Weekend Getaways in Northern California

From the best views, best hikes, to the best of the coast, Northern California offers an extensive list of must-see places. Here’s some of the best things to do on a weekend getaway in Northern California.

Beautiful creek with Mount Lassen rising above the trees
Mount Lassen. Photo © Jitterbug111/Dreamstime.com

Best Of The Mountains

Mountain climb: Mount Shasta
Mountain climb for youngsters: Lassen Peak, Lassen Volcanic National Park
Sierra panorama: Mitchell Peak, Jennie Lakes Wilderness
Most difficult permit: Mount Whitney from Whitney Portal, first weekend of August, 2 percent odds in preseason lottery
Lake view: Mount Tallac, Desolation Wilderness
Most unique payoff: Sierra Buttes Lookout, Tahoe National Forest

Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park, California with clear blue water and clouds.
Tuolumne Meadows. Photo © Dave Newman/Dreamstime.com

Best Hikes

Most dramatic easy hike with a view: Glacier Point to Pohono Trail, Yosemite National Park
Prettiest wilderness lakes: Shadow, Garnet, Minaret, Ediza; Ansel Adams Wilderness
Chain of lakes: Meeks Creek Trail to Genevieve, Crag, Hidden, Shadow, Stony Ridge, and Rubicon Lakes, Lake Tahoe Basin
Sierra trailhead: Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park
Hikers’ boat shuttle: Echo Lakes to trailhead for PCT/Desolation Wilderness
Overnight backpack for kids: Deadfall Lakes, Trinity Divide, Shasta-Trinity National Forest
Complete mountain resort: Convict Lake Resort
Drive-to view: Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park
Prettiest lake trail: Wapama Falls, Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, Yosemite National Park
Trailhead for fishing: Agnew Meadows to River Trail on upper San Joaquin River
Snowshoe trek: Badger Pass to Dewey Point, Yosemite National Park

Trail in the forest, Redwood National Park, California with misty fog.
Tall Trees Redwood National Park. Photo © Maksershov/Dreamstime.com.

Best Of The Redwoods

Most overlooked, pristine redwoods: Boy Scout Tree Trail, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Most species champion trees: James Irvine Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Redwood hike behind locked gate: Tall Trees Trail, Redwood National Park

stairs that lead to Seacliff State Beach, Monterey Bay
Seacliff State Beach, Monterey Bay. Photo © Mike Brake/Dreamstime.com.

Best Of The Coast

Prettiest ferns: Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Kayaking: Big River Lagoon/Mendocino Bay, Mendocino coast
RV sites: Seacliff State Beach, Monterey Bay
Coastal campsite: Wildcat, Point Reyes National Seashore
Coastal waterfall: McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Scuba diving: Point Lobos Marine Reserve
Protected coastal preserve: Salt Point State Park
Most underrated trail for difficulty: Lost Coast Trail, Mattole Trailhead

Sweeping views of Lake Del Valle from the trail networks of Del Valle Regional Park.
Del Valle Regional Park. Photo © Chris Labasco/Dreamstime.com

Best Of The Bay Area

Prettiest scope of view: East Peak, Mount Tamalpais State Park
Urban view: Mount Livermore (at night), Angel Island State Park
All-round park: Del Valle Regional Park (hiking, biking, boating, swimming, fishing, camping, backpacking, wildlife viewing, wilderness access)
Short backpack trip: Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Bike and hike: Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail out of Rancho del Oso, coastal access to Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Island campsites: Angel Island State Park
Route for continuous views: Perimeter Road, Angel Island State Park
Day hike for early spring: Montara Mountain, San Pedro County Park

McCloud River flowing through Shasta National Forest, Siskiyou County, Northern California
McCloud River. Photo © Andreistanescu/Dreamstime.com

Best Of The Rivers

Water sports: San Joaquin River Delta
Prettiest one-mile canyon: Berry Creek, Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Prettiest river walk: McCloud River from Lower Falls to Middle and Upper Falls and on to Lakim Dam
All-round white-water rafting: South Fork American River
Class V white-water rafting: Clavey Falls, Tuolumne River
Most technical kayak run: Cherry Valley, upper Tuolumne River

View of Emerald Bay State Park, Lake Tahoe with blue water.
Emerald Bay State Park, Lake Tahoe. Photo © Michelle Hausen.com/Dreamstime.com.

Best Of The Lakes

Widest array of campgrounds and cabins: Shasta Lake
Campground for quiet at night: Pardee Recreation Area
Prettiest site, boat-in camping: Emerald Bay State Park, Lake Tahoe
Prettiest lake for tent cabins: Mary Smith Campground, Lewiston Lake
Free loaner kayaks/boats: Independence Lake
Lake-based region for families: Union Valley Reservoir, Crystal Basin Recreation Area
Boat-to/hike-to waterfall: Bullards Bar Reservoir
Family destination: Historic Camp Richardson Resort, South Lake Tahoe

Lake Almanor. Photo © Marnie Patchett/Dreamstime.com.

Best Fishing

Largest trout: Lake Almanor
Most trout: Sacramento River, Redding to Anderson
Largest bass: Clear Lake
Most bass: Shasta Lake
Prospects for long-term future: Los Vaqueros Reservoir

MacArthur Burney Falls in California with sun shining.
Burney Falls. Photo © Kojihirano/Dreamstime.com.

Best Surprises

Most unique destination: Bumpass Hell geothermal area, Lassen Volcanic National Park
Most ironic sense of history: Captain Jack’s Stronghold, Lava Beds National Monument
Waterfall, highest volume subliminal flow: Burney Falls, McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park
Gold rush history: South Fork American River, Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, Coloma

Black Bear California Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park surrounded by wildflowers.
Sequoia National Park. Photo © Kwiktor/Dreamstime.com.

Best Wildlife Spots

Elk: Point Reyes National Seashore
Bear: Sequoia National Park
Deer: Lava Beds National Monument (in early winter)
Wild horses: Devil’s Garden, Modoc Plateau
Sea otter viewing: Elkhorn Slough by kayak
Humpback whales: Monterey Bay
California condor: Big Sur/Ventana Wilderness
Raptors/eagles: Los Vaqueros watershed by boat

main stream at Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park with a reflective Merced River in the foreground.
Yosemite Falls. Photo © Kim Wilson/Dreamstime.com.

Nor Cal Record Holders

Tallest tree in world: Hyperion, 380.3 feet, Redwood Empire
Largest tree in world by volume: General Sherman, 275 feet tall, 36 feet diameter, 102.6 feet circumference, Sequoia National Park
North America’s highest continuous trail: John Muir Trail
Tallest waterfall in North America: Yosemite Falls, 2,425 feet in three decks, Yosemite Valley
Largest single piece of granite in North America: El Capitan, 7,569 feet
Tallest single-strand waterfall in North America: Ribbon Fall, 1,634 feet, Yosemite Valley
Highest point in continental United States: Mount Whitney, 14,505 feet
Rainiest spot in continental United States: Camp 6 Weather Station, 257 inches in 1983, near Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Largest natural freshwater lake inside state borders: Clear Lake
Longest continuous trail in state: 1,700 miles, Pacific Crest Trail


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