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Best places to visit in Northern California | Bartell's Backroads

Looking for a unique place to visit before summer ends? Bartell's Backroads takes you to some hidden places that you won't want to miss.

CALIFORNIA, USA — It's easy to take the same route. There's over 50,000 miles of California State Highway and it only takes you to well-known destinations, but Bartell's Backroads will take you to some of the hidden places that you won't want to miss.  

Summer officially ends on Monday, September 23 so make sure to add one of these destination spots to your itinerary before we head into fall!

Ride the Railbikes

Where: Fort Bragg's Skunk Train Depot, 100 West Laurel Street Fort Bragg, California 

Railbikes take you through the historic California Western Railroad track in Fort Bragg — and they're the only way to ride the track. The pedal-powered locomotives are operated by the World Famous Skunk Train.

Whether you want to see the redwood forests of California or are a cycling enthusiast looking for a new path, you'll want to check out this unique trip along the coast of Mendocino County.

Glass Beach

Where: MacKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg, California

If you're looking for a visually breathtaking beach, you'll be in awe of the sparkling wave-worn sea glass that draws visitors all year round. Add Glass Beach to your itinerary for a picture perfect destination.

Forestiere Underground Garden

Where: 5021 W Shaw Ave, Fresno, California 

The central valley's flat land and high temperatures make it hard to escape the sun, so find solace at the underground garden in Fresno. Get a guided tour of the underground mansion turned public garden and experience temperatures that are 15 degrees cooler! 


Where: Eastern Sierra Observatory, PO Box 1142, Bishop, California

Warm summer nights are great for stargazing, but if you want a real good look at space, you'll have to find an area with less light pollution. 

For a front row seat, you may want head to the Eastern Sierra Observatory in the Owens Valley. An astronomer at the observatory teaches people how to photograph stars and planets with a high-quality telescope. When it’s time for bed, a metallic dome shaped tent called a "shift pod" awaits them.

Raft the 'Tunnel Chute'

Where: Middle Fork of the American River

The Middle Fork of the American River. It's big. It's loud. And it's wild. The American River is one of the only rivers in California where rafters can go  underground.

"Tunnel Chute" is about seven miles from Foresthill in Placer County, but the only way to see it is on a raft. You may want to hitch a ride with Sierra Whitewater.

Underwater 'Hiking' Trail

Where: Emerald Bay State Park, 138 Emerald Bay Rd, South Lake Tahoe, California

There's a unique trail at the Emerald Bay State Park in Lake Tahoe. It is underwater, though, and instead of mountains and trees, you'll see sunken boats. For anybody interested in scuba diving, this might be just the right adventure for you.

Mono Lake

Where:  Located on Highway 395, 13 miles east of Yosemite National Park, near the town of Lee Vining, California

You won't find another lake in the world with the same features as Mono Lake. Its history and natural features are as dramatic as the alienlike formations poking out of its salty waters. 

Located off Highway 395 on the eastern side of Yosemite, Mono Lake is in the shadows of some of the tallest mountains in the nation. That means the landscape that surrounds Mono Lake is arid and dry.

Take a calm canoe boat tour guide with the Mono Lake Committee to see this rare-looking lake.

'Graffiti Bridge'  

Where: Wards Ferry Graffiti Bridge, Sonora, CA

If you're looking for a Sunday cruise, drive through the twisty, one-lane road known as “Murderer's Gulch", and at the bottom of the canyon you'll find an iconic bridge.

It is not regularly patrolled by law enforcement, making it the victim of graffiti. In no way is this art legal or welcome in this area, but you cannot miss it. The historic name is the Ward's Ferry Bridge, but it is commonly referred to as the Graffiti Bridge for obvious reasons.

The Little Shrine

Where: Just off Highway 45 in Colusa County 

For over 130 years, this unique spiritual oasis has been drawing visitors to Colusa County. "The Little Shrine" is quite possibly the smallest church in Northern California, but you don't have to be religious to check out this roadside attraction. It's open to everyone.

The Sutter Buttes

Where: Just off Highway 45 in Colusa County 

Known as the world's smallest mountain range, the Sutter Buttes tower over Yuba City, yet remain private to the public. There are a few ways to visit the Sutter Buttes, you can drive or cycle around them. A non-profit, Middle Mountain Interpretive Hikes, hosts interpretive hikes and outings. Lastly, you can visit the Community Memorial Museum of Sutter County.

Check out the interactive map for more places waiting to be found on Northern California's backroads. Join the conversation with John on Facebook.

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