Northern California

Northern California

Northern California – Home of Largest Trees in the World

Northern California, like Southern California, is not a formal geographic designation. Popularly, though, “Northern California” usually refers to the state’s northernmost 48 counties.

The term is sometimes applied to the area north of Point Conception and the Tehachapi Mountains.

Northern California
Golden Gate Bridge in Northern California

California has a very Diverse Geography

California is rather large and long. It’s the 3rd largest state and has very diverse geography. You could also divide the state other ways besides northern and southern California. Sometimes you hear other ways spoke of, for example, the Central Valley. It is a distinct region in itself both culturally and topographically compared to coastal areas of California.

Mount Whitney at 14,505 ft (4,421 m)

Northern California’s main population centers include the San Francisco Bay Area (San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland), the Greater Sacramento area (the state capital Sacramento), and the Metropolitan Fresno area (city of Fresno).

Northern California also contains redwood forests. It has the Sierra Nevada mountains including Yosemite Valley and part of Lake Tahoe. There is also Mount Shasta (the second-highest peak in the Cascade Range after Mount Rainier in Washington). Then there is the northern portion of the Central Valley. It is one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions.

San Francisco is the second most populated city in northern California. It is the 14th largest city in the United States. The city is the leading economic center of the San Francisco Bay Area, and of northern California.

This huge northern region also contains redwood forests. The Sierra Nevada including Yosemite Valley and part of Lake Tahoe are also in the northern part of the state. There is also Mount Shasta. The northern part of the Central Valley, one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions is also here.

One of the largest Brackish-Marsh’s in the Western United States, Suisun Marsh is also in the northern part of California. The area is also known for its rich, fertile farm and ranch lands, and wine country. There are the high mountains of the southern Cascade Range and the Trinity Alps. Klamath Mountains and lakes are in the northeast portion of the region.

Mount Shasta, CA, USA

Northern California Climate

Along the coast, the climate can be generally characterized by marine to warm Mediterranean climates. It is a somewhat Continental Mediterranean type Climate in the valley. Alpine climate zones are in the high mountains.

Except for the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sacramento metropolitan areas (and a few other cities in the Central Valley), northern California, unlike its southern counterpart, is a region of relatively low population density.

 Downtown San Jose
Panoramic Downtown San Jose. San Jose, the most populous city in northern California and tenth largest in the United States, is the center of Silicon Valley, the preeminent region for technology in the US. Photo by XAtsukex / CC BY SA-3.0

Geography of California

Yosemite Valley

The diverse geography of northern California ranges from the rugged snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains in the east. There are the sandy beaches of the Pacific coast to the west. The central portion of the region is dominated by the Central Valley. It is one of the most vital agricultural areas in the country. The Sierra Nevada contains Yosemite Valley, famous for its glacially-carved domes.

The Sierra Nevada mountains contain Sequoia National Park. It is home to the largest trees on Earth, the giant sequoia trees. These mountains include the highest point in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney. The tallest living things on Earth, the ancient redwood trees, dot the coastline. They are mainly north of San Francisco, and in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Lake Shasta is the largest reservoir. It is the third-largest body of water after Lake Tahoe and the Salton Sea, in California.

Northern California
Map of Northern California counties. Photo by Reverend Mick / CC BY SA-3.0

California’s Population has Steadily Increased over the Years

San Jose, CA Canon 550d FullSpectrum IRChrome

The population of the counties of northern California has increased steadily over the years. See the chart. The largest increase occurred during the 1980s (over 2.1 million person increase). Newcomers to the area were attracted to job opportunities.

It was partly because of the expansion taking place in Silicon Valley. The population also increased due to the Cold War-era expansion of the defense industry. The 2010 U.S. Census revealed that northern California grew at a faster rate than Southern California in the 2000s. The rate was slightly higher than the state average.

According to Wikipedia latest estimate, the population in 2015 was 15,376,997 in Northern California. This compares with the total population of California in 2019 to 39,512,223. That’s slightly more than about a third of Californians live in the northern part of the state.

Business and Science in the State

Northern California
Mission Peak (L), Mount Allison (C), and Monument Peak (R) as seen from lake Elizabeth Fremont, CA. Photo by David Ball / CC BY SA-3.0

Ever since the development of world-famous and online business models such as Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Google, Yahoo!, and eBay, northern California has been at the forefront of new ways of doing business. In science, this region of California was the first to isolate and name fourteen transuranic chemical elements. Also breakthroughs in microchip technology occurred here.

