A Photo Essay through Northern California

Welcome to California

Those of us from California tend to specify which area of the state we’re from. We’re either from NorCal or SoCal, maybe even the Central Coast. Growing up in Santa Cruz, our location is always debatable as to whether we fit into Northern California or the Central Coast.

Personally, I’ve always thought my hometown leans much more towards Northern California, at least in terms of the culture and the people. Not to mention, when I think of Northern California, I have an overwhelming feeling of home.

Northern California

That’s not to say I don’t love other parts of my home state. There’s beautiful Joshua Tree down south, as well San Diego (where I lived for 5 years and went to university), Big Bear, Disneyland, Hollywood, Santa Barbara, Hearst Castle, and so many classic spots that I love going back to time and time again.

All of those places are wonderful, but nothing makes me feel so at peace as when I make it to the Big Sur area and north, there’s a switch and the rugged beauty makes me feel like I’m home.

I’m probably going to write individual posts about most if not all of these places that I went to in Northern California on my most recent road trip, but I wanted to give you all a glimpse into a place I hold very dear to my heart. A place I still consider home, even after all of the other places I’ve traveled to and cities I’ve lived in.

People (especially Oregonians) may find California an overrated place, but I still find Northern California quite magical.

I’m still working on a video about my 2 month trip up the length of California, which should be coming out soon so I hope you stick around and come back for that in a week or two!

This is by no means an exhaustive list of what to see in Northern California, but perhaps it can give you a few ideas of where to stop if you’re on your own road trip through California someday. If I had more time, I would highly recommend also seeing Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, and Shasta Lake.

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz - Northern California

Santa Cruz Boardwalk - Northern California

Santa Cruz - Northern California

Santa Cruz - Northern California

Santa Cruz - Northern California

San Jose

San Jose - Northern California

San Jose - Northern California

San Jose - Northern California

San Francisco

San Francisco - Northern, California

San Francisco - Northern, California

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Looking for a local’s guide to SF? Check out this link

Point Reyes National Park

Point Reyes National Park - Northern California

Point Reyes National Park - Northern California

Lagunitas Brewing Company – Petaluma

Lagunitas Brewing Company - Northern California

Lagunitas Brewing Company - Northern California

Sacramento

Sacramento - Northern, California

Sacramento - Northern, California

Sacramento - Northern, California

Anderson Valley Brewing Company – Boonville

Anderson Valley Brewing - Boonville

Anderson Valley Brewing Company - Boonville - Northern, California

Russian Gulch State Park

Russian Gulch State Park - Northern, California

Russian Gulch State Park - Northern, California

Glass Beach

Glass Beach - Northern, California

Glass Beach - Northern, California

Lost Coast Brewery – Eureka

Lost Coast Brewery, Eureka - Northern California Lost Coast Brewery, Eureka - Northern California

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Jedediah State Park - Northern California

Jedediah State Park - Northern California

Tip: Try and drive through a redwood tree while you’re in the area, it’s a very local experience!

Redwood Trees - Northern California

Are there other stops you would include in a Northern California Road Trip? What did I miss?

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Mimi McFadden

Travel Writer/Blogger at The Atlas Heart
Mimi founded The Atlas Heart to create a community of travelers inspired to see the world. The Atlas Heart is a space where you'll find anecdotes on slow travel, craft beer, outdoor adventures, and all the eccentric bits in between that this world has to offer.
Mimi McFadden
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11 comments

  1. Awwwww you have made me miss home so much! Except I was a SoCal girl having lived in LA for the last 11 years. Driving or biking up the California coast is on my bucket list. What a beautiful state we have lived in! I’m definitely bookmarking this post for ideas of places to stop when I finally do take that road trip. 🙂

    1. Aw Yay! That’s awesome, Sadie. Thanks for reading and finding some road trip ideas from this post 🙂 California is definitely a special place.

  2. Beautiful photos! San Jose is like a second home to me after spending a summer there. Love that capture of the trolly line on 1st Street.

    You’ve really captured the natural wonder of NorCal. And those beer photos have got me thirsty. Planning a beer-focused West-Coast roadtrip as I type.

    Lovely post.

    1. Thank you, Kelsey! I’m so happy I was actually able to explore San Jose properly this year after growing up my whole life in Santa Cruz. I’d say it was about time, it is such a lovely city. Yes! Beer-focused West Coast Road trips are the best 🙂 I’ll actually be writing up an all-encompassing post on our 2 month beer journey From San Diego to Eureka in the next week or two, if you’re looking for some more ideas!

  3. Thanks for the ‘tour” 🙂 I recently moved to Southern California (my husband grew up here) and love it, but I also love NorCal! There is definitely a distinct difference between the two. We went on a road trip last week from Orange County up to San Francisco- it definitely changed at some point. It’s so much fresher and greener up there too. I agree with what you said about Santa Barbara in another post- it’s kind of in between and encompasses both north and south!

    1. Yes! The two sides of the state have such different personalities but I love going back to both for different reasons. No matter how many times I’ve driven from the south to the north or vice versa, I’ve always found a new place to see and explore – the benefits of traveling a massive state I guess!

  4. Mimi! I have no idea how I missed this post, since I always get updates from your site – but this is by far my favorite one. NorCal is SO beautiful, and you’ve convinced me to visit NorCal only (rather than SoCal) the next time I’m in CA. Absolutely stunning photos – and you and your bf look SO happy. 🙂 Keep on loving life, girl!

    1. So glad you enjoyed it Debbi! You should definitely go for a road trip next time you’re in California – I was happy I was finally able to explore some beautiful areas in Northern California that I had never seen before, besides the fact that I grew up there. 🙂 Are you still up in Seattle? I’m hopefully making a visit up north to Washington at some point in September!

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