Northern California is home to more than 65% of UCD undergraduates (source) and contains many different and dazzling attractions for a variety of people. Here is just an overview of key towns and regions that make up this vast geographical area. Additional attractions can be found in Adventures Outside of Davis.
Sierra Nevada Mountains
If Davis did not have a University in it, but kept the social feel, it would be Grass Valley. A small town with a rich and vibrant downtown and arts scene, Grass Valley is home to many music, arts and culture festivals throughout the year. The downtown is full of small independent stores, similar to Roseville's historic downtown (if it wasn't surrounded by modern Roseville). On second thought, if Davis did not have a University in it, it would probably be Woodland.
Lake Tahoe itself is a large body of freshwater located in the Sierra Nevada Range and runs through the Nevada-California state line. When people refer to Tahoe, they usually mean the cluster of towns at the water's edge. Tahoe is a popular destination for many people in the Bay and Sacramento area seeking adventure or a retreat from low altitude life. Lake Tahoe features many pawn shops and used car lots to make it easier for gamblers to part with their material possessions. Hiking, camping, gambling, skiing and boating are just the start of the things a person can do for fun at Lake Tahoe. For more detailed information see Lake Tahoe.
Placerville is a small city about half an hour East of Sacramento. Located off of historic Highway 50, the city center is small, with a population of about 10,000 and is nestled within the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Placerville zip code encompasses a larger area with around 34,000 residents. Just north of town is Apple Hill, a farming community with a number of nice shops run by the local orchards and other local businesses. Parking is tough so you should get there early. There are tons of apples and fresh apple juice. If you get sick of apples, there’s a craft fair, chocolate shop, trout farm and pony rides. There is also a nice little dinner theater in town. A nice idea for an adventure outside of Davis.
A speck of a town up in the mountains, Truckee is located on the Emigrant Trail, upon whose route many traveled and many died during the great influx of people into California during the latter half of the 1800s. If you find yourself here on a trip, try stopping at one of the last remaining historical railway diners that used to fill the country: Andy's Truckee Diner. Although it arrived in Truckee on July 26, 1995, the diner is an outstanding example of a restored 1948 Kullman Dining Car and a popular destination for diner-spotters around the world.
Mount Lassen is the southernmost dormant volcano in the Cascade Mountain range and the only other volcano in this range to erupt in the 20th century besides Mount Saint Helen. At 10,462 feet, Lassen receives one of the highest snowfall amounts in California. Lassen Volcanic National Park surrounds the volcano and is a great place to view mud pots, and hot springs. Less famous and less crowded than Yosemite, the park is also one of the few places in the world where four types of volcano can be found in one location.
Mount Shasta is the second highest peak in the entire Cascade Range and one of the highest mountains in California. Climbing the mountain is very popular and requires a permit, besides an ice ax and crampons which are available for rent in Mount Shasta City. It has one ski resort with downhill and cross country equipment available for rent, and cross country skiing is also possible other places around the mountain. Good hiking, camping and other outdoor adventures are around the volcano. Nearby is Mount Shasta City, and the towns of Weed and Yreka which together have a population just shy of 15,000. Yreka is the last relatively large town along I-5 before the Oregon border, and the seat of Siskiyou county. Yreka bakery is a palindrome that may have been used by Herb Caen and/or/with people getting baked. Other than obtaining gas or supplies for escapades into the wilderness, there is little here specifically for the tourist.
The Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area or the Whiskeytown Lakes is a region to the west of Redding. It comprises the area around Whiskeytown Lake, Lake Shasta and Trinity Lake; the Whiskeytown Unit is managed by the National Park Service and the Shasta and Trinity Units are managed by the United States Forest Service. Outdoor activities like fishing, swimming, hiking and houseboats can be enjoyed here.