Among other cultural contributions, it was the cradle of an international environmental movement. That was the open casual workplace, which was first popularized in the Silicon Valley dot-com boom. Now it is widely in use around the world. It is also home to one of the largest Air Force Bases on the West Coast. The base is the largest in California, Travis Air Force Base.

National Parks and Monuments

General Sherman, the largest known living single stem tree in the world in Sequoia National Park in Northern California.

A large and diverse group of parks in northern California are controlled by the U.S. National Park System. The best known is Yosemite National Park, which is displayed on the reverse side of the California state quarter.

However there are other prominent parks in the region. There is such as Kings Canyon-Sequoia National Park complex. There also is Redwood National Park. Plus Lassen Volcanic National Park. Plus there is the largest national park in the contiguous forty-eight states, Death Valley National Park. There are also other areas under federal protection. They include Muir Woods National Monument. Also the Giant Sequoia National Monument.

Add the Point Reyes National Seashore.

Also the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, to name a few.

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Other Parks and Protected Areas in Northern California

There are lots of other parks and protected areas in the northern part of the state. There are too many to list here, however here are a few:

> Tilden Regional Park
> Angel Island
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> Big Basin Redwoods State Park
> Bidwell Park
> Castle Rock State Park
> Golden Gate Park
> Humboldt Redwoods State Park
> Lake Tahoe Basin
> Marble
Mountain Wilderness
> Sacramento River
> Turtle Bay Exploration Park
> Sequoia National Park

Downtown Berkeley California
Downtown Berkeley. The Oakland – San Francisco Bay Bridge and the San Francisco downtown can be seen in the background.. Photo by User:Introvert / CC BY SA-2.5

 

5 Off the Beaten Trail Attractions in Northern California

California has so many attractions one cannot visit them all in one vacation or several. If you like to stay away from the big crowds here are a few off the beaten tourist trail places in Northern California to consider visiting.

Point Cabrillo Light

Northern California
Point Cabrillo Lighthouse. Photo by Marriedtofilm / CC BY-SA 3.0.

Point Cabrillo Light, a lighthouse in northern California just south of the community of Caspar. It has been a federal aid to navigation since 1909. It is part of the California state park system as Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park.

A hiking trail, part of the California Coastal Trail, was established in 2011 and connects the light station to Caspar Headlands State Beach one mile to the north, passing Frolic Cove along the way .

This is a nice hidden gem along the northern coast of the state. You have to walk about a half-mile to get to the lighthouse. You can stay there overnight in the lighthouse keeper’s cabins. It is a quiet, remote, unique experience.

There are a gift shop and a museum. Plus a bonus you would certainly expect, the sensational views of the rugged northern coast. You can tour the Light Station. It is pet friendly and a great secluded place to stay overnight.

Locke, California in the Central Valley Region

Locke Town
The main street of Locke, California in 2006. There are some Chinese shops still there. Probably less than a dozen Chinese live there now. Photo by David.Monniaux / CC BY-SA 3.0

This little town of Locke is the only town in the United States built exclusively by the Chinese for the Chinese. It is in the Central Valley. Locke was founded in 1915 after a fire broke out in the original Chinese section of Walnut Grove.

Chinese architects created and constructed the new town of Locke. It was created by the Chinese. The town is like looking back in the past, a bygone era. Walking down the main street is unlike walking down a populated area, although there are a few dozen people who live there.

It’s not exactly a ghost town, however, there’s not much activity or people around. Locke’s town is hidden, mostly unknown by most people unless they live fairly close by. It’s a historical gem in the Central Valley of California.

Glass Beach at Fort Bragg, California

Northern California
Glass Beach Fort Bragg / Photo by Ggerdel / CC BY-SA 4.0

This unusual beach is worth a stop in Fort Bragg. It was a former city trash dumpsite. But now it is full of glass bottles that have been tumbled into beautiful colorful ocean glass. You can visit and search for clear, blue, and green glass, but you can’t take it with you.

glass pebbles
Closeup of some of the glass pebbles.

By the way, the blue is hardest to find. This is a case where it’s OK to look, but please don’t take it! You’re not allowed to take any of the glass pebbles. That being the case, however, most people collect some glass. Because of this and also because of natural factors (wave action is constantly grinding down the glass), the glass is slowly diminishing.

