Northern California hidden gems to put on your summer bucket list. Discover some of the most interesting places to visit in NorCal, not on the usual tourist itinerary. Natural wonders, secluded parks, historic landmarks, and even an African Wildlife adventure. How many of these hidden gems have you visited?
China Camp State Park has a rich history that began with the indigenous Miwok people who thrived in the area for thousands of years. With the arrival of Europeans, the Miwok population began to decline. In the 1870s, Chinese fishers settled in the area and built a small village.
Harley Farms produce four types of fresh goat milk cheese. Samples are available at the farm store, along with mini, medium, and large cheese rounds for sale. If you drive to the farm, you can browse through the store, view the goats and llamas in the main corral. For a more in-depth farm, tour reservations are required. Pescadero, CA.
Roughly 20 miles north of San Francisco, China Camp State Park rests on the San Pedro Peninsula in San Rafael, California. History buffs will appreciate the historic China Camp Village, while mountain bikers and hikers will enjoy exploring more than 1,600 acres of parkland.
Locke came to be in 1915. It is a town that the Chinese built for the Chinese population of workers after many were displaced due to a fire in nearby Walnut Grove. The entire town of Locke is a historical site, even though it is home to many people. There is a visitor center, some interesting shops, and a couple of good restaurants.
Located in Humboldt County, the town of Ferndale looks like it has stood still in time. Though Ferndale is a small town boasting a population of just over 1300 residents, there is much to see, do, and taste in this quaint California gem.
Way off the beaten path at an elevation of 10,000 feet, the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest overlooks the Sierra Nevada mountains. These trees’ strangely appealing beauty makes the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest a favorite hidden spot for photographers and painters, but hikers and campers equally enjoy it.
Pinnacles National Park is the nation’s newest national park and most often visited during spring and fall because of the abundance of wildflowers and the intense heat during the summer months. The park is divided into the east and west entrances by the rock formations and connected by a trails system that accesses both the park’s numerous caves and peaks.
Turtle Bay Exploration Park gardens make a spectacular backdrop for weddings, parties, and other special events. The Arboretum extends for 200 acres and links up with the popular Sacramento River Trail in several spots. Designed by the world-famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the Sun Dial bridge links the park’s north and south sides.
Safari West African Wildlife Tours guests can take a three-hour tour led by an experienced guide. You climb aboard a Safari truck and head out onto the bumpy roads of the preserve. This trip lets you take an African safari without the danger of being charged by wild animals.
Bryan Preserve, located in Point Arena in Southern Mendocino County, is a wildlife preserve with two kinds of zebra species and several antelope species. There are over 60 zebras and antelope at the preserve, and they are making preparations to bring in giraffes as well. What most people do not know is that the preserve is open to the public for daily tours.
This geyser shoots a stream of scalding steam up to 75 feet into the air every thirty minutes or so. If you visit Napa Valley with kids in tow, then a stop at Old Faithful Geyser is almost mandatory. Along with the geyser, the small herd of fainting goats is a breed that faints when startled. With so many visitors, the goats have become used to noise and are not easily scared.
The wonderful park covers nearly 20-miles from Malakoff Diggins State Historical Park to the Yuba River banks. Visitors can enjoy swimming, hiking, and exploring the trails leading to historic mining sites, panning for gold and gorgeous wildflowers in the spring.
Opportunities for outdoor activities abound. Hike through the spectacular Armstrong Redwood State Reserve, or kayak down the Russian River as it winds its way through the valley. One summer highlight is the annual Stumptown Daze Parade and Barbeque. This event is the unofficial kick of the summer season along this section of the Russian River.
Laws museum and historical site preserve the Owens Valley railroad town of Laws. Along with other historical buildings, the original depot is a fascinating look into the history of the Owens Valley. Along with railroad artifacts, there are over 20 buildings plus mining and farming equipment.
Manzanar National Historic Site is a location worthy of your time if you are hungry for mid-century California history. Manzanar was one of ten internment camps spread throughout the western United States. At the visit, you get a sense of the camp’s overall size and can view an extensive collection of images, artifacts, and exhibits.
Located in the Owens Valley at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Alabama Hills’ collection of spectacularly unique sunburned granite rock formations and arches has become known as the quintessential western landscape. The Alabama Hills got its name from prospectors living and mining in the area during the Civil War. When news reached California about the victories won by the Confederates’ warship, the CSS Alabama.
