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A Guide to California's Valleys
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A Guide to California's Valleys

No matter what the reason is for a visit, these valley towns in the Golden State are right up your ‘valley’.

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5 min read

July 01, 2021

Surrounded by grand mountain ranges, speckled with vibrant wildflowers all around, and interlaced with beautiful rivers and lakesCalifornia’s valleys are exquisite destinations for any occasion. Seeking a peaceful retreat away from the city buzz? You got it. Want a fun trip out in nature with your friends? You won’t be disappointed. No matter what the reason is, these valley towns in the Golden State are right up your ‘valley’.

From south to north, these are the valleys in California you should keep in mind for your next summer road trip.

The San Fernando Valley is about 260 square miles bound by the Simi Hills to the west and the Verdugo Mountains to the east.

Must-Visit California Valleys

San Fernando Valley

The San Fernando Valley in California, more commonly known as “the Valley” by locals, is an urbanized area just north of the Los Angeles basin. Occupying 260 square miles of space, the Valley is home to several Los Angeles suburban communities, including North Hollywood, Studio City, Encino, Van Nuys, and Woodland Hills. One of the things that make the Valley so popular is its many iconic film studios, including the Warner Bros. Studio and the Walt Disney Studio.

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If you ever drive down south to the valley in California, you shouldn’t miss out on enjoying the thrilling rides at Universal Studios Hollywood. And, if you’re curious about the history and pop culture of the San Fernando Valley, the Valley Relics Museum is the best place to start.

A synclinal valley in SoCal, Simi Valley contains soils formed from shales, sandstones, and conglomerates eroded from the Santa Susana Mountains.

Simi Valley

Surrounded by mighty mountains and hills, Simi Valley in Southern California is connected to the San Fernando Valley and Ventura. The hidden green valley was once inhabited by the Chumash people who named it Shimyi—a word that describes the little white clouds which were visible in the sky. Today, this valley town has so much for you to see and discover.

When in the area, make sure to visit the city of the same name in the valley to check out the Ronald Reagan Library. It wouldn’t hurt to get a hole-in-one at the Simi Hills Golf Course either. If you like hiking, the Chumash Trail is one of the best wildflower hikes in SoCal, packing in plenty of expansive views.

Chumash Indians were the early inhabitants of the Ojai Valley. The name Ojai is derived from the Ventureño Chumash word ʼawha'y meaning "moon."

Ojai Valley

Ojai Valley’s culture is heavily influenced by ecology, health, and organic living—there’s a reason why it’s dubbed as California’s own Shangri-la by many. A getaway to Ojai is your best bet for a weekend of tranquility and spirituality in California. As expected, the scenery here is enchanting. The valley towns of Ojai have expansive blue skies, miles of organic orchards and farmlands, and palm tree-lined streets that perfectly capture the iconic SoCal vibe.

If you ever find yourself in this California valley, hiking the Shelf Road Trail is a must. For a well-spent self-care day, register to meditate at the Meditation Mount’s gardens and try tasty organic treats at one of the many farm-to-table restaurants in Ojai.

The Mojave River flows northwards through the Victor Valley, primarily via underground aquifers. The region has 15 unincorporated communities.

Victor Valley

Located in the Mojave Desert, Victor Valley has Antelope Valley to its east, the Cajon Pass to its north, and plenty of beautiful valley towns in between. This California valley is less than 100 miles from Los Angeles and home to more than 400,000 people mainly living in Victorville, Apple Valley, Adelanto, and Hesperia.

Visit Apple Valley to go location scouting for many of your favorite films—Ordinary People, Eagle Eye, and The Hills Have Eyes features several scenes shot in Victor Valley. Then, head over to Victorville to check out the California Route 66 Museum and view photographs and artifacts from the town's past.

The Antelope Valley comprises the western tip of the Mojave Desert, opening up to the Victor Valley and the Great Basin to the east.

Antelope Valley

Situated between the Tehachapi, Sierra Pelona, and San Gabriel mountain ranges, the Antelope Valley in California is found at the very western tip of the Mojave Desert. The valley was named after the antelopes which roamed in the area until they were eliminated in the late 1800s. Despite the fact that the antelopes have disappeared, this valley still has rich flora and fauna. You can find many state-signature plants here, such as Joshua trees and the state flower California poppies.

Lying in the Great Basin, Death Valley is the principal feature of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts Biosphere Reserve.

Death Valley

The hottest, driest, and lowest point in the country—Death Valley, California is truly one-of-a-kind. But don’t let its morbid name fool you, a great diversity of flora and fauna exists here, and discovering it is the best part.

It goes without saying that you can’t just visit the park; traversing the trails in Death Valley is a must. In addition, thrilling adventures such as biking, running through sand dunes, and even off-road camping await you. Don’t just limit your plans to revolve around the national park—there are several interesting towns near Death Valley that deserve your attention as well.

The Central Valley stretches approximately 450 miles from north-northwest to south-southeast, inland from and parallel with the Pacific coast.

Central Valley

The Central Valley in California, aka the Great Valley of California, spans approximately 20,000 square miles. The region is divided into two main parts—the northern one-third is the Sacramento Valley; San Joaquin comprises the southern two-thirds.

Many visitors tend to skip the Central Valley when visiting, but there’s so much more to this valley than meets the eye. Check out its family-friendly attractions if you’re visiting with your kids, head over to the inexpensive college towns if you’re looking to continue your education, but most importantly, enjoy being in one of the most underrated places in the Golden State.

Napa Valley is the epitome of beautiful Wine Country scenery and legendary world-class wine, as well as Michelin-starred restaurants.

Napa Valley

It’s no secret that Napa Valley is known for its abundance of vineyards; however, this California valley has so much more to offer. From hidden gems and attractions to scenic drives that'll take your breath away, the idyllic beauty of Napa captivates all visitors. Check out the spas, soar over the valley in a hot air balloon, and fill your itinerary with other fun activities that don’t involve wine—a weekend spent in Napa Valley is anything but ordinary.

Grass Valley 

You may have not even heard about the northernmost location on our list before, but Grass Valley is a beautiful escape from the many tourist-filled areas of the state. This lowkey locale offers restaurants, coffee shops, cool boutiques, and Victorian architecture lining the streets. But, most of the valley’s allure comes from its au naturel environment. 

Sitting pretty in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Grass Valley is surrounded by endless beauty and charm. Make the giant trees, lush forests, and rushing rivers the setting for your outdoor adventures and have yourself the perfect retreat at this California valley. Who knows, your s.o. may consider it the most romantic place to propose!

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