15 Best Places To Visit In Northern California (2021)
Romanticized in the Western Television and Film industry, California is blessed to be loved. Although the entire California is one magnificent tourism State, the counts are such a high number that visitors often have to plan separate trips to Southern California and Northern California. American’s usually denote Northern California as NorCal, and if you believe their words, the beauty of this part of California is beyond comparison. NorCal has it all: be it rivers, beaches, mountains, forests, deserts, or lakes, the incredible outdoor beauty here will leave you spellbound.
Thanks to the topography of Northern California, travelers often visit this side of the State to take a break from an urban lifestyle that has captured them in the concrete jungle. The lip-smacking cuisine, cultural and historical abundance, and natural attractions make NorCal one of the most loved destinations amongst nature lovers and wanderers.
15 Best Places To Visit In Northern California:
Drive through the State’s perfection and consider these 15 Best places to visit in Northern California for your next trip.
1. City of Sacramento
The best way to begin exploring North California is through the State Capital, Sacramento. Cutting down slightly on Nature’s wonder, Sacramento is home to several museums, the State Capitol building, art galleries, historic parks, the marvelous fairy-tale town, Zoos, and what not. This State Capital is often overlooked when visitors wander to other riverside cities. However, Sacramento’s city still leaves no stones unturned when it comes to entertaining tourists from several indoor and outdoor attractions. Even the old Sacramento sitting on the waterfront alone captivates all hearts with endless shops, restaurants, the Gold Rush-era historical buildings, and the museums which can be explored beautifully via horse-drawn carriages.
2. Mt. Shasta
The fifth highest peak in the California State, Mt. Shasta, is one pretty little town with access to the potentially active volcano mountain. Even though a mountain, Shasta has several attractions, some of which include the Castle lake, Chasing waterfall, Mt. Shasta Sisson Museum, Lake Siskiyou, Shastice park, the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, and the fish hatchery. However, apart from these tourist attractions, what captivates the most here are the skiing and hiking opportunities on the snow-capped hills of Shasta. With quite a few marvelous ski resorts up there, you can try your feet on some of the finest experiences during winters. Further, if your heart is still left with some adventure, consider visiting the caves in Siskiyou County, preferably the Pluto’s Cave, and get close to one of the unique experiences in Northern California.
3. Glass Beach, Mendocino County
Your visit to Northern California is always incomplete if you haven’t explored Glass Beach in Mendocino County. The beach is located near Fort Bragg, right next to the MacKerricher State Park. It was named “Glass Beach” when after years of garbage dumping near the coastline, Nature finally blessed the path and transformed it into ‘sea glasses.’ Most of the sand coverage within the Glass Beach is surprisingly filled with unusually colored and shaped rocks, glasses, and stones. Tumbling and aging of sea glass takes years of patience, and when you can find one such in California, why miss its magnificence. Image Source
4. Half Moon Bay
An unpretentious small town in North California, a coastal city, Half Moon Bay is a cozy seaside location sitting in the lap of wooded rolling hills. This small town has a deficient population, however, a friendly and welcoming environment. Half Moon Bay is only accessible via a winding two-lane country road and is blessed with a cool summery Mediterranean climate. The weather is rarely hot here, making it very pleasant to explore around during any time of year. When here, visitors often go through the Coastside Trail for the scenic oceanfront view, shop and dine in the historic downtown, visit the world-class gold courses, get close to the marine life in the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, or watch the sea lions enjoying the Año Nuevo State Park. October is the best time to visit this town if you want to enjoy the unique pumpkin festivals and events going around.
Not in Texas but California, Trinidad is a seaside town with the California coast’s most magnificent and pristine segments. Trinidad is surrounded by rocky bluffs, redwoods, and spruce altogether, making it one of the most beautiful sites to visit in Northern California. Being one of the smallest incorporated cities in California, Trinidad has a tiny population and is still unknown by many people around. It can also be classified as one of the hidden gems in Northern California that is less explored but divine. Thus, small town is home to several hiking trails, the Trinidad Bay Memorial Park, a memorial lighthouse, the Roam Patrick’s Point State Park, a museum, a marine lab, and several other explorable. Trinidad offers magnificent sunset views and some lucky chances to spot whales, sea otters, seals, and dolphins near the beachside, being a seaside town.
6. Little Backbone Creek, Shasta Lake
A natural waterslide in Northern California, the Little Backbone Creek is where you must head to cool down the fun and adventures in your heart. Located only a 20 minutes hike away from Shasta Lake’s shore, this gorgeous swimming hole is though a hidden gem in California, but with the beauty it holds, it must be on everyone’s bucket list.
The creek’s waterslide launches over a vast water pond. Little Backbone Creek is also accessible via boats and is across from Digger Bay. On your hike towards the creek, you will come across some crystal-clear ponds, boulders but some slippery rocks as well, which you must be cautious of.
7. Burney Falls
During April, those who have viewed Burney Falls in its full flow classify it as the most impressive waterfall in California. Located inside the McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, the Burney falls has a 129 feet drop with a constant flow of 379 million liters per day that is sourced from an underground spring somewhere above the fall.
Unlike other waterfalls in California, it does not dry in even harsh summers and thus was also noted as the National Natural Landmark in the mid-19th century. Through rocks, the water from the fall magically make their way over grass beds, which seems like the rock cliff is bleeding heavy droples from every one inch. Burney fall can be reached via a long hike, though not a tiring one. There are several picnics and camping spots nearby where you can spend your entire day or night in the lap of Nature.
