Tag Archives: historic

California Towns by Population

Small Towns in California,
Listed by Population

Seeking to explore more of California:
Outside more, Inside less.

CaliforniaRural reaches of rivers, mountains, high and low deserts. Find a new town in Northern California or in the Sierra foothills. Discover a new place for local vacations, or go all out and get a new job, in a new town.

Relocating, outside of a big city – for a life style change,  more nature, less people, less traffic. Real living life outdoors, walking to the market, growing some food, and enjoying a forced, early retirement.

Most populated state in US = California

smalltownCA

Most of the towns listed below are NOT located in the popular San Francisco Bay Area, nor the massive hot and smoggy Central Valley, nor in the over-crowded Southern California region.

cool town

Upscale villages, mountain hamlets and historic downtowns often have loads of attractions and eateries, yet unaffordable rentals and sky high residential real estate prices. We’ve purposely left out the super expensive and over-priced places like wine country, coastal enclaves and the typical touristy stops.

Many in this list are unheard-of farm towns, forest cabin communities, or river canyons – often neglected, minimal and unimproved. Some of these will not have a Wal-Mart in town, seldom a chain grocery store, nor a main street full of fast food restaurants. Although, they might be located next to a National Park, National Forest or State Park. Hike, bike, kayak and camp!

Backwoods, back roads and backcountry. Wildfires are often an annual threat. Higher in elevation means less smog and more stars. Altitude also means snow is quite possible, at least half the year. If you moved to California to avoid snow, then skip a winter visit (DEC-APR) or find elevations below 3000 feet.

California

California Small Towns under 100 people

Aspendell
Belden
Blairsden
Bucks Lake
Butte Meadows
Darwin
Duncans Mills
Fish Camp
Hope Valley
Kennedy Meadows
LaPorte
Nipton
Randsburg
Twain
Twin Lakes

snow

California Small Towns under 500 people

Amador City
Angelus Oaks
Bear Valley
Benton
Camp Nelson
Caspar
Cazadero
Crescent Mills
Gazelle
Kirkwood
Knights Ferry
Lee Vining
Lemon Cove
Markleeville
Mill Creek
Mineral
Olancha
Paynes Creek
Petrolia
Ponderosa
Seide Valley
Stirling City
Valley Ford
Volcano

star

California Small Towns under 1000 people

Adin
Alleghany
Avery
Bass Lake
Bridgeport
Cedarville
Cobb
Dorrington
Dorris
Douglas City
Downieville
Elk Creek
Etna
Fall River Mills
Fawnskin
Forest Falls
Fort Jones
French Gulch
Gasquet
Gazelle
Happy Camp
Independence
Isleton
June Lake
Klamath
Leggett
Meadow Valley
Miranda
North San Juan
Oak Glen
Orleans
Philo
Pinecrest
Pioneertown
Plymouth
Point Arena
Ponderosa
Scotia
Shasta
Sierra City
Sierraville
Springville
Somerset
Taylorsville
Walker

pinetree

California Small Towns under 5000 people

Ahwahnee
Alturas
Angels Camp
Angwin
Arnold
Berry Creek
Big Pine
Bishop
Camino
Cayucos
Challenge
Chester
Colfax
Coloma
Columbia
Copperopolis
Coulterville
Covelo
Dunsmuir
Ferndale
Forestville
Frazier Park
Georgetown
Greenville
Guerneville
Hayfork
Jackson
Jamestown
Joshua Tree
Kelseyville
Kernville
Lake Almanor
Lake Isabella
Laytonville
Lewiston
Lone Pine
Lucerne
Mariposa
Meyers
McCloud
Mount Shasta
Murphys
Nevada City
North Fork
Oakhurst
Pine Cove
Pine Grove
Pine Mountain
Portola
Quincy
Redway
Running Springs
Santa Margarita
Shaver Lake
Shoshone
Sonora
Strawberry
Sutter Creek
Three Rivers
Tuolumne
Twain Harte
Upper Lake
Weaverville
Weed
Westwood
Willits
Willow Creek
Wofford Heights

oaktree

Small Cities under 10k population

Alta Sierra
Big Bear City
Big Bear Lake
Coarsegold
Colusa
Crescent City
Fort Bragg
Gridley
Groveland
Ione
King City
Lake Crowley
Mecca
Needles
Ojai
Orland
Williams
Willows
Winters
Woodlake
Yreka

hiker

Small Cities under 20k population

Alpine
Arcata
Arroyo Grande
Auburn
Baywood Park
Coalinga
Crestline
Desert Hot Springs
Garberville
Grass Valley
Lindsey
Live Oak
Los Osos
Morro Bay
Placerville
Reedley
Red Bluff
Susanville
Tehachapi
Truckee
Ukiah

maindrag

fish
dirtbikes
horseback

Cool Small Towns Near Yosemite

cutesidewalk

WESTSIDE YOSEMITE

Rural, small mountain towns, close to Yosemite National Park. 