Modoc County is named after the Modoc Indian Tribe that lived in the surrounding area. The Modoc War of the early 1870’s involved the famed Civil War General Edward Canby and the Modoc Nation which ended in their defeat. The Modoc were removed to the Indian Territories (which later became Oklahoma); though the land the U.S. gained is so marginal that the Tulelake area was used to intern Japanese Americans during WWII. There is a significant population of Modoc that still reside in Oregon to the north and a small population in Oklahoma. The entire population of Modoc County numbers about 9,000 with its county seat located in it’s only incorporated town at Alturas. It is the state’s most rural County and has only three major highways running through it. A notable feature of Modoc County is that it has the highest rate of concealed weapons permits per capita in the state and one of the lowest crime rates. Geographically diverse, there are forests, mountains and large grasslands. Lava Beds National Monument, besides containing lava beds, has a complicated system of lava tube caves open for exploration and also includes a battle site from the Modoc War. This is a home where the antelope roam... it's the only place Pronghorn can be found in California.
Willow Creek & Weaverville
Weaverville, with a population of about 3,000, is the seat of Trinity County and its largest metropolitan area. Weaverville’s history goes back to the 1850’s and the California Gold Rush. About 2,000 Chinese immigrants lived in an around Weaverville mining for gold, so large was this concentration that Weaverville for a time had its own Chinatown. The town proudly keeps its Old West feel, with old saloons and restaurants. The bandit Black Bart even paid this town a visit. If you follow 299 west, you will come to the town of Willow Creek. This small, sleepy little hollow is known to many as the Bigfoot capital of the United States. The town holds an annual celebration for Sasquatch and in 2003 held an international symposium that drew more than 3,000 people. The town is also a popular summer retreat for many second homeowners. The Klamath River is an important source of salmon for fishing but diversions of water from the river for farming have decreased the salmon population significantly.
Crescent City is the last large settlement along highway 101 as you head north to Oregon, and is home to the Battery Point Lighthouse. Besides being a beacon of civilization in desolate Del Norte County, it is also the county seat and offers a marina for small craft and boats. The term "beacon of civilization" should be understood loosely, as the town is home to maximum security Pelican Bay State Prison and is probably one of the most economically depressed cities in California, with 34.6% of the population living below the poverty line. Crescent City was the landing site of a major tsunami that originated with the March 28, 1964 earthquake in Alaska and a minor one that did property damage on November 15, 2006. South of Crescent City, along Highway 101, are the Redwood Parks. Prairie Creek, Del Norte Coast and Jedediah Smith Redwood State Parks lie adjacent and around Redwood National Park. Del Norte County also features the Bar-O Boys Ranch. These places offer excellent views of Redwood forests, which have a very primeval feel to them compared with pine, cedar and other evergreens. Camping, fishing, hiking and other outdoor goodness can be done here under the watchful eyes of the Park Rangers.
Eureka & the Humboldt Bay
Eureka! By far the largest city west of Redding in Northern California; it boasts a population of around 28,000 residents and is the seat of Humboldt County. Suburban areas around Eureka add another 12,000 residents. Initially formed as a base for Russian fur trappers (who decimated the local sea otter population), the land was eventually ceded to the United States following the Mexican-American War. The Native Americans of the region were among the last in California to come into contact with Americans, who assembled Fort Humboldt on a bluff above Humboldt Bay to protect the gold miners and settlers. In 1860, members of the local Wiyot Tribe were killed by 6 local men. Eureka hosts a deep water channel and is still a major hub for shipping in Northern California. The bay primarily is host to small water craft, some minor cargo ships and a major U.S. Coast Guard station. Eureka has a large number of Victorian style houses that have weathered the elements and time and become well-recognized historical landmarks. The Carson Mansion, a Victorian style mansion that now hosts the exclusive Ingomar Club, is often called the "most photographed building" in California. There is also a city zoo and botanical gardens in Eureka. On the northern end of Humboldt Bay is the town of Arcata. A college town like Davis but only half its size and by the sea, the town is home to the Humboldt State Lumberjacks. Arcata's politics make the surrounding region look conservative.