The beach is now visited by thousands of tourists yearly. Collecting the glass pebbles is discouraged in the section of “Glass Beach” within and adjacent to the state park. However, most of the sea glass is now found on the other two glass beaches outside the state park area.

While in the area there is the Fort Bragg coastal path you can walk and enjoy the artistic redwood benches along the way. Each bench was designed/created by a local artist. What a nice way to celebrate local artists.

Lake Shasta Caverns

Shasta Caverns
Lake Shasta Caverns. Photo by Oleg Alexandrov / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Lake Shasta Caverns are a network of caves located near the McCloud arm of Shasta Lake in California. It was formerly named Chalk Cave and Baird Cave, named after Spencer Fullerton Baird.

Lake Shasta Caverns is an extraordinarily well-decorated solution cave. It contains an especially diverse assemblage of calcite cave formations ranging from millimeters to tens of meters. The caverns have preserved a diverse fossil fauna and flora marine record from 270 million years ago.

These caves are made entirely of limestone and feature a wide variety of formations. They include stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, columns, and flowstone. The Discovery Room, one of eight known rooms in the cavern system, contains all types of limestone rock formation.

The Lake Shasta Caverns currently attracts thousands of visitors a year. The only transportation to the caverns from the visitor center is a short ride on a catamaran across Shasta Lake. Then there is a scenic bus ride up a steep mountain grade. The bus ride terminates at the cavern entrance.

 
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The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, California

Northern California
Mystery Spot entrance. Photo by I, Sanjay ach / CC BY-SA 3.0.

The site is what is known as a gravity hill and was the first of its kind to be built in California. Tour guides lead visitors through the attraction and perform various demonstrations to showcase the site’s unusual effects.

The Mystery Spot is located in Santa Cruz, California. It resides in the Santa Cruz mountains, Oak trees, Eucalyptus trees, near Granite Creek, and within the California Redwood forest.

The Mystery Spot is open for tours 365 days a year. Aside from the attraction itself, there is a thirty-minute hiking trail nearby. There is a man-made dahlia garden along the hiking trail.

The Mystery Spot was the first ‘gravity-defying’ tourist attraction in California and was the most prominent illusion-based tourist attraction in California in the mid-20th century. The Mystery Spot is a gravity hill, a tilt-induced visual illusion. The illusion experienced by visitors results from the oddly tilted environment as well as standing on a tiled floor. Inside the tilted room of the Mystery Spot, misconceptions of the height and orientation of objects occur.

California’s Educational Institutions

Stanford University, Palo Alto California, Palo Alto, California, United States

There are several well-known Northern California universities which include Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley. Some top-tier public graduate schools include Boalt Hall, Hastings law schools, and UC San Francisco, a top-ranked medical school. Another top school is UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the largest vet school in the United States.

There are five University of California campuses and eleven California State University campuses plus a large number of local community colleges.

Northern California
Population Growth of Northern California

Private institutions are also well represented, a few of them include:

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Lake Tahoe a Big Northern California Attraction

Lake Tahoe from the east shore (in Nevada). Located in the Sierra Nevada of the U.S, along the state border of California and Nevada.

Northern California has many attractions, but Lake Tahoe is one of them that almost everyone in the United States has probably heard of. Lake Tahoe, a large freshwater lake is located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the United States. With a surface elevation of 6,225 ft (1,897 m), it is over a mile high and is located along the border between California and Nevada, west of Carson City Nevada.

Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America. It is 1,645 ft (501 m) deep. It is the deepest lake in the United States after Crater Lake’s 1,945 ft (593 m). in addition Lake Tahoe is the sixth largest lake by volume in the United States, behind the five Great Lakes.

Lake Tahoe is a major tourist attraction in both Nevada and California. If you are in Northern California anywhere in the area of the lake you should not miss this beautiful attraction. It is home to a number of ski resorts.

There are tourist attractions in addition to providing summer outdoor recreation. Snow and skiing are a significant part of the area’s economy and reputation.

Mountain and lake scenery are always attractions throughout the year. The Nevada side also includes its signature attraction, large casinos, and gambling. It is easy to reach Lake Tahoe by car, just take highways year-round from Reno, Carson City, and Sacramento.

This is just a small sample of what’s here in Northern California. Click the links below for more articles about California.

 

About the Author

Charles Harmon has a personal blog at Yolky.com. He also collects quotes at WanderlustQuotes.

 

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