Everyone wants to live in Yosemite! It’s like a magical wonderland of nature. Maybe the happiest place in California. Once you’ve experienced the incredibly beautiful valley and the granite views of the National Park, your thoughts may go directly to ‘when can I visit again’ or perhaps- ‘is it possible to live near Yosemite?’

YES indeed, people do live near Yosemite.
Western foothills are under 5000′ elevation, so super deep snow is generally not a problem. Unless, of course, we break the record on rainy season (again). In 2016-2017, the Sierra Nevada mountains saw the most snow & rain ever recorded. Just so you know.

Often called gateway towns, these towns are the closest to the NPS boundary. There is a whole lotta forest between these towns and the famous Yosemite Valley.

Many more foothills towns (rural residential) are located to the west of Highway 49 – wineries, ranches and oak canyons, most w/ recreational Reservoirs. But we’re here on Total Escape to list the small towns that are closest (in proximity) to Yosemite NP.

hiker camp   fish

Hwy 120 corridor

westside
Groveland, CA
(elev 3136′)

eastside
Lee Vining, CA
(elev 6781′)

driftwood

Hwy 140 corridor

westside

El Portal, CA
(elev 1919′)

Midpines, CA
(elev 2575′)

Mariposa, CA
(elev 1950′)

driftwood

Hwy 41 corridor

southwest

Fish Camp, CA
(elev 5062′)

Bass Lake, CA
(elev 3420′)

North Fork, CA
(elev 2638′)

Oakhurst, CA
(elev 2289′)

Ahwahnee, CA
(elev 2321′)

Nipinnawasee, CA
(elev 2940′)

Coarsegold, CA
(elev 2206′)

star

localization

Living in or near the mountains is a dream for many people in California. Why wait until retirement? Grow food gardens, get some chickens and hike everyday.

  • land is always cheaper outside the city limits
  • home prices are more reasonable in rural areas
  • more room to breathe (one acre to 40)
  • property with well for water

Relocating to a new area like this, often means changing your lifestyle. Less television, more stargazing. No gym membership, more biking and hiking. Less dining out, more cooking at home. Less socializing, more yard work & home improvements. Grocery stores farther away, so limit shopping trips to once per month. And the biggest benefit to living rural – grow your own vegetable garden.

PRO: close to nature, fesh air,wildlife, wildflowers, rivers, creeks, water, lakes, forests, fruit trees, small farms, free firewood, horses, livestock

CON: severe wildfire season, triple digit summer heat, lost tourists, landslides, brush clearance, real manual labor, minimal internet

horseback

grovelandwalk
Groveland walk way
redinger lake
Redinger Lake, near North Fork, CA
funkyoldlodge
Funky, old, motel in El Portal, CA

Panamint City California

panahills
Photo Credit © Steve Gardiner

Panamint City, a super remote mining camp on the edge of Death Valley National Park

elevation: 7300′

(Not to be confused w/ Panamint Springs, CA which is NW, along the main Highway 190 on the west side of DVNPhiker

Panamint Valley, Death Valley NP
Inyo County, NE of Ridgecrest
East of Hwy 395, south of Hwy 190

Hard to reach ghost town / abandoned mining camp on the mountainous edge of Death Valley National Park. Access via dirt road and steep trail,  off the paved Trona Wildrose Road. Panamint Valley, west of Death Valley

best time to visit: November – April
Triple digit heat is common in the warmer months, so spring, autumn and winter time is best for this region, but beware of winter storms.snow

Snow is common on  the peaks, and at higher elevations (like this place) during winter (DEC-APRIL). If you see trees on the terrain – joshua trees or pinyon pines, that indicates that snow falls here often enough. Snow is possible around Death Valley, down to 3000′ elev. during coldest of winter storms.

Surprise Canyon Wilderness BLM – Desert mountains, steep rocky terrain w/ peaks and very few trees. Surprise Canyon can become a waterfall, during heavy desert rains. The canyon is the  only access up to reach this hidden town4x4

NO MORE 4×4
Hike or backpack up Surprise Canyon
No 4WD access!
Gotta hike it, on foot now.

