1. Yosemite National Park
If there were just one reason to go inland in California, it would be
You’re free to simply putter around the village on beach cruisers or walk to easy-to-access waterfalls and viewpoints — but it doesn’t end there. You can hike seven miles, then tackle the cables on Half Dome to climb 4,737 feet straight up a steep granite slope above the valley floor, before hiking another seven miles back. Actual rock climbers can head to vertical rock formations like El Capitan for some of the most challenging and photo-op worthy climbing around. And then of course there are whole other sections of the park and ample wilderness beyond, making Yosemite a starting point for exploring the region at large, including via the John Muir Trail.
2. Hiking the John Muir Trail
Even if backpacking anywhere from 20 to 30 days (depending on how heavy your pack is, how far you travel each day, and how long you spend admiring your surroundings) isn’t necessarily on your bucket list, the payoff of the John Muir Trail arguably makes every blister, sunburn, and freezing-cold soapless lake bath absolutely worth it. Highlights include spending the hottest parts of the day relaxing on the shores of the best-looking lakes in the Sierra, a visit to the geologically bizarre Devil’s Postpile National Monument, three solid weeks with no cell service anywhere, and sweeping views of mountain peaks in every direction.
3. Going farm-to-fork in Sacramento
Within a one-hour radius of
Capitalizing on the largest Certified Farmers’ Market in California, Sacramento restaurants (try The Kitchen, Ella, Magpie, or Mulvaney’s) have been working with local farmers to produce menus that highlight seasonal and locally grown ingredients year-round. The city also hosts a farm-to-fork celebration each fall that gives visitors a chance to experience the quality of local small farms and ranches and puts the spotlight on Sacramento’s pool of talented local chefs.
4. Burney Falls
Just off the Pacific Crest Trail, Burney Falls isn’t quite the tallest or most famous waterfall in inland Northern California, but it’s absolutely worth the trek. After about an hour of windy mountain driving from Redding and into
The waterfall itself is just about 129 feet high, but additional water trickles between the rocks from various springs, creating an impressive wall of water that cascades into the basin below.
5. Putting together an epic brewery tour
California’s full of beer cities — San Diego, for example, is one of the top microbrew destinations in the country, if not the world. But inland Northern California also has its share of epic small-town microbreweries to explore.
Grab a designated driver and start your tour in Mammoth Lakes with a flight at the
For something totally different, the
6. Bodie State Historic Park
There are remnants of the California Gold Rush all over inland Northern California, but none as well preserved as
Today, the streets of Bodie are walkable, and a small part of the town survives in a state of arrested decay. There’s a church, cemetery, the big mill, a few saloons and other businesses, residences, a bunch of melty cars, and a cool-looking bank safe all still fully explorable. Even the interiors of the remaining buildings are as they once were, with their original contents and relics scattered around.
In the summertime, it’s insanely hot. In the wintertime, you need a snowmobile to access the area. Choose your ideal time to visit, and don’t forget to pack your dog. The park is pet friendly.
7. Sunbathing on the beach at Lake Tahoe
In the winter, there are 15 ski resorts in the vicinity for downhill skiing and riding, plus hundreds of miles of backcountry trails for snowshoeing and nordic skiing. Once the snow melts, the lake becomes the center of recreation for boaters, wakeboarders, kayakers, and stand-up paddlers. After a dip in the lake, stretch out on the sand at Kiva Beach to thaw out and admire the mountain views.
8. Wine tasting in Lodi
Over 100,000 acres of vineyards, and California’s #1 producer of Zinfandel, Cabernet, Merlot, Viognier, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc grapes — no, it’s not Napa. Not only is
The area is particularly known for its Zinfandels and the interesting things winemakers are doing with Spanish and Portuguese grapes. Try the Old Vine Zin from Klinker Brick, the Dancing Fox Petite Sirah, or the Oak Farm Malbec for the best of the region’s reds. But on a hot day, a glass of the Albariño from Jeremy Wine Company, sipped on their patio in downtown Lodi, is pretty tough to beat.
9. Exploring the Mono Lake tufas
Located near Lee Vining outside the eastern edge of Yosemite National Park,
But the most interesting features of Mono Lake are its tufa towers. Tufas are created when minerals in the water combine with carbonates from underwater springs, forming gigantic limestone towers. As the water level in the lake dropped over time, the tufas poked up and over the surface, forming the crazy sandcastle-y landscape you see today, especially on the south shore. If you can hack it, the best views here happen at sunrise.