of other animal species, this forested wild land also contains Mount Eddy, reaching 2,751 metres (9,025 ft) above sea level.
Pictured is Castle Lake & Mount Shashta.
17. Klamath National Forest
In the west of the state, directly north from the city of San Francisco is the 3,696 square kilometre (1,427 square mile) Mendocino National Forest, one of the least accessible protected areas in California. With no roads leading into the forest, this untouched mountainous terrain is a favourite among hikers, backpackers and photographers who like to get lost in the wilderness. One of the highlights of the region is around Lake Pilsbury, where the tule elk herds graze in large numbers. One of only two locations in California to see this beautiful beast, they are among the largest mammals native to the United States.
16. Mendocino National Forest
East of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and west of the White Mountains is the now arid valley of Owens River, named quite predictably as Owens Valley, known as the Land Of Little Rain. Surrounded by peaks that reach over 4,300 metres (14,108 ft) above sea level, Owens Valley is one of the deepest valleys in the United States. The sight of this great open alkali flat land from one of the many high vantage points is a photographers dream.
15. Owen's Valley
North west from Yosemite National Park and directly east from the city of San Francisco is the 3,634 square kilometre (1,403 square mile) Stanislaus National Forest, one of the oldest national forests in the United States. Featuring large old growth forest, high mountains, over 70 lakes and 1,770 kilometres (1,100 miles) of hiking trails, its proximity to the San Francisco Bay Area makes it one of the most visited national forests in California.
14. Stanislaus National Forest
Just north of what is considered Southern California, in the southern Sierra Mountains covering an area of some 4,829 square kilometres (1,864 square miles) is the Sequoia National Forest, named after the majestic Giant Sequoia, the largest tree on Earth. The giant forest covers a landscape of impressive monoliths and glacier carved terrain, with over 1,370 kilometres (851 miles) of hiking trails it makes for a fantastic trekking location. One of the forests best trails is known as The Needles Trail, a 7 kilometre (4.4 mile) hike that allows visitors some of the finest views over the forested valleys.
Pictured from Pine Needles Lookout.
13. Sequoia National Forest
North east from Fresno, between Kings Canyon and Yosemite National Park is the 5,300 square kilometre (2,046 square mile) Sierra National Forest, known for its beautiful mountain scenery. With wonderful oak covered foothills, heavily forested mountain slopes and tundra terrain in the high Sierra Mountains, this wilderess landscape is a favourite among hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, with highlights including the Fresno Dome and the Neldar Grove, home to giant sequoias. One of the most beautiful locations is within the John Muir Wilderness, shared between Sierra Mountain and Inyo National Forest, it lies on the Sierra escarpment and hosts some of the most breath taking scenery in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.
Pictured is The Lake Of The Lone Indian in the John Muir Wilderness.
12. Sierra National Forest
In the eastern centre of the state, straddling Yosemite National Park, Sierra National Forest and Kings Canyon National Park is the 7,703 square kilometre (2,974 square mile) Inyo National Forest, encompassing parts of the most breathtaking landscapes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Highlights of the forest include the 4,421 metre (14,505 ft) Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the United States outside of Alaska, ancient Bristlestone Pine Forests that protects the oldest trees on Earth, the Hot Creek Geological Site and a whole host of beautiful lakes and vista points.
Pictured is June Lake.
11. Inyo National Forest
West from Nevada's Carson City, crossing the state line between Nevada and California is the famous Lake Tahoe, simply meaning, 'The Lake', it is the largest freshwater alpine lake in the United States. Surrounded by large forests, the lake is known for the clarity of its water and the panorama of surrounding mountains on all sides. The beauty of the lake and its stunning natural surroundings has made it one of the most visited tourist attractions in both Nevada and California.
10. Lake Tahoe
In the northern centre of the state, covering an enormous 8,943 square kilometres (3,453 square miles) is the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, the largest national forest in California. Home to large wilderness areas, steep mountains and enormous forests, major features include the man made Shasta Lake and the 4,322 metre (14,179 ft) Mount Shasta, from which the park takes its name. The national forest contains over 740 kilometres (460 miles) of trails including a large part of the Pacific West Trail, one of the most famous hiking routes in the world. For driving, the 805 kilometre (500 mile) Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway takes visitors from Lassen Volcanic National Park to Mount Shasta and then onto Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, travelling through some unique and spectacular volcanic scenery.