Below Eureka, highway 101 becomes known as the Redwoods Highway. Throughout this region many groves of Coastal Redwoods can be found. While not as thick as the cluster of state and national parks above Eureka, it is still more dense then the grove by Santa Cruz. Garberville is one of the larger towns along this stretch of highway 101 and provides a nice center for excursions to Humboldt Redwoods State Park and the coast. It has several motels, a grocery store, cafes, restaurants and hemp gift shops. Lots of transients, drifters and vagabonds can be seen throughout the towns and cities of the northern California coast. Paralleling highway 101 for 32 miles is a California State Route 254, more affectionately known as the “Avenue of the Giants.” A truly spectacular drive through Redwood forests and views of the Eel River, there are many gift shops along the way that sell wood cuts, carvings and trinkets. If one has the time to take this detour, I would highly suggest it. The highway eventually connects back to 101 at its end. Be careful for road crews watching for and clearing slides blocking the road. The road was so poorly engineered that it is covered in dirt regularly in the winter and during rainstorms. Caltrans crews will be out on the highway just looking at the hillside and waiting for it to cover the road so they can clear it.
Ukiah & Willits
Willits is a quaint little town at the entrance to coastal forest regions. Called the gateway to the Redwoods, it’s a good place to get gas, supplies or use the toilet as there are few stops until aforementioned region to do so. Ukiah to the south is a much larger town and has a population of about 15,000. It is the county seat for Mendocino County and has been traditionally friendly to cannabis users.
Redding, Anderson & Red Bluff
Located along I-5 and demarcating the northern end of the Sacramento Valley, Redding is a medium sized city — a metropolis compared to the surrounding towns — and the county seat of Shasta County. With a population of around 88,000, the city is experiencing notable growth and housing continues to encroach more and more into the forested foothills around the sides of the valley. Hot and dry in the summer, it is rather pleasant in the spring. Redding is the postal address of the Crystal Springs Regional Boys Camp. Overlooking the city are the peaks of Shasta to the north and Lassen to the east. To the south is the suburb of Anderson. Perhaps worth noting is its battle with drug trafficking and hate crimes by some locals. South of Anderson on Interstate 5 is Red Bluff. Red Bluff is the county seat of Tehama County and has a performing arts center.
Chico & Oroville
Chico is a city of about 80,000 people located off of highway 99. The surrounding region is a major agricultural center for almonds and walnuts. Home to Chico State, the downtown region has a very distinct college atmosphere to it. For instance, there are four bars within two blocks of the campus. Unlike Davis, there are major developments occurring at the outer regions of the city. Oroville to the south is most noted for the Oroville Dam, the tallest dam in the United States and in the top 20 largest dams in the world.
The County seat of Sutter County, Yuba City has a population of about 58,000 residents. The city has one of the largest populations of Punjabi Sikhs living outside of Northern India. There is a Sikh Festival and Parade every year in November that attracts people from all over the country. They have a small but very active gay community, and have hosted Rocky Horror shows performed by Sacramento/Davis cast Further Indignities.
Davis & Friends
For more information on this region, see the following links:
Napa is the county seat of none other then Napa County. World renowned for its wineries, Napa Valley is a nice location for any wine enthusiast. Robert and Margrit Mondavi makes their home here and also own many of the vineyards. Beautiful rolling hills with pine forests create a charming location that is the rival of any French valley. Highway 12 meanders right through the heart of Napa wine country, a wonderfully scenic drive, perhaps even a great date idea (if you think traffic jams are romantic).
Sonoma to the west is a charming little town with a very Western/Spanish flavor. Sonoma is located in the picturesque “Valley of the Moon”. Bordered by forests on both sides, the valley runs north eventually connecting with highway 101. Small farms, ranches and vineyards dot the journey. Sonoma is also the location of the northernmost Spanish built mission. Santa Rosa, located north of Sonoma is the largest city in wine country. It is the seat of Sonoma County and has a population of about 150,000. Due to the dramatic increase in population and few connecting freeways, highways 101, 29, and 37 can become a traffic nightmare. Don't go to Santa Rosa though, it is really boring, but if you do go, check out the Russian River Brew Co's tap house downtown, it is the antithesis of boring.
Sacramento & its suburbs
For more information on Sacramento and the surrounding region see:
The Bay Area, because of its large population, is described in far more detail Here, than could be afforded on this page. Nevertheless, it is an important part of Northern California.