Northern California

Type: Terms

Northern California (colloquially known as NorCal) is a geographic and cultural region that generally comprises the northern portion of the U.S. state of California.

Spanning the state’s northernmost 48 counties, its main population centers include the San Francisco Bay Area (anchored by the cities of San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland), the Greater Sacramento area (anchored by the state capital Sacramento), the Redding, California area south of the Cascade Range, and the Metropolitan Fresno area (anchored by the city of Fresno). Northern California also contains redwood forests, along with most of the Sierra Nevada, including Yosemite Valley and part of Lake Tahoe, Mount Shasta (the second-highest peak in the Cascade Range after Mount Rainier in Washington), and most of the Central Valley, one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions.

The 48-county definition is not used for the Northern California Megaregion, one of the 11 megaregions of the United States. The megaregion’s area is instead defined from Metropolitan Fresno north to Greater Sacramento, and from the Bay Area east across Nevada state line to encompass the entire Lake Tahoe-Reno area.

Population (2015) 15,376,997

Major cities

  • San Jose
  • San Francisco
  • Fresno
  • Sacramento
  • Oakland
  • Stockton
  • Fremont
  • Modesto
  • Santa Rosa
  • Salinas
  • Hayward
  • Sunnyvale
  • Visalia
  • Chico
  • Redding
  • San Rafael
  • Eureka
  • Susanville