9. Shasta-Trinity National Forest
On the western coast, located just north of what is considered Southern California between San Francisco and Los Angeles is the relatively small Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, nicknamed, 'Mini Yosemite'. Protecting part of the Big Sur, the landscape is a rugged and mountainous section of the central coast of California, where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise from the Pacific Ocean. Praised for its dramatic scenery, the Big Sur has been regarded the longest and most scenic stretch of undeveloped coastline in the United States outside of Alaska. Highlights in the area include the Bixby Creek Bridge just north of the park and the extremely beautiful McWay Falls in the south. Falling 24 metres (80 ft) into McWay Cove and the Pacific Ocean, it is one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the United States.
Pictured is McWay Falls.
8. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
In the northwest of the state, comprising Redwood National Park, Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks, the protected area combines to cover 560 square kilometres (216 square miles) of old growth temperate rain forest, home to one of the largest tree species on Earth, the giant redwood. protecting 45% of the remaining coast redwood old growth forests, the Redwood National and State Parks have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
7. Redwoods National & State Parks
On the western coast, around halfway up the state of California is the city of San Francisco, Spanish for Saint Francis, the main city of Northern California and one of the most well known and most visited cities in the United States. Known as the 'City By The Bay' among many other nicknames, San Francisco is known for the rise of hippie culture, the sexual revolution, the summer of love, the gay rights movement, cool summers, steep hills, bridges and the most famous prison in the world, Alcatraz.
North of Sequoia National Park, covering some 1,869 square kilometres (722 square miles) of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is Kings Canyon National Park, named after the rugged glacier carved valley over that measures 1,600 metres (5,249 ft) deep. Characterized by some of the steepest vertical mountains in North America, the landscape is beautifully defined by enormous forests with giant sequoias, open meadows, large lakes, serrated ridged mountains, deep valleys and powerful waterfalls such as Grizzly Falls. The combined Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail cross the entire length of park, accessing the beautiful back country and making for one of the finest hiking trails in the United States.
5. Kings Canyon National Park
In the north east of the state, directly north of Sacramento is the 431 square kilometre (166 square mile) Lassen Volcanic National Park, named after the Lassen Peak, the largest plug dome volcano in the world. The area surrounding the peak remains active, with boiling mud pots, openings of the planets crust known as fumaroles and many hot springs. The landscape is a beautiful terrain of high mountains, pine forests, clear lakes, jagged craters, steaming sulfur vents and one of few areas on the planet where all four types of volcano are found, namely plug, dome, shield, cinder cone and stratovolcano.
Pictured are the Painted Dunes.
4. Lassen Volcanic National Park
Situated between Sequoia National Forest and Kings Canyon National Park in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains is the 1,635 square kilometre (631 square mile) Sequoia National Park, encompassing a forested mountain terrain that sits 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) above sea level. Preserving a landscape that resembles the southern Sierra Nevada before European settlers, the park is notable for containing five of the ten largest trees in the world, including General Sherman. Dating over 2,500 years old with a height of 84 metres (275 ft) it is the largest current living organism on Earth. Other than these magnificent giant trees, highlights of the park include Tunnel Log, Tokopah Falls, Crescent Meadow and Moro Rock, the latter allowing visitors to hike to its peak for magnificent views over much of the park.
3. Sequoia National Park
In the eastern centre of the state, straddling the border with Nevada is the 13,650 square kilometre (5,270 square mile) Death Valley National Park, the largest protected area in the United States outside of Alaska. Lying east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains between the Great Basin and the Mojave Desert, Death Valley is a diverse environment of salt flats, sand dunes, badlands, valleys, canyons and mountains of fantastic geological features. Its sheer desolate nature, extreme temperatures and diverse environments has made it one of the most famous locations in the United States.
2. Death Valley National Park
In the east of the state, directly east from the city of San Francisco, between Sierra National Forest and Stanislaus National Forest in the Sierra Nevada Mountains lies the 3,029 square kilometre (1,170 square mile) Yosemite National Park, a name in Miwok that means 'Killer'. Known the world over for its granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, giant sequoia groves, lakes, mountains, meadows and glaciers, this magnificent park is designated almost entirely a wilderness area, with most visitors staying within the relatively small Yosemite Valley. With over 1,300 kilometres (808 miles) of hiking trails, one of the most popular is to the summit of Half Dome. Visitors require a permit in advance, with a maximum of 300 selected by lottery to hike on any given day. Regarded one of the most astonishingly beautiful natural terrains in the United States, Yosemite National Park has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.