This desert destination used to be a very popular off-road trail, where Jeeps would wench and crawl up the narrow, rocky passage; but all that changed with a wilderness designation (1994)  and no longer are machines allowed in this specific canyon area. No vehicles (engines) and no mountain bikes. No wheeled anything.

Off-roading and free-wheelin is still allowed and abundant in neighboring canyons of Nadeau Road & Panamint Valley – Pleasant Canyon, South Park Canyon, Jailhouse Canyon, Goler Wash, Isham Canyon

stack
Smoke stack has collapsed in the recent past, so this structure is no longer standing. Photo Credit © Steve Gardiner

DVNP Topo Map

area activities & links:

  • lookinN
    Looking north in a neighboring canyon

    Campgrounds nearby –

    Ballarat ghost town has a camper bathroom w/ showers and a fee to go along with that. Panamint Springs has a small motel and a big restaurant, plus a large campground (across the highway) which can accommodate tents, camper trailers and RVs.

    campDeath Valley National Park boundary means developed campgrounds are a few miles away up Wildrose Canyon.

     

  • Primitive Camping around Panamint Valley

    Boon-docking, dispersed, FREE, open camping is allowed almost anywhere in Panamint Valley and the neighboring desert canyons. Campfire permits are required and are available at BLM office in Ridgecrest. There is no firewood, nor wood collecting around these parts, so bring your own.

    camptruck

    Nadeau Road has abundant flat spots for RVs; Well stocked 4x4s can find secluded camping further up the canyons, but must be a self-sufficient camper and bring water, plenty of ice, extra gasoline, food and firewood.

    More Mining Camps & towns nearby:check

    Ballarat, CA
    Pleasant Canyon
    Randsburg, CA
    Skidoo, DVNP
    Tucki Mine, DVNP

    wildrosedrive
    Wildrose Canyon Road, DVNP

    lodging nearby – lodge

    Locating a ‘real bed’ near this remote desert region will require some driving. The closest option in Panamaint Springs, which only has a few rooms. The next closest, would be Stovepipe Wells inside the National Park.

    mike_up5
    This is the kinda wheeling craziness that goes on in other canyons nearby.
    bestnite
    Camping in Panamint Valley is best in cooler months. Triple digit heat in summers!


Feather River California

riverfromtrail
Middle Fork of the Feather River, North Sierra Nevada

All the Feather Rivers in California

Northern California’s impressive Feather River Watershed is massive and drains the lower half of snowy Mount Lassen @ 10,457′ elevation. The Plumas National Forest and Lassen Forest region is where the Sierra Nevada granite meets the volcanic rock of the Cascade mountain range.

RECORD RAINS:umbrella

In most recent times, 2017 was the wettest year on record for California. The Feather River Watershed recorded more water than any other year, based on 112 years of hydrology records.

Lake Oroville
Lake Oroville, California
Fall colors in Berry Creek, CA
Fall colors in Berry Creek, CA
half-full-lake
Lake Oroville Half Full in 2015

Spanning three counties, four big river forks from the Northern Sierra Nevada mountains, to the foothills @ Lake Oroville, CA
Butte County
Plumas County
Lassen County

West Branch (Paradise, CA)
North Feather (Hwy 70 Beldon)
Middle Feather (Berry Creek, CA)
South Feather (LaPorte, CA)

Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains meet the Cascade Range @ Lassen

The North Feather runs along Highway 70 in the Feather River Canyon with railways, tunnels and trestles traversing the giant gorge. This granite lined canyon is known as the “stairway to power” – water flows stepping down the mountain from numerous reservoirs. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) operate a series of 9 power plants all interconnected – producing electric power (and in rare occasions, wildfires)canoe

The East Branch of the North Feather River comes out of the American Valley near Quincy, CA

The West Branch of the North Feather River flows south down from “the ridge” – a forested, volcanic ridge line descending from Mount Lassen. West branch flows directly into Lake Oroville at Lime Saddle (Marina). This residential area is currently off limits to tourists, as it recovers from the most destructive and deadly wildfire in California history. The 2018 #CampFire destroyed most of the town and forests of Paradise, Lake Concow, and Yankee Hill. The incident made national news in November, as the worst wildfire season dragged well into autumn.

