It’s no surprise to us Northern Californians that we live in a beautiful place, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to be reminded of it every once in a while! Whether these places inspire you to appreciate what’s out there in your own back yard or to pick up some old outdoor hobbies, we guarantee they will stoke that passion for adventure that is burning inside each and every one of us.
1. King Range National Conservation Area
Located entirely in Humboldt County, this preserved area encompasses mountains, trees and beaches. As part of the Northern Coast Ranges, the King Range runs parallel to the coast, and its western slopes fall steeply to the Pacific Ocean. Visitors are drawn by its numerous recreation opportunities, such as wildflower viewing, and hiking.
2. Marshall Gold Discovery State Park
Nothing says California exploration like the site where gold was first discovered, sparking the mass migration of 49ners heading west to seek their fortune. This spot is located in the tiny town of Coloma. Many original buildings, as well as replicas, make you feel like you were transported back to the wild days of the 1800s.
3. Castle Crags State Park
This iconic Northern California landmark is located in between Castella and Dunsmuir. It's easy to spot from Interstate 5, so even if you don't step out of the car to view it, you will still feel satisfied that you witnessed one of the scenic landmarks in this part of the country. The rock formation was formed by ancient glaciers.
4. Big Basin Redwood State Park
This is the oldest state park in California, having been established back in 1902. It contains 10,800 acres of old-growth forest as well as recovering redwood forest, with mixed conifer, oaks, chaparral and riparian habitats. There are also surprising treats, such as this charming cascade known as Sempervirens Falls, to discover.
5. Patrick's Point State Park
This beachy retreat is located about 25 miles north of Eureka. There are wildflower meadows and tons of trees that include coastal redwoods, spruce, hemlock, pine, fir and red alder. What will really bring out your inner explorer, however, is the mysterious and exciting tide pools filled with sea creatures galore. A childhood in Northern California is incomplete without searching for sea anenome, starfish, and hermit crabs, so make sure all your loved ones check this off the to do list.
6. D. L. Bliss State Park
This state park is located right on the shores of Lake Tahoe near the busier and more crowded Emerald Bay State Park. It's the site of the highest elevation lighthouse in the United States, however, and that makes it well worth a trip for any lighthouse enthusiast. The park is named after timber and railroad magnate Duane Leroy Bliss, whose heirs donated 744 acres to the state of California in his name.
7. Sinkyone Wilderness State Park
This Mendocino County State Park is the official name of the so-called Lost Coast region. It's popular for backpackers and through hikers, so it's inspiring for anyone who used to hike, wants to pick it up, or does it every weekend. The area takes its name from the native Sinkyone tribe of the area and was also a major logging area at one point in time.
8. Trinity Alps
The Trinity Alps are part of the Pacific Coast Range region, which lies between the California Coast Ranges to the west and the Cascade Range to the east. The highest point is Thompson Peak at 9,001 feet above sea level. They are recognized for the endless recreation opportunities.
9. Van Damme State Park
You can find this state park near the town of Little River on State Route 1. It's one of the few state parks with free parking, making it an easily accessible and well appreciated place for exploration. Inland, a boardwalked nature trail leads through a pygmy forest, where poor soil has created a marshy ecosystem of stunted cypress and pine trees and rhododendrons. You'll have to see it for yourself!
10. Castle Rock State Park
Not to be confused with Castle Crags, this state park is located much closer to the coast and farther south. In this picture, you can see another iconic Northern California landmark, Mount Diablo, in the background.
11. Cache Creek Wilderness
This Lake County wilderness area is, as its name suggests, centered around the Cache Creek, a tributary of the Sacramento River. It's a tough, dry piece of land and is known for its incredible scenery, which includes rounded hills, open meadows, cliffs and stream canyons. The landscape supports manzanita, interior live oak, scrub oak, deerbrush, toyon, birchleaf mahogany, and gray pine trees.
12. Lake Berryessa
The largest lake in Napa County, this popular destination is a great place for fishing, waterskiing, jet skiing, pleasure boating, kayaking and canoeing, hiking, road bicycling, motorcycle pleasure biking, birding, wildlife observation, picnicking, and swimming. If you are at all interested in outdoor recreation, or seeing others enjoy themselves, you really can't go wrong here.
13. Granite Chief Wilderness
No mechanized vehicles can be used in designated wilderness areas, which means this area is limited to activities such as day-hiking, backpacking, fishing, cross-country skiing, mountain climbing and horsepacking. The area is close by the busy tourist destination of Lake Tahoe, however, so if you find yourself in need of a break from the crowds, an afternoon in these woods might be just the ticket.
14. Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area
The prominent destination in this recreation area is, of course, Whiskeytown Lake. It's known for its clear waters with up to 30 feet of visibility and the likelihood of sighting wildlife along the shore.
What are your favorite places to explore here in Northern California? Large or small, it’s amazing to see what adventures people get up to in this incredible state!