Central Valley

The Central Valley (or Great Valley) competes with the Sierra Nevada as the largest province or landform in California. It stretches more than 640 km (400 miles) from southern Shasta County south to the Tehachapis and more than 80 km

North Coast Ranges

North of San Francisco Bay, the Coast Range ridges eventually reach higher. These northern ranges also receive considerably more rainfall. This generally results in more lush forests, especially on western slopes, compared to the southern ranges. “The Redwood Empire” was

Coast Ranges-South

Usually referred to as the Central Coast, this region stretches north of the Transverse Ranges at Goleta Pass up to the Golden Gate in the Bay Area.  The topography is mountainous, with northwest-southeast trending ranges that parallel the San Andreas

Transverse Ranges

The Transverse Ranges rise above and protect many southern California cities from winter’s cold snaps. This protection is evident when north winds must sink and be heated by compression to get to the coastal valleys below. What would be cool

South Coast & Peninsular Ranges

The South Coast and Peninsular Ranges include the Los Angeles Basin south of the Transverse Ranges, the Inland Empire, the San Jacinto Mountains and the inland valleys and coast down to the Mexican Border.   For many people outside of state

Colorado Desert

South of the Mojave, extending into the Salton Trough and Mexico and then along a strip of the Colorado River Valley, is the Colorado Desert. Often called the southern desert, or the “low desert,” it includes the farmlands and developments

Mojave Desert

Generally, the Mojave Desert begins just south of the Garlock Fault at the southern end of the Basin and Range and Sierra Nevada regions.  In the west, the Mojave forms an arrow-like shape, bounded by the Tehachapi Mountains to the

Sierra Nevada

The Sierra Nevada Range is one of the largest and most diverse physiographic regions in the state. It spans over 400 miles from North to South and over 10,000 ft. of vertical relief from base to crest. The lowlands of

Basin and Range

The heart of the Basin and Range physiographic province extends east of the Sierra Nevada and throughout Nevada. The Basin and Range is sometimes referred to as the “Trans-Sierra” to help separate it from the local fault blocks of valleys

Modoc Plateau

The Modoc Plateau breaks up into a series of dramatic fault-block valleys and mountains more characteristic (and actually a part of) the Basin and Range physiographic province. Examples include the lofty Warner Mountains in California’s northeast corner, which even support


Standing on top of 3,189 m (10,457 feet) Lassen Peak (the most southerly of the major Cascade volcanoes), you can look south out of the Cascades and into the northern Sierra Nevada. Looking north from Lassen, you can see the


The Northwest-Klamath region harbors the most verdant and lush stands of vegetation to be found in California.   In some points near the coast,  precipitation averages over 100 inches per year.  Here you will find the state’s largest rivers, massive redwood

White Mountain (Barcroft Station)

Most of the extreme climates of California are found either along the eastern edge of the state or at high elevation. The Barcroft Station in the White Mountains is in both these categories.  Located at almost 12,500 ft. above sea-level


All along the California coast the Pacific Ocean is a strong factor in the climate.  But in the northernmost sections of coast, the marine influence is perhaps most strongly felt.  The ocean here is much cooler than it is farther

Woodland Hills

Woodland Hills is within the city limits of Los Angeles and the weather station at Pierce College is approximately 25 miles from downtown.  But the climate changes perceptibly  in that short distance.  Summers are much warmer in Woodland Hills than

Gold Rock Ranch

Gold Rock Ranch is a weather station located about 20 miles NNW of Yuma, AZ .  Like many of the other weather stations east of the Peninsular Ranges and south of the Mojave, this location sees a summer spike in

San Francisco

For its size, San Francisco demonstrates a remarkable variety of climates.   Depending on where you travel in the city and what time of year it is, you might experience a multitude of different weather conditions.  This is primarily due to


According to the National Climatic Data Center, Redding is the sunniest city in California with an 88% annual average of sunshine.  This means that the sun is projected to shine at some point during the day, on average, in almost

