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California road trip: A travel guide to help you visit every county in the state | Bartell's Backroads

California has 58 counties, each one with its own history, landmarks, and attractions. John Bartell shares some of his favorite places to visit.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California has 58 counties, each one with its own history, landmarks, and attractions. 

After years of exploring the backroads, John Bartell has finally visited each one of them. You can experience some of his travels in this one-hour "California Road Trip" Backroads special.

John takes you from the High Sierra to the Mojave Desert. Each one of California’s counties is featured in this special, and below are some of the highlights by region. Also, you can check out all of John’s videos by using the Backroads interactive map.

North Coast

Along the Crescent City coast, visit Battery Point Light House and see what it is like to be a lightkeeper. 

Head south on Highway 101 to Humboldt County and walk through the redwoods and Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwood State Park. 

To the east is Trinity County, where you will find the charming town of Weaverville and the historic Joss House, the oldest Chinese Temple in California. 

In Mendocino County, catch a ride on the rail bikes of Fort Bragg and peddle along an old railroad through the redwoods.

Shasta Cascade

Wilderness is what draws people to Siskiyou County, but if you are into a little spelunking, head to Lava Beds National Monument to tour the maze of lava tubes. 

Travel east and you will run into Modoc County where wild horses roam in the little town of Cedarville

To the south is Lassen Volcanic National Park, home to the boiling acid pools of Bumpass Hell.

Bay Area

Follow the foggy coastline along Hwy. 1 to Tomales Bay and feast on farmed oysters at the Hog Island Oyster Company

Ever wonder how fortune cookies are made? Head to San Francisco and tour the Golden State Fortune Cookie Factory

Make your way east to Napa County and witness the Old Faithful Geyser in Calistoga.

Central Valley

Looking for a unique night's sleep? Try the Feather Bed Railroad, where you can sleep in a real caboose! 

Drive down I-5 and visit crawfish county. Within the rice fields of Colusa County, invasive crawfish are harvested. 

Sacramento is the State Capitol and right outside the Capitol Building, you will find the Moon Tree.  This massive Redwood was part of a NASA experiment. Its seed was taken to the moon. 

In Stockton, you should stop by the Wat Dhammararam Cambodian Buddhist Temple and see the finely crafted, colorful statues. 

Bring your classic car to Modesto and cruise the same streets featured in George Lucas’ film, American Graffiti.

Gold Country

In the gold rush town of Auburn, you can tour the shops and restaurants, then view the risqué concrete statues built by a local dentist, Dr. Fox.

If you are thirsty, head to Nevada County, which is home to Bitney Springs, a roadside water fountain that people travel great distances to taste.

Just a hop, skip and jump away is Angels Camp and the annual Jumping Frog Jubilee, a historic frog jumping contest that pays homage to a short story by Mark Twain

High Sierra 

The sky is bigger in the High Sierra. The stark mountains and open spaces are home to Yosemite National Park. If you visit in the early spring, you may witness the annual newt migration

Off Hwy. 395, stop in the town of Bishop for Mule Days

Down south in Mono County is the coldest place in California, Bodie State Park.

Central Coast

The Monterey coast has gorgeous views, but the "must-see" attraction is the cute otters swimming the Elk Horn Slough. 

Drive down Hwy. 101 to San Luis Obispo and spend the night in the Madonna Inn where each room is uniquely different and decorated in pink! 

"Bird" is the word in Santa Barbara County. Check out Ostrichland, a unique ostrich sanctuary that sells real ostrich eggs.

LA / OC coast

Monsters exist below the surface of Los Angeles. See the 11,000-year-old creatures that got trapped in the La Brea Tar Pits

Fly high over Orange County in the Great Parks Balloon. This massive helium balloon will take visitors 400 feet in the air for free!

Inland Empire

Did you know the original McDonald's started in San Bernardino? You can tour the building and see all kinds of memorabilia at the McDonald's museum. 

In Riverside County, the Cabazon dinosaurs tower over the town and Interstate 10.


Near the banks of the Salton Sea, there’s a place where you can go bananas! Along Hwy. 111 you’ll find the International Banana Museum, an odd collection of banana memorabilia. 

Just down the road is Slab City, an abandoned military base turned squatter’s Paradise. Salvation Mountain is an art installation built by the late Leonard Knight. His idea was to attract people and spread love.

San Diego

Up in the dry, arid hills of San Diego County, you will find an odd dairy farm in the little town of Ramona. This farm milks camels and allows visitors to see the operation. 

Travel southeast along I-8 and you will run into the Desert Tower, a historic tourist trap that allows you to view the rugged terrain of the area.  

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