10 Places In Northern California That Are Off The Beaten Path But Worth The Trip
You can take day trips in Northern California every weekend for the rest of your life and never run out of places to see. Since the state is so massive, some towns and landmarks take an entire day to reach via car. One of the benefits of taking a small backroad is you can often avoid the crowds, as well as see some very cool places. This is our list of off-the-beaten-path places that are totally worth the trip.
1. Big Sur
No matter where you’re coming from, it takes a while to reach Big Sur since the only way there is Highway 1. This famous stretch of Highway 1 is a must-see sight and recognizable throughout the world for its breathtaking views. The two-lane highway meanders through the cliffs along the coastline. Visitors can stop at one of the many pull over places to take photos and admire the view. Perhaps the most photographed spot is the
Bixby Creek Bridge
2. Bodie State Historic Park– Bodie
If you enjoy history you’ll love this very intact Gold Rush ghost town. Located at 8,379 feet elevation, Bodie State Historic Park is in an isolated area between California and Nevada, south of Lake Tahoe. Check out the old bank, miners’ homes, and the historic hotels. During the winter months, the roads can become impassable so
check the website
to find out if it’s open when you want to visit. For $3 you can purchase a self guided tour book. The park rangers often offer free tours. If you want a guaranteed tour, one
company offers tours for a price
in the spring, summer, and fall seasons.
3. Mono Lake
This lake attracts photographers who want to capture this alien-like scenery at sunrise and sunset. This ancient lake is
more than 1 million years old
. The limestone formations, called tufas, that rise out of the water are what makes Mono Lake unique. In addition to the tufas,
Mono Lake is saltier than the ocean
. It’s open for day use only, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
4. Lake Almanor
Less famous than Lake Tahoe to the south and Shasta Lake to the west, Lake Almanor is one of California’s many
. Its slightly out-of-the-way location in Plumas County means you might not hit major crowds. The calm lake waters make it a great swimming lake in the summer and for fishing much of the year. Lake Almanor is also an ideal stargazing location since it is away from city light pollution.
5. Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark– Lakehead
This natural landmark is a site to behold! The caverns are at least 200 million years old and contain various otherworldly limestone formations. To get to the caverns, you’ll take a 10 minute boat ride, then a 10 minute bus ride. The tour of the caverns takes about 45-60 minutes. The entire tour is about two hours. The caverns are 58 degrees and around 90 percent humidity– a nice break from the Shasta heat in the summertime.
Tours are available daily.
Tickets cost $35 for people ages 16 and older, $21 for ages 3-15, and free for 2 and younger.
People come from all over the world to go
fly fishing on the McCloud River
. For everyone else, the remote area near Mount Shasta at the start of the Cascade Mountains, is a perfect place to feel far removed from it all. Surrounded by beautiful mountain views and lots of wildlife, the town of McCloud has several hotels, inns, and restaurants to make your visit comfortable.
7. Hat Creek Radio Observatory– Hat Creek
Want to make contact with aliens? At
Hat Creek Radio Observatory
you can view the telescopes and maybe meet some of the people who are sending signals into space.
is open to visitors 9:00 am – 3:00 pm, Thursday and Friday only, and closed on all major holidays. A self-guided tour is available, which consists of four kiosks containing information about the Alien Telescope Array (ATA), and a short video is available to view in the lobby.
8. Whiskeytown Lake– Whiskeytown
If you want to escape the crowds of Shasta Lake, this much smaller reservoir is great for
boating, swimming, and fishing.
Hike the area to see waterfalls and wildlife. The entire area is 42,000 acres so there is a ton to explore. Frequent visitors rave about the clean, blue water.
9. Lava Beds National Monument– Tulelake
very remote area
just south of the Oregon border, has been a hotbed of volcanic activity for a half million years. Today, visitors can explore some of the
nearly 800 caves and lava tubes
, plus Native American rock art sites.
Native American rock art sites. Visit this park
any time of year
to experience this incredible geological area.
10. Centerville Beach County Park– Ferndale
This nine-mile stretch of sandy beach is located between the north end of Lost Coast Headlands trail and where the Eel River meets the ocean to the north. This is a great spot for whale watching and having a picnic. Sandstone cliffs tower over the beach, creating a small cove. You’ll drive through the Victorian town of
to get to the beach.
Ferndale has many inns and restaurants
that could make this a fantastic overnight stay.
Have you visited all of the places on our off-the-beaten-path list? Are there any places we missed? Let us know in the comments.
Address: McCloud, CA 96057, USA Address: Centerville Beach County Park, Centerville Rd, Ferndale, CA 95536, USA Address: Mono Lake, California 93541, USA Address: Bodie State Historic Park, CA-270, Bridgeport, CA 93517, USA Address: Lava Beds National Monument, 1 Indian Well, Tulelake, CA 96134, USA Address: Big Sur, CA, USA Address: Whiskeytown Lake, California, USA Address: Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark, 20359 Shasta Caverns Rd, Lakehead, CA 96051, USA Address: Lake Almanor, California, USA Address: SETI Institute, 42231 Bidwell Rd, Hat Creek, CA 96040, USA
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