Aside from it’s natural beauty, Northern California’s greatest asset is the people and communities that make it tick. You can still find the charm and authenticity of small town America here in this region, and whether you prefer farming communities, coastal towns, or the Sierra foothills, here are some of our favorite places that Northern Californians call home.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
This small gold rush town is surrounded by the Yuba River District of the Tahoe National Forest and is extremely popular for mountain bikers. It's also a great place for fishing, hiking, and escaping the rush of city life. Downieville is on the North Fork of the Yuba River, at an elevation of 2,966 feet, in Sierra County.
2. Little River
Little River is a charming little coastal town. It is home to several hundred people and takes its name from nearby Little River. The town center sits on a scenic bluff overlooking the mouth of Little River and hosts a grocery store, two gas pumps, a post office, and a restaurant within a single structure. The population was 117 at the 2010 census.
Located in Plumas County, this small town has a lot of spirit. The primary industries in Chester are lumber production and tourism. Chester serves as the retail center for the Lake Almanor region of California, and derives a significant portion of its economy from the tourist trade, and to a lesser degree from construction to new residents and businesses.
4. Nevada City
A wonderful blending of new and old, Nevada City is known for its historical character and fine dining options. It's located in Nevada County and is roughly the same size as it was in the year 1900.
The location of the beloved Apple Hill area, as well as pumpkin patches, Christmas Tree farms, and an up and coming wine scene, Camino is an amazing place to retreat into the countryside.
Located in the Shasta Cascade area of Northern California, McCloud sees many visitors. The town is a home base for folks who come to engage in nationally recognized trout fishing in the nearby McCloud, Sacramento and Klamath Rivers, or come to see and climb Mount Shasta, Castle Crags or the Trinity Alps.
7. Fort Bragg
Home of the world famous Glass Beach, Fort Bragg is known for its scenic coastal views. It was originally a fishing port and then of course, a military garrison. Now it's a popular tourist destination.
The popular mountain town gets crowded on the weekends, but for good reason. It offers unparalleled access to skiing, hiking, and other outdoor recreation. It is also the home of several amazing restaurants that offer everything from great burgers to gourmet meals.
This remote Sierra County town has a population of less than 1000. Many of the population are ranchers, loggers, former loggers, or suburbanites escaping from the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, and the growing Reno-Tahoe area.
10. Grass Valley
Another Gold Rush town, Grass Valley was home to the Empire Mine and the North Star Mine, two of the richest mines of the 1800s. A lot of the miners who settled here were of Cornish heritage. They were originally tin miners from Cornwall, England. The area is still heavily influenced by this culture.
This quaint little city contains dozens of well-preserved Victorian storefronts and homes. Ferndale is the northern gateway to California's Lost Coast and the city, which is sited on the edge of a wide plain near the mouth of the Eel River, is also located near the extensive preserves of Coast Redwood forests.
Seen by many as the heart of the mother lode, Placerville is a quirky community with a walkable downtown. There are plenty of shops and restaurants to peruse here. It's also known as Old Hangtown thanks to its rough and rowdy wild ewest past.
Gualala was once a logging town, but tourism is now its central economic activity. The tradition of tourism here is an old one, however. By about 1861, tourists began coming to Gualala to hunt and fish and get away from the crowded cities. Around that same time a hotel, a saloon and a ferry were built here, as well as a Post Office (which was also the stage stop), the Wells Fargo Express and the Western Union. By the end of the 1800s Gualala had become a major commercial hub for the entire area.
Located in Humboldt County north of the Arcata- Eureka area, this small city has under 400 residents. The area has a tumultuous past involving it's logging history, but now it is just a spectacular small town to visit while exploring the North Coast.
This railroad town is proud of the industry that put it on the map and is still a large part of its culture. The official city slogan is "Home of the best water on Earth". Dunsmuir is currently a hub for tourism in Northern California, with Interstate 5 in California passing through it. Visitors enjoy fishing, skiing, climbing, or sight-seeing. During the steam locomotive railroad era, it was notable for being the site of an important Central Pacific (and later Southern Pacific) railroad yard, where extra steam locomotives were added to assist trains on the grade to the north.