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The Prettiest Mountain Ranges in Northern California
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The Prettiest Mountain Ranges in Northern California

Towering high above, the Northern California mountain ranges effortlessly proclaim dominance over even the tallest skyscrapers.

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5 min read

September 28, 2021

Need inspo on where you can escape to before the temperatures freeze up in Northern California? The oh so beautiful mountain ranges should do the trick. Of the Golden State’s many famous landmarks and attractions, its natural wonders remain the most beautiful. Towering high above, the Northern California mountain ranges effortlessly proclaim dominance over even the tallest skyscrapers, reminding us over and over again of the unmatched beauty of Mother Earth. 

Fill up your tank, put on your California playlist, and print out a map—you’re about to go on a California mountain range adventure of a lifetime

The Most Beautiful Northern California Mountain Ranges

There’s something undeniably healing about escaping into the tranquil wilderness and reveling in the calming energy of California’s mountain ranges, and we don’t want to see you missing out.

The Cascades are part of the Pacific Ocean's Ring of Fire, the ring of volcanoes and associated mountains around the Pacific Ocean.

Cascade Range 

Length: 700 miles
Elevation: 14,411 feet
Highest point: Mount Rainier 

The Cascade Range is one of the major mountain ranges of North America. Extending from southern British Columbia, through Washington and Oregon, and all the way to Northern California, this majestic range is an adventurer’s dream. 

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As you pass through the Cascade Range, you’ll find the climate first gets colder, then warmer and drier east of the crest. Most of this California mountain range’s lower and middle sections are covered in forests of impressive sugar pines and aspens; the higher altitudes have extensive meadows with alpine tundra and glaciers. Black bears, bobcats, cougars, deer, coyotes, mountain goats, and other wild animals call this Northern California mountain range home, so never venture out into the wilderness alone. 

Within the California premises, the Cascade Range houses the mysteriously beautiful Mount Shasta, which towers 14,179 feet above sea level. Rent a cabin there during the winter and enjoy going on scenic drives through the Cascade, exploring numerous winter hiking trails, and skiing at the top resorts.

The Sierra Nevada is part of the American Cordillera, an almost continuous chain of mountain ranges that forms the western "backbone" of the Americas.

Sierra Nevada Range

Length: 400 miles
Elevation: 14,505 feet
Highest point: Mount Whitney

The Sierra Nevada Range is most closely associated with California’s Gold Rush era, but the real treasure found here is the astounding natural beauty found on its premises. Located almost entirely in California, the Sierra Nevada Range is widely praised as being one of the prettiest mountain ranges in the world and it’s easy to see why. Its most notable features include General Sherman, the largest tree in the world; Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America; and Yosemite Valley, a bucket list destination for many, sculpted from one-hundred-million-year-old granites. And as if that alone wasn’t impressive enough, this California mountain range also houses three national parks, twenty wilderness areas, and two national monuments. 

While an adventure into the wilderness of Sierra Nevada can be anything you like, we suggest definitely spending a weekend at the lakes of Mammoth Mountain, hiking to the waterfalls in Yosemite National Park, or, if you’re an experienced hiker, backpacking along the John Muir Trail. The many small mountain towns scattered along the gorgeous Northern California mountain range also make for great quick close-to-home retreats.

The northern end of the California Coast Ranges overlap the southern end of the Klamath Mountains for approximately 80 miles on the west.

California Coast Ranges

Length: 400 miles
Elevation: 8,098 feet
Highest point: Mount Linn

The California Coast Range spans all the way from Del Norte or Humboldt County to Santa Barbara and boasts a coastal beauty that qualifies it to be one of the prettiest mountain ranges in the world. And, similarly to the Sierra Nevada Range, the Coast Range is also located almost entirely in the Golden State.

While the southern parts of the California Coast Range have a predominantly Mediterranean climate, the northern parts are significantly moister and colder. The northern terrain is much more forested, with isolated groves of redwoods, ponderosa pine, douglas fir, and knobcone pine being highly characteristic of the region. 

Running parallel to the Pacific Coast from the S.F. Bay Area all the way to Del Norte County, this California mountain range is a treasure trove of adventures waiting to happen. Need ideas? Visit the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in Santa Cruz, spend a weekend camping at the majestic Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and go on as many scenic drives as your heart desires.

As a mountain system within both the greater Pacific Coast Ranges and the California Coast Ranges, the Klamath Mountains have varied geology.

Klamath Mountains

Length: 155 miles
Elevation: 9,025 feet
Highest point: Mount Eddy

Way up in the farthest northwestern edges of California, you’ll find the wildly rugged Klamath Mountains. But, you don’t have to stay admiring this Northern California mountain range from afar. As beautiful as it is from your cabin window, there’s so much for you to enjoy if you connect with the earth and trek the terrain instead. With extensive hiking trail systems, recreation areas, and campgrounds both primitive and developed—Klamath is a dream destination for lovers of the outdoors. 

Backpack the Pacific Crest Trail, traverse the 360 miles of the Bigfoot Trail, go white-water rafting along the 286-mile-long Klamath River, and explore the biodiversity of the 11 vast wilderness areas of this largely unsung region. 

Want to switch off and escape for more than a few days? There are several national forests along this Northern California mountain range, including the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Klamath National Forest, Siskiyou National Forest, and Mendocino National Forest.

The Siskiyou Mountains are a coastal subrange of the Klamath Mountains, and located in northwestern California and southwestern Oregon in the U.S.

Siskiyou Mountains

Length: 100 miles
Elevation: 7,532 feet
Highest point: Mount Ashland

This coastal subrange of the Klamath Mountains—the Siskiyou Mountains—is definitely worthy of a mention of its own. Located in northwestern California, this pretty mountain range extends for approximately 100 miles from east of Crescent City and into Josephine and Jackson counties in Oregon.

Characterized by having heavy precipitation, this Northern California mountain range has lush forests that grow with heavy vegetation, with species that range from Cascadian, like the Pacific silver fir, to coastal, like the coast redwood. If you want to immerse yourself into the wonders of this beautiful Northern California mountain range, your best bet would be to hike the portion of the Pacific Crest Trail that passes through here. If you have enough experience and go at a time when the temperatures are milder and drier, you can also have a great remote camping or boondocking expedition in the wilderness of the Siskiyou Mountains.

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