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The 13 Best Places to Live for Nature Lovers
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The 13 Best Places to Live for Nature Lovers

From the small towns up north to mountainous escapes near the south, California is one of the best places to live for nature lovers.

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6 min read

July 15, 2021

The Golden State is a nature lovers’ paradise—you know it, we know it, it’s basically more of a fact than an opinion at this point. But even in the midst of all the beaches, mountains, greenery, and diverse terrain, some places simply stand out. 

From the small towns up north to mountainous escapes near the southern border, the Golden State is undoubtedly one of the best places to live for nature lovers. Whether you value waking up to scenic vistas or having access to outdoor recreation, the best cities for nature lovers in California have it all. 

California's Best Cities for Nature Lovers

You’ve had a taste of the big city life and now you find yourself feeling more at home when you’re surrounded by the smell of pine trees and the sound of crashing waves—trust us, we get it. Pack your essentials and embark on a solo discovery trip to these destinations. You just might find your ideal spot for a forever home in one of the best places to live for nature lovers in California.

The Best Towns for Nature Lovers in NorCal

There are several rare and endangered species in Redding and its immediate vicinity such as the slender Orcutt grass, which occurs in eastern Redding.

1. Redding

Any Shasta County city is bound to capture the hearts of nature lovers in California, but we’ve highlighted Redding for its 300 days of sunshine a year. Shasta Lake, Whiskeytown Lake, and the Sacramento River surround the city and give you endless opportunities to fish, kayak, and paddleboard year-round. Plus, many of the other best towns for nature lovers in NorCal are close enough to Redding to warrant a weekend getaway here and there.

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2. Santa Cruz

Beautiful beaches, coastal redwood forests, and a California-classic boardwalk—the beautiful town of Santa Cruz has everything. If you’re into marine life, you shouldn't miss out on exploring Natural Bridges State Beach. The marine protected area conserves ocean wildlife and natural ecosystems and offers some of the best tide pooling in Northern California. No matter what your favorite outdoor activity is, you’ll find them all in Santa Cruz.

Due to its high elevation, Tahoe City has a continental Mediterranean climate with dry summers featuring very warm days and cool nights.

3. Tahoe City

If you want variety in the range of outdoor activities to enjoy throughout the year, make Tahoe City the scenic NorCal town of your choice. As one of the best places to live for outdoor lovers, Tahoe sits right on the border of California and Nevada, offering the best of both worlds. Enjoy skiing at the state’s top resorts in the winter, hiking and kayaking in the summer, and beautiful vistas from every corner year-round.

4. San Jose 

While San Jose is better-known as a booming tech town, it’s actually minutes away from the majestic forests of redwoods and sequoias. Parks like Muir Woods and Big Basin are easily accessible from San Jose, and legendary hiking trails like Coyote Peak and Senador Mine secure San Jose a place on any list concerning the best cities for nature lovers. Whenever you feel like the tech lifestyle is getting too overwhelming, get in your car and immerse yourself in nature. 

Situated on the Monterey Peninsula, Carmel-by-the-Sea is known for its natural scenery and rich artistic history.

5. Carmel

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a European-style town on the Central Coast that’s a great place to discover on foot. Marine life, coastal birds, sea cliffs, and hidden coves await you near the coast, while trails, panoramic views, and wildflowers offer a world of adventures inland. Chances are you’ll get lost in the city—there are no street addresses in Carmel, which makes it all the more exciting and fairytale-esque.

6. Calistoga

While the neighboring towns of Napa and Sonoma are more popular with tourists, the small town of Calistoga stands as one of the best places to live for nature lovers. Nestled at the base of Mount St. Helena, Calistoga offers geothermal hot-spring pools, mud baths, geysers, and picturesque vineyards you’ll love discovering on scenic rides. If you want to be on a rustic-yet-refined retreat all the time, make Calistoga your forever home.

The town's name comes from Cape Mendocino, named by early Spanish navigators in honor of Antonio de Mendoza, Viceroy of New Spain.

7. Mendocino 

The coastal town of Mendocino is home to many charming cottages, wildflower fields, and lush forests. Wake up to morning sounds of crashing waves and go to sleep watching the twinkling stars light up the clear night skies. Those who don’t mind living life in the slow lane will definitely appreciate Mendocino as one of the best places to live for outdoor lovers.

The Best Places to Live for Outdoor Lovers in SoCal

Signs around the 'Bu proclaim "21 miles of scenic beauty," referring to the incorporated city limits with pristine beaches.

8. Malibu

With glittering shores and enchanting trails, Malibu is definitely a treasure trove of outdoor adventures. Despite its glamorous reputation, Malibu remains one of the best places to live for nature lovers in SoCal. You basically have Escondido Falls and Solstice Canyon under your fingertips—Topanga Canyon is also a hop and a skip away. Plus, a little luxury here and there definitely wouldn't take away from the experience; just imagine all the coastal glamping adventures you’ll enjoy here.

9. San Diego

From sandy beaches and awesome surf spots to countless open spaces and scenic hiking trails, San Diego is easy to love. Explore the trails over Laguna Mountains, go stargazing on a clear summer’s night, and enjoy learning about the city’s amazing wildlife rescue efforts. Wherever you settle in San Diego, you’ll have a world of awesome adventures within your reach.

Avalon is the only incorporated city on Santa Catalina Island and is a resort city with the waterfront dominated by tourism-oriented businesses.

10. Avalon

The lush greenery, hillside homes, and beautifully clear waters of Avalon will remind you of the Mediterranean in the best way. As the only incorporated city on Santa Catalina Island, Avalon is one of the best places to live for nature lovers and a great place to discover whether you’re visiting in July or December. While it’s tough to imagine anyone getting bored of exploring nature in this charming SoCal town, there are plenty of art galleries, restaurants, and small shops to keep you entertained. 

11. Claremont

Love nature and are heading to college? Consider spending four beautiful years in a scenic small town by the name of Claremont. Known as the “City of Trees and PhDs,” Claremont is one of the best towns for nature lovers for its natural vistas and easy access to awesome outdoor recreation spots. Living here means being minutes away from Mount Baldy, Claremont Wilderness Park, and Angeles National Forest.

Ojai is a tourism destination known for its boutique hotels, recreation opportunities, hiking, and farmers market of local organic agriculture.

12. Ojai

Ojai is a charming town in Ventura County known for wellness retreats, and, of course, incredibly breathtaking natural views. Not only is Ojai surrounded by the beautiful Los Padres National Forest and Topatopa Mountains, but it’s also a super cool art town with plenty of galleries and cultural venues to discover. We love heading out to Ojai as an idyllic vacation destination, but its status as one of the best places to live for nature lovers also makes it a top contender for retirement destinations.

13. Big Bear

Big Bear is definitely one of California’s most popular mountain towns. While the mountain has an average of 66 inches of snow between December and February, there are many more activities to enjoy here besides skiing throughout the year. As one of the best cities for mountain lovers, Big Bear Lake exposes you to a world of hiking, biking, camping, and bird watching. From the beautiful pine and oak forests in the San Bernardino Mountains to the crystal clear waters of the lake, Big Bear is what nature lover dreams are made of.

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