Palm Springs

Palm Springs is located at the extreme northwestern edge of the Colorado or Low Desert.  Climatically, but not biologically, it is an extension of the Sonoran Desert that extends deep into Arizona and northern Mexico. Palm Spring experiences very hot


Lancaster is situated in the western reaches of the Mojave Desert at an elevation of just over 2,000 ft.  While this part of the Mojave does get hot in summer, it does not reach the searing temperatures of the lower


Fresno, like many communities in the San Joaquin Valley, has an semi-arid climate with hot summers and mild winters.  Fresno receives about twice the average annual precipitation as Bakersfield and a little more than half of what falls on Sacramento. 


While the vast majority of California’s desert acreage is found the south and east of the Sierra, Transverse and Peninsular Ranges, the climate of the southern San Joaquin Valley meets the criteria for a desert.  With average annual precipitation of

Big Bear Lake

The mountainous terrain of California crafts the climate in a myriad of ways.  Big Bear Lake provides a perfect example.  Located only a couple hours drive from downtown Los Angeles, its elevation both insulates it from hot summer temperatures and


Riverside generally shares the same balmy, semi-arid climate of Los Angeles.  But owing to its location farther inland, Riverside exhibits a wider range of temperatures and receives nearly a 1/3 less precipitation than does downtown L.A. The maritime influences that

San Diego

San Diego prides itself in being “America’s Finest City” and part of that reputation stems from its climate.  San Diego’s climate consistently ranks among the most agreeable in the nation.  Throughout the downtown area and along the beaches, San Diego

Los Angeles

So much has been written about the climate of Los Angeles that it is sometimes difficult to know where to begin.  Untold millions have flocked to this city precisely for its agreeable and predictable climate.  But owing to its size

Death Valley

Officially,  Death Valley recently knocked El Azizia, Libya from the top spot for the highest temperature ever recorded after discrepancies in how the Libyan data was collected surfaced. Whether you consider it first or second as a world hot spot,

Crescent City

Crescent City is one of the rainiest places in all of California.  Not far from here, in the coastal mountains, precipitation totals of over 100 inches per year have been recorded.   The city itself averages an impressive 70 inches annually. 

Happy Camp Ranger Station

Happy Camp is at approximately the same latitude as Crescent City but is located a few dozen miles inland.  Nestled behind the coastal ranges, there is already a noticeable difference in the climate of these two towns.   Happy camp receives


Located in high windswept mountains just to the east of the Sierra Nevada, Bodie possesses one of the harshest climates in all of California.  Though summer days can be relatively warm, freezing temperatures can occur in Bodie in any month


Located at the head of Owens Valley, Bishop is an arid city located in the rainshadow of the Sierra Nevada.  An average of just over 5 inches of rain falls in Bishop each year. Yet only a few miles to


Located in the extreme northeastern portion of the state and far away from marine influences, Alturas provides one of the best examples of a continental climate to be found in California.  The difference in temperatures between summer and winter is


With relatively low mountains to the west, Ukiah receives ample precipitation from Pacific storms despite being situated in an inland valley.  Unlike other inland locations farther south and east, the season of drought in Ukiah is fairly short, with only


Truckee is one of the snowiest places in California and ranks as one of the snowiest locations in the contiguous United States.   This small city located along the Interstate 80 corridor in the Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains, averages over 200


Susanville’s relatively high elevation and northerly position in the state mean winters are crisp and summers not as hot as might be expected in this desert-like environment.  Poised on the edge of the Basin and Range, in the rainshadow of

Yosemite Park Headquarters

Yosemite National Park varies in elevation from a few thousand to over 13,000 feet at the Sierra crest.  The weather station that recorded data for this climograph is located at just over 4,000 ft. Summers in Yosemite Valley are warm

“Place is security, space is freedom.”