A Sicilian immigrant who was born in 1879 and came to America in the early 1900s to plant a citrus orchard, Forestiere soon discovered the unbearable summer heat of the San Joaquin Valley. So, to stay cool, he spent the next 40 years digging out a hidden underground home in the hardpack and clay, eventually creating his sub-sand oasis.
Silver City has over 20 historic buildings filled with thousands of treasures from mining camps and other local frontier settlements. Silver City is located in the small town of Bodfish, a few miles from Lake Isabella in Kern County.
Located in Salinas, a part of Monterey County, Vision Quest is part of the Monterey Zoo. Not just any zoo, the facility is more of a sanctuary for animals that can no longer work in the entertainment industry. Accommodation at the Vision Quest Ranch is B&B style. Bungalows are spread out around the property to offer peace. “Tent rooms” can be arranged for those guests who want to stay as close to nature as possible.
This cozy little town is a perfect day trip destination from Sacramento or the Bay Area. Many visitors travel in winters to visit the local wineries. Winters is an up-and-coming wine country, not as famous as its Napa neighbor, but connoisseurs will love the range of varietals grown in the valleys of Yolo County.
Benicia has a long and interesting past and has, over the years, played an important role in California’s history. For a short period in the mid 19th century, the town became the state’s capital. In 1853, the original capitol building was erected in the historical landmark and tourist attraction of Benicia Capitol State Historic Park.
There are four main historical museums in the park. There is the Plaza Hotel, Zannetta House, The Plaza Stables, and the Castro-Breen Adobe. Additionally, you can see the historic jail, a blacksmith shop, and an early American settler’s cabin. Adjacent to the State Park is the actual San Juan Bautista Mission.
At an elevation of 6,955 feet, Huntington Lake is a wonderful hidden mountain getaway. The best time to visit is spring or summer, like the winter, although beautiful, can be brutal. Huntington Lake is perfect for those who want an unspoiled and beautiful setting to camp or rent a cabin. Connect with nature—80 miles northeast of Fresno.
With its unique restaurants and shops set in authentic historic buildings, the downtown district is Truckee’s heart and soul. Once the industrial center of a gritty railroad town, today downtown is an epicenter of activity, where visitors can browse dozens of independently owned and operated shops and dine in delectable eateries.
Hilmar Cheese Company Visitor Center is a fun place to stop while traveling through California’s Central Valley. Cheese samples, self-guided tours, sandwiches, and cheese products are all available at the center.
An 853-acre state historic park hidden in the Sierra Nevada Mountains preserved since 1975 and frozen in time for visitors to see and explore. Inside the park are a visitor center and many of the mine’s original buildings, including the restored gardens and historic home of former mine owner — William Bourn, Jr.
Three hot springs feed the large swimming pool and a smaller hot pool at Keough’s Hot Springs Resort. Over one million gallons a day of hot 127-degree mineral water (cooled to about 90 degrees for the pool) flows through the resort.
Despite its menacing past, however, Lassen Peak remains one of the most accessible volcanoes in the Cascades. The peak also distinguishes being the world’s biggest plug dome volcano and the southernmost volcano in the Cascade Range.
One of the large draws of Lava Beds is the opportunity to explore dozens of developed caves. These caves are the remnants of streams of underground lava that pushed through the subsurface. After the lava exited, it left behind long tube-like caves. Lava Beds National Monument has the largest concentration of lava tubes in the United States.
Amador Flower Farm has almost endless gardens full of daylilies, a nice picnic area next to a small lake, and a wonderful little gift shop. With nearly 1,000 floral varieties scattered over 13 walkable acres, visitors have plenty of opportunities to “stop and smell the daylilies.”
There are trails for hikers; there are trails for those on horseback, and an underwater reserve awaits divers ready to take the plunge off this exceptional stretch of Sonoma Coast. More than 20 miles of walking trails wind their way through the park’s inland areas, and mountain biking is permitted on fire roads and paved areas.
The museum lets visitors explore the artist’s artistic, technological, and societal accomplishments who founded the Walt Disney empire Walt Disney. You will get a chance to understand and assess all aspects of Walt Disney’s work, as well as the history of the man himself.