Eureka Downtown Old town panoramic, via calimedia /

11 Most Underrated Towns In Northern California To Take A Trip To

The underrated towns in Northern California, often overshadowed by larger cities and well-known tourist destinations like San Francisco and Napa, have much to offer. Tourists are encouraged to venture further and discover the unique natural and historical features of lesser-known towns in this region.

While the big cities with their world-famous attractions are appealing, these underrated towns offer excellent services and activities for visitors, with the added benefit of a more relaxed and quiet stay. These 11 most underrated towns provide the best of Northern California with easier travel, lower rates, and premium availability.


Historic buildings in Eureka, California
Historic buildings in Eureka, California

Eureka is a charming coastal town in Northern California, often underrated despite its beauty and historical significance. Visitors should not miss the opportunity to explore its offerings. The town is known for its ornate Victorian mansions and townhouses, many of which have been converted into hotels and inns. Notable examples include the iconic Pink Lady Mansion, offering waterfront views, and the historic Inn at 2nd & C, established in 1888 as the Eagle House.

A visit to Eureka is incomplete without exploring the Sequoia Park Zoo, home to rare and endangered species such as Red Pandas and cotton-top tamarins. Another must-see is the Wharfinger Building and Eureka Public Marina, where visitors can enjoy stunning ocean sunsets and watch ships throughout the day.


Aerial view of Trinidad, California.
Aerial view of Trinidad, California.

Eight miles north of the Arcata-Eureka Airport, Trinidad often escapes the notice of travelers despite its multitude of adventures. The Tsurai Trail, a magnificent short trail with stunning ocean views, is a highlight. Equally beautiful is Trinidad State Beach, offering breathtaking natural views and sea air, tucked away beyond fields of wildflowers.

The historic Trinidad Bay Bed & Breakfast is a premier seaside lodging choice for visitors. Here, each room offers an exceptional view of either the ocean, garden, or trail. For those interested in historical sites, the Trinidad Head Lighthouse, situated at the end of the Tsurai Trail, is a notable landmark, though access may be limited.


Aerial photograph of Chester, California.
Aerial photograph of Chester, California, 

Nestled within the Lassen National Forest, the town of Chester lies on the western shore of Lake Almanor. Near Chester Airport, accommodations include options like the Timber House Brewery and Lodge, with prices starting at $120 a night, and Lake Almanor Lodge, starting at $155 a night. However, the most picturesque stay is at The Bidwell House, located near the top of Olsen Barn Meadow, with rates beginning at $262 a night.

Olsen Barn Meadow, a 107-acre conserved land, features meadows, forests, and wetlands, offering views of Lake Almanor and nearby creeks. The historic Olsen Barn, over 130 years old, is a prominent feature at the meadow's southern end. Visitors can enjoy a variety of water activities on the lake and rivers, including boating, fishing, swimming, and rafting, though availability may vary by season.


Main street in Susanville, California
Main street in Susanville, California, via wirestock /

Nestled along the Susan River, Susanville is a hidden gem in Northern California, offering a variety of activities and adventures for tourists. The Diamond Mountain Casino and Hotel provide an entertaining getaway, while those seeking relaxation can visit the River Inn, which boasts views of the scenic Susan River.

Inspiration Point, known for its breathtaking vistas, offers an ideal spot for rejuvenation and sparking creativity. Susanville Ranch Park is a picturesque location with several dog-friendly walking paths, perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. Train and history buffs will appreciate the Susanville Railroad Depot, a historic site that now serves as an intriguing railroad museum.


Elks Building on Miner Steet Downtown in Yreka, California
Elks Building on Miner Steet Downtown in Yreka, California, via CL Shebley /

Located in the heart of Siskiyou County, Yreka may go unnoticed by many, yet it is a town rich in history. The Siskiyou County Museum, established in 1951, showcases the stories and legacy of those who first settled in the area.

The Siskiyou Golden Fair provides a range of exciting activities and events, including carnival attractions and local cultural events. For adults interested in gaming, the Rain Rock Casino is a popular destination, open daily from 9 am to 3 am, offering a variety of high-stakes games.

Fort Bragg

Noyo Harbor in Fort Bragg California
Noyo Harbor in Fort Bragg California

Fort Bragg, known for its scenic parks and beaches, might not be as famous among tourists as it is with locals. This town boasts the unique Glass Beach, famous for its colorful sea glass, smoothed by ocean waves — a result of historical trash dumping now transformed into a beautiful shoreline.