This quote from Tuan’s work “Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience,” is perhaps more relevant today than it was when written in the late 1970s. Political and social upheavals, combined with an increasingly interdependent global economy, have in many


Some geographers place Needles in the Mojave, others in the northernmost reaches of the Colorado Desert.  It safe to surmise that it exhibits characteristics of both; especially culturally and historically.  But climatically it clearly belongs in the Colorado Desert. With


California’s Great Central Valley may look unchanging to the uncritical eye but the climate of this huge region does subtly and slowly change as one moves farther north, though not as drastically if one traveled the same distance east to


Fresno, like many communities in the San Joaquin Valley, has an semi-arid climate with hot summers and mild winters.  Fresno receives about twice the average annual precipitation as Bakersfield and a little more than half of what falls on Sacramento. 

San Jose

San Jose is about 50 miles from San Francisco and sits in an inland location at the foot of the Bay Area.   This fact of its geography  is duly reflected in its climate.   Overall, San Jose has a larger annual

Morro Bay

The Central Coast village of Morro Bay typifies the cool Mediterranean (CSb) climate.  Advection fogs blanket the coast in all seasons, especially in spring and summer.  The fog has both insulating and cooling properties.  In winter, Morro Bay sees few

Warner Mountains

The Warner Mountains are a north-south trending range in the extreme northeast corner of the state.   They separate the Modoc Plateau (to the west) from a continuation of the Basin and Range Province (to the east).  Like the Sierra Nevada,

Turtle Mountains

The Turtle Mountains in the southeast corner of the state are a transition zone between the Mojave and Colorado deserts.  This remote region is also home to striking geologic formations.  Long extinct volcanism formed the core of these mountains upon

Trona Pinnacles

The Trona Pinnacles are an unusual and striking geologic formation in the California Desert.  These tufa towers reach heights of 140 ft. and were formed tens of thousands of years ago under ancient Lake Searles.  Freshwater laden with minerals (primarily

Tioga Pass

Visitors to the eastern sections of Yosemite National Park may be familiar with State Route 120 which winds into the Sierra Nevada through Tioga Pass. The route showcases the transition from the Basin and Range province in the Mono Basin

Santa Monica

Santa Monica’s beach culture forms part of the stereotypical image of the southern California lifestyle.   And there is little doubt that year-round outdoor recreation opportunities are some of the benefits of southern California’s comfortable climate that have attracted so many

Slab City

Slab City is a semi-permanent encampment utilized primarily by recreational vehicle enthusiasts.   Owing to it’s relatively warm winters, it attracts snowbirds fleeing colder climates in the more northerly reaches of the U.S. and Canada.   Most residents only stay for the

Mission San Rafael Arcángel

Mission San Rafael Arcángel (1817) is one of the last and most northern of the Spanish Missions to be established.  It is unique among all the California Missions in the fact that it was primarily established as a sanitarium to

Rancho Sierra Vista, Satwiwa

Rancho Sierra Vista is a section of the western Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area near Newbury Park.   It was organized under Spanish rule as a ranching land grant in the early 1800s.  But this land had been inhabited by


Oroville is a Gold Rush town located along the Feather River on the edge of the Sierra Nevada foothills.  Native American history in the area stretches back several millennia.  It was near Oroville that Ishi, the last “wild” Indian in


The slow, steady creep of the Calaveras Fault is evidenced by the displaced sidewalks here in Hollister. Though the movement is slow (less than a 1/2 inch per year) it is a poignant reminder that most of California is in

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz has been a beach playground and vacation destination for Bay Area residents since the late 1800s.  This small city known for its progressive politics claims to have the “worlds best seaside amusement park.” [flagallery gid=51 name=Gallery]  


The Sawtelle neighborhood of West Los Angeles hosts a community of Japanese-Americans.   Numerous shops and restaurants in the area cater to Japanese culture. [flagallery gid=53 name=Gallery]

