San Francisco thinks it’s all about the Bay, but Northern California is big, beautiful, and well worth exploring. From striking coasts to stunning mountains, with dens of commerce and any number of art scenes, there’s a lot around the top half of the state that isn’t talked about near enough, and a bunch of towns that are too quickly overlooked. It’s time something other than the Bay Area got a shoutout, so to get started here’s four of NorCal’s most underrated towns.
Weed is a tiny town with a big mountain, and this Mt. Shasta foothill community likes it that way. Weed is the kind of place where you can sit down at the local diner for some hot coffee and fluffy eggs and completely forget about the overpriced cocoa at the resort because you already paid more than your share for that ski pass, darnit! Of course, it’s also the kind of place where you can find that resort. Everything in the area is centered around taking advantage of the outdoor surroundings, so be prepared to move around – warm or cold. A little Jack Frost nipping at your nose isn’t a bad thing, though, when a beautiful snow-capped volcano is just sitting there for your viewing pleasure.
If you’re looking for town with a bit more something-for-everyone, Humboldt State’s hometown won’t disappoint. It oozes old Victorian charm, and along with the evergreen offerings at the farmer’s markets and the unrelenting stream of summer festivals and cultural gatherings, the area also has a thriving artistic community, a scientific community that integrates invention into daily life, and an enviable nightlife scene, fueled on in no small part by the presence of one of California’s most notorious state schools.
These days, Nevada City is a picturesque small town situated between rolling hills covered in pine trees, with 19th century storefronts that could charm the pants off of any New England hamlet. Back during the Gold Rush days, though, Nevada City was a booming mining community, and the third largest city in California. The town, with its specialty shops, local B&Bs, and old-school theater, is the perfect place to unplug and relax, but if you’re looking for a bit more adventure, there’s an outdoor sports scene in the area that’s got something for every level of will and ability.
Fort Bragg is a coastal town along Highway 1, and while it’s a bit of a drive up from the major cities in the area, it’s well worth it. The climate is mild year-round, and you can see the area’s lumber mill history everywhere. You can even hike across some of the old trestles. The glass beach is another major attraction unlike anything else you’ll find in the area, and the botanical gardens are equally as striking on the exterior set along a coastal bluff as they are on the interior. Take in some views of the Pacific before taking in some of the freshest seafood you can find.