For more scenic views and natural beauty, Compass Rose and Noyo Headlands Park offer stunning ocean vistas and hiking paths. The town's highlight is the Sea Glass Museum, showcasing a variety of colored glass and featuring a gift shop in a charming converted house.


Town of Lakeport by Clear Lake
Town of Lakeport by Clear Lake, via Aneta Waberska /

Located on the western shore of Clear Lake, Lakeport is a gem in Northern California's wine country that might be missed by those unfamiliar with the area's rich viticulture. It hosts the Clearlake Club, a popular bar known for its unique selection of wines, open from 10 am to 2 am daily. Wine in the Willows, another local favorite, offers wine tastings, reservations, trivia nights, and various events.

Visitors have multiple accommodation options in Lakeport, including camping at Willow Point Campground, a short walk from the lake. For those preferring hotels, Skylark Shores Resort Lakeport offers excellent lakeside views, with prices starting at $87 a night and located just a stone's throw from the lake's edge.

Red Bluff

Street view in Red Bluff, California
Street view in Red Bluff, California, via DreamArt123 /

Red Bluff, situated along the Sacramento River in Northern California, offers a variety of riverside activities including rafting, canoeing, fishing, and magnet fishing—a form of treasure hunting using magnets. The Hummingbird House, a boutique hotel near the river, has been newly renovated and provides online booking, self-check-in, and a virtual concierge team.

Other local attractions include PJ Helicopters, providing aerial transportation to remote locations around Red Bluff. Dog Island Park features a disc golf course, picnic area, and is pet-friendly, while FingerLake MX Park boasts wetlands and walking paths around a series of small lakes. Be sure to visit Westside Grange Hall to enjoy local music and dancing.


Aerial view of Clear Lake, California
Aerial view of Clear Lake, California

Clearlake, a vibrant town on the eastern shore of its namesake lake, offers enchanting views of the lake and the distant Mount Konocti volcano. The town's waterfront is perfect for fishing, boating, and enjoying the scenic landscape. Canoeing enthusiasts can explore the waters around Monitor Island from Clearlake Park Estates.

For those planning to spend time on the water, Clear Lake Cottages & Marina, with nightly rates starting at $129, is an ideal accommodation. Additionally, Austin Park Beach and Playground provides a family-friendly environment for fun by the lake.


Tulelake, California: Entrance sign for Lava Beds National Monument
Tulelake, California: Entrance sign for Lava Beds National Monument, via melissamn /

Located on the Oregon-California border, Tulelake lies on the plains at the foothills of Northern California's mountain ranges. The expansive Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge near the town offers stunning natural vistas. The highly-rated Winema Historic Lodge, only 9 minutes from Tulelake, provides guests with breathtaking views of the Nature Reserve and surrounding mountains.

The Tulelake-Butte Valley Fairgrounds, a local hub for over 60 years, hosts annual fairs, regular events, a museum, and an RV park; however, operational hours may vary. For a relaxing family dinner, Mike & Wanda's Family Dining in Tulelake offers a warm, welcoming atmosphere to conclude a day of adventure.

Crescent City

Beautiful pottery at the Trading Co. Native Made Moccasins building in Crescent City, California
Beautiful pottery at the Trading Co. Native Made Moccasins building in Crescent City, California

Crescent City, a stunning coastal gem of the West Coast, boasts a variety of scenic views and coastal attractions. Upon arrival from Del Norte County Regional Airport, consider staying at Scopa At The Sea, the town's top-rated hotel, to immediately immerse yourself in coastal exploration.

Discover Point St. George Beach Trails with breathtaking vistas, including views of White Rock, a notable island formation off the coast. Pebble Beach offers a serene environment for relaxation. Stella's Adventures provides guided tours for an in-depth exploration of the bay. Don’t miss the historic Battery Point Lighthouse and Museum, a maritime landmark dating back to the 1850s.

In Conclusion

While Northern California may not boast the large urban centers found elsewhere in the state, it is rich in unique towns with exceptional tourist attractions. These destinations, often underrated, offer a diverse range of activities from skiing to surfing. The scenic beauty, tranquil hikes, and historical sites in these towns provide a compelling vacation experience.

These destinations also offer an opportunity to explore less crowded tourist spots, often allowing for more reasonable booking options. The combination of rich history, stunning landscapes, and the laid-back atmosphere of these towns creates an ideal setting for a vacation. So, when planning your next getaway, regardless of the season, consider these charming, often overlooked towns in Northern California.


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