Mission Santa Inés

Mission Santa Inés was established near Solvang in 1804 by Franciscan Friars. [flagallery gid=52 name=Gallery]

Mud Volcanoes

Towards the south end of the Salton Sea the San Andreas fault changes from a right-lateral sliding plate boundary to spreading plate boundary.  Geothermal activity, such as these mud volcanoes, are common in this area. [flagallery gid=57 name=Gallery]

Manzanar – Ethnic Communities

The United States government relocated thousands of Japanese-Americans to camps such as Manzanar during World War II. [flagallery gid=45 name=Gallery]

Boyle Heights – Ethnic Communities

Boyle Heights has played home to many ethnic groups over the past century.  In recent decades it has seen a dramatic rise in the Latino population. [flagallery gid=44 name=Gallery]

Jackson – Mining History/Tourism

Jackson got its start as a mining camp during the gold rush of 1848-49.  After placer mining played out, the town turned to hard rock gold mining.  But like many gold rush towns in the Sierra Nevada foothills,  Jackson now

Little Ethiopia – Ethnic Communities

Little Ethiopia is a section of Los Angeles with a fascinating history that includes chain migrations of different ethnic groups including Ethiopians. The small neighborhood is centered on South Fairfax Avenue near the junction of Olympic and San Vicente Boulevards. 

Bumpass Hell – Geothermal Activity

Bumpass Hell is a spectacular area of geothermal activity in Lassen Volcanic National Park.   This area features examples of hot springs, fumaroles and boiling mud pots.  It is a clear indication that volcanic activity is still very active here.  Lassen

Baquitos Lagoon

Baquitos Lagoon is a small tidal estuary near Carlsbad.  Such areas are crucial links in the coastal ecosystem for a variety of  aquatic plants, animals and migratory birds.  But owing to their location on the coast, they have traditionally suffered


Badwater is a small, spring fed, alkaline pool of water that is located at the foot of the Funeral Mountains in Death Valley National Park.   The name badwater is also used to refer to the surrounding endorheic basin; a large

Glamis – Recreation

Glamis is a Mecca for off-road enthusiasts.  As a settlement, it is harbors little more than a general store.  Yet nearly every weekend a veritable city sets up camp in the dunes to enjoy motorized recreation. On holidays, like Thanksgiving,

Garlock – Mining History

Garlock is deserted now but there was a lot of activity here in the late 1800’s as prospectors and mining operations tried to wrest gold from the surrounding hills.  The Garlock fault, which is often sited as the boundary between


The small downtown and its old town reflect a city with a rich history of boom and bust, a patch of urban landscape surrounded by a region where rural lifestyles and primary economies dominate. As this city has served as


Dunsmuir’s location near Interstate 5 and the Sacramento River and its proximity to abundant natural resources that encourage activities such as timber production (note clear cut patches when viewing from above) and ecotourism are evident in these landscapes. Efforts to

Death Valley Junction

Death Valley Junction serves as a gateway to Death Valley National Park.  This tiny hamlet is also home to the unique and distinctive Amargosa Opera House. [flagallery gid=34 name=Gallery]


Copperopolis, as its name implies, was founded in the 1860s to exploit the large copper deposits in the region.  The town grew rapidly during the Civil War to meet the demand for copper.  Like many small towns reliant on mineral


Davis is home to U.C. Davis and is notable for the huge popularity of bicycling here. [flagallery gid=32 name=Gallery]

China Camp – Ethnic Communities

China Camp is a State Historic Park on San Pablo Bay just north of San Francisco.   The park  provides a glimpse into the life of Chinese immigrants who established a shrimp fishing village here in the 1880’s. [flagallery gid=31 name=Gallery]


Bodie is a State Historic Park that preserves the remains of one of the largest ghost towns in the American West. [flagallery gid=30 name=Gallery]


Castroville is known as the “Artichoke Capital of the World.” [flagallery gid=29 name=Gallery]