Sitting in California’s capital, Folsom has an abundance of Nature, a preferable escape from the cities’ hustle and bustle. It is famously known for the beautiful bridges, the Folsom Valley Railway, Powerhouse State Park, the Prison museum depicting the prisoner’s life, and the premium shopping outlets and pristine dining offers. The city of Folsom has hundreds of acres of developed green spaces and several hiking trails providing the best exploration opportunities. One can spend a day swimming, kayaking, canoeing at the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, or taste some Japanese wonders at Gekkeikan Sake when in the city.
9. North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve
Located in the Butte County, the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve is spread over 3,315 acres constituting of seasonal waterfalls & streams, an endangered and rare variety of vernal pool, lava outcrops, vistas of spring wildflowers, and several non-native invasive plant species. The reserve is known to be in existence due to an ancient lava outburst. North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve is one of a kind location in Northern California that supports the growth of sensitive plants and animals via Northern Basalt Flow Vernal Pools, one of the four within the State. If you are a seeker for Nature and its uniqueness, this is the site you must surely visit. Consider planning a weekend hike or picnic in reserve.
If you are keen to explore unspoiled California, add Mendocino to your list of explorable places in North California. This coastal community offers the feeling of traveling back where you can explore redwood forests (with smallest and tallest redwoods in the world), Victorian villages residing along rugged coastlines, the only oceanfront botanical garden of the United States, glass-bottom beaches, and the never-ending Nature. Apart from exploring the usuals, when in Mendocino, do taste some wine, appreciate the art and events, take a meal in the oceanfront restaurants, spend a few dollars in the charming shops, rent a kayak or bicycle, and the end take memories back with you.
11. The Mystery Spot, Northern California
The Mystery Spot near Santa Cruz is a gravitational anomaly in the lap of redwood forests. It is 150 feet or 46 meters in diameter, a circular area induced with visual illusions and an oddly tilted environment that will leave your jaw dropped. Speaking all against the law of gravity, the mystery spot is one of the best illusion-based tourist attractions in California. Also, it has been featured in several magazines, top-charts, and online media portals. It was left open for the public in the year 1940, and from till then, some endless visitors have listed the mystery spot into their go-to destination whenever on a trip to Northern California. Visitors can take the 45 minutes fully guided tour despite their age and enjoy their time to the fullest. Though if you are an extremely faint-hearted human, avoid the site.
12. Palo Alto
Located on the Southwest of San Francisco Bay, Palo Alto, is a tech city home to some of the world’s biggest technology firms. Still, the cultural destinations and tourism here would not disappoint you as well. The city is indeed one sophisticated location in California and holds one of the classiest and upscale lifestyles of the United States.
Though from the tourism point of view, what attracts her the most is the 2,000 acres of undisturbed marshland habitat of Baylands nature preserve, which disconnects you from the cities never-ending life. Palo Alto also houses some in-house sight-seeing locations, including the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Centre for Visual Arts, Hewlett Packard Garage, the Stanford Theatre, the art center, Museum of American Heritage, and the computer history museum. When here, visit the Stanford Shopping Centre on the Stanford University’s outskirts for trying your taste in some of the world-class eateries or merely enjoying the fashion shows and events.
13. Roaring Camp & Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad
When in Northern California, the rail journey from Felton’s Roaring Camp depot and goes up till the Bear Mountain is one of the finest experiences you can get. This narrow-gauge tourist railroad within the State covers a small distance of 3 and a half miles through the lush green redwood forests, providing one of the unique experiences on its own. It is also one of the most authentically preserved and the oldest narrow-gauge steam engines in the USA , which is still providing its services without a glitch. The scenic view of Henry Cowell National Forest in between and the picturesque Bear Mountain’s final view is all effort-worthy. Even though it is operational throughout the year, the best time to take this experience is during winters when the surroundings are dipped in the flavor of Christmas, and the Bear Mountain is all snow-capped.
14. Winchester Mystery House
As a result of Sarah Winchester’s imagination and superstitious beliefs, the Winchester Mystery House is one gem of the mansion in San Jose. The mansion is located at 525 South Winchester Blvd. in San Jose and is vividly famous for its architectural curiosities, building blunders, and size. Since its existence from the end of the 18th century, the residents were killed by usual affairs, though it was believed that it was due to ghosts’ impact. The today’s Winchester Mystery House took 38 years to build and is one piece of architectural magnificence and blunders both. With the house, you can see several staircases leading nowhere, doors that open to no rooms, walls with unusual features, and work of art that seems no less than myths.
For travelers who are looking for a romantic gateway along with the serene view of the seaside, Carmel-by-the-sea is one location where you must walk towards. Carmel-by-the-sea is a small seaside village with a crescent of pale sand and torque Pacific water alongside a beautiful beach location that is worth visiting once in a lifetime. From tiny shops to cafes, gourmet eateries to upscale art galleries, and designer stores to wealthy residents, there’s nothing that this gorgeous location lacks. The hut-style upmarket cafes’ with lip-smacking cuisines and outdoor seating feels divine during the night hours. Carmel-by-the-sea is indeed one of the best tourist spots in Northern California, ideal for a relaxing weekend getaway.