West Branch
West Branch near Magalia, N of Paradise, CA

The South Fork of the Feather River and its reservoirs, are managed by the South Feather Power Project, consisting of 5 lakes, 4 power plants, and 3 diversion dams. The closest paved road to this region would be La Porte Road, off of Highway 70 between Gridley & Marysville, CA

curtainfalls
Curtain Falls on Dome Trail Hike

DOME TRAIL 3

hiker

The Middle Feather, or Middle Fork of the Feather, is a beautiful wild and scenic river for 78 miles, with granite walls, domes and few trails or roads. Only 2 campgrounds – Milsap Bar and Little North Fork, are well worth the journey.

curtainfalls
Curtain Falls on the Dome Trail Hike

Bald Rock Hiking Trail, Berry Creek, CA

baldrockforest
Atop Bald Rock

EAST PLUMAS CO. Above the lumber & rail town of Quincy, Lake Davis and Frenchman Reservoir are both managed by the Department of Water Resources (DWR). Excellent mountain biking, stargazing and camping at both locations. NFS Campgrounds w/ fee.

Foreman Creek @ Lake Orville, maxed out. Feb 2017

North Sierra Waters:
via OROVILLE Reservoir
Lake Oroville

All this water listed above is the massive Feather River Watershed. Like a thousand fine hairs that make up a bird feather, there are over 4,500 miles of mountain streams and rivers feeding the bigger Reservoir system below. Dam run by DWR (Department of Water and Power) at the State Recreation Area known as Lake Oroville SRAmarina

  • boating
  • camping
  • fishing
  • hiking
  • houseboats
  • kayaking
  • watercraft

Feather River has always been prone to flooding and wild river swings. All that Mount Lassen snowmelt needs to be managed in harmony with one another, so destructive floods do not ruin the agriculture and cities of the valley. Lake Oroville is the place; they try to control these river flows that are headed down to the Sacramento Valley. Oroville Dam was built in 1967. In 2017, a record rainfall winter in California, the Oroville dam showed major signs of stress with massive amounts of incoming water. Several recently published books tell the story in greater detail.

Fisherman in the Thermalito Afterbay outlet, Oroville, California

Thermalito, California

Below Lake Oroville, 2 giant warming ponds Thermalito Forebay & Thermalito Afterbay – built to control irrigation water and also heat the cold river water for the fish downstreamfish

CA SR 162 – West Highway 162: the farming and residential areas of Thermalito & Biggs are held together by rock levees, all running right next to Highway 99. Diversion drainage leads out of Lake Orovillle above  to the large inland bays – with river parks and salmon fish hatchery in historic, downtown Oroville. Wildlife viewing , kayaking, boating, fishing. Minimal camping at this area. Big rigs may be seen parked along this stretch of highway, due to its proximity to Hwy 99

RV park in Gridley, CA
Loafer Creek Campground on Hwy 162 @ Lake Oroville SRA

The Feather River flows south and merges with the Yuba River at Marysville & Yuba City, before joining the massive Sacramento River coming from the far north.

Eventually entering the California Delta south of Sacramento, CA

northforkfeather
North Feather, known as the “Stairway to Power” due to hydro-electric dams along this stretch.

camp  camptruck

Camping around the Feather River

NORTH FORK:

MIDDLE FORK:

SOUTH FORK:

challenge

challengePO
Small towns are primarily residential on the South Fork – Challenge, CA

horseback

Lassen National Park

 

USFS
Lassen National Forest
Plumas National Forest

maps of the Feather River regiondirtbikes

Middle Fork Feather Topo Map
Plumas National Forest Map
Lassen National Forest Map
Bucks Lake Wilderness Map
Ishi Wilderness Map
Lassen Forest Topo Atlas
Lassen Park Map NatGeo
PCT Map #5 North Sierra

Lassen Books

 

funkybridge
Best one lane bridge yet!
QueenCampsites
Queen Lily Campsites
mellownorth
Mellow North Fork, via Caribou Road

Grand-eous ideas, from white men who conquered this land. The scouts on horseback mapped the canyons w/ primitive tools; the with dynamite and danger, they built a railroad through in 1850.

Hydro-electric power systems  on the Feather, were constructed between 1908-1961. Native lands and tribal communities have been treated as sacrifice zones for national priorities of irrigation, flood control, and hydroelectric development.

Recent upgrades to Oroville Dam have been completed, although a lot of work still goes on around the Feather region due to wildfire debris, tree trimming, fire clearance, upgrades to power lines, and structural improvements.

Hiking trails, dirt roads  and highways may be re-routed, inaccessible or closed due to construction, landslides, rock slides or utility work. Call local rangers for up to date info.

pinetree

Towns near the Feather River –

(in alphabetical order)

hiker

mountains

Wikipedia Links – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feather_River

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Oroville

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper_North_Fork_Feather_River_Project