The third largest state in the USA, you can see on the map above that California has the Pacific Ocean along its entire western border, and shares land borders with Mexico to the south, and within the country, Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona. California was first acquired from Mexico in 1848 and the same boundary is generally in existence to this day. It was admitted into the union as the 31st state in 1850.
Larger than Germany, California is huge. You can see on the map that there are distinct areas of California geographically. These areas can be split into the following:
The Coast – the Pacific Ocean coastline is a spectacular 1,350km long. Large parts of the coastline can be accessed via the Pacific Coast Highway, which has incredible seashores to explore and connects the Greater Los Angeles Area with the San Francisco Bay Area. The San Andreas Fault zone stretches 1300km lengthwise through California, making it a state that has the potential for a devastating earthquake in the future.
The Central Valley – flat, fertile land that runs through the center of the state. Sacramento Valley makes up the northern part, with the San Joaquin Valley in the south. It is the agricultural heart of California. The Great Valley Grasslands State Park maintains the historical grass habitat of the valley.
The Mountains – The Sierra Nevada is a long mountain range running from north to south in the state, including Mount Whitney which is the highest mountain in the contiguous United States. Lake Tahoe is an exquisite example of a freshwater lake (the second deepest lake in the USA and the largest alpine lake in North America). Inyo Mountains and Warner Mountains are two other prominent mountain ranges in the state.
The Desert – the Mojave Desert in southeastern California is an enormous, arid region that is the driest in North America. The desert basin is bounded by the San Gabriel, San Bernardino, and Tehachapi Mountains, preventing rainfall in the area. Death Valley holds the record for the highest air temperature recorded on earth (134 degrees Fahrenheit/56.7 degrees Celsius).
California is home to two World Heritage Sites – The Redwood National and State Parks, and the Yosemite National Park, both known for biological diversity and spectacular sights.
There are 482 cities in California, the state capital being Sacramento. The other main cities are:
Los Angeles – a sprawling behemoth of a city, home to the world-famous Hollywood neighborhood where movie dreams are made, the Hollywood Bowl, the original Disneyland, fantastic street food trucks, and the Griffith Observatory.
San Francisco – a major port city famous for the Golden Gate Bridge, this is a settlement first made famous by the California Gold Rush in 1849. The steep hills and flower power movement of the 1960s are two of the defining images of this fantastic city.
San Jose – the third largest population in California, San Jose is at the southern end of the San Francisco Bay area. It was once the state capital of California and at the start of the 20th century was a center of innovation and industrialization. Today it is the capital of ‘Silicon Valley’, where many of the global digital brands call home.