1. Sacramento
Visit over 20 museums, such as the Crocker Art Museum, where you can see California masterpieces. ride bikes along the leafy American river Bike Trail. In nearby Folsom (21mi/34km east), cool off at Lake Natoma; try kayaking and f shing.

2. Feather river scenic Byway
Explore deep, winding canyons cut by tumbling river waters and splashed by waterfalls on this spectacular drive into the northern Sierra Nevada range, particularly beautiful when the leaves change colour in autumn.

3. Lake almanor
Rent a boat or jet ski on this popular reservoir, surrounded by pine-covered mountains. In winter, explore the region on snowshoes or crosscountry skis.

4. Lassen volcanic national Park
Listen to the earth hiss at this thrilling park, protecting California's only dormant volcano (last erupted in 1915). Miles of trails loop past reminders that the land here is not quiet: look out for bubbling mud pots and steaming vents. Camp, or stay in cabins and enjoy hearty meals (and a pretty pool heated by geothermal energy) at the Drakesbad Guest ranch.

5. Mcarthur-Burney Falls/hat Creek
Marvel at one of the west's glorious waterfalls, a favourite of local photographers. Try your hand at fly-fishing along Hat Creek, about 16mi/26km south. Stop by Vaughn's Sporting Goods and Fly Shop, in Burney, for fishing supplies and advice.

6. Lava Beds national Monument
Explore the region's bizarre, fern-cloaked lava tubes and caverns winding through a moonlike landscape, decorated with historic Modoc Indian rock art. Nearby Tule Lake National Wildlife refuge is a major stopover for migratory birds, including eagles, pelicans and snow geese.

7. Vina
Head back south to sip wines made by Trappist monks and to monitor progress on the on-site rebuild of an 800-year-old Spanish monastery, now relocated to California, at New Clair-vaux Vineyard (call ahead on weekdays).

8. Chico
Buy local produce, including wine and fruit, at Saturday morning farmers' markets. See blown-glass creations made by local artists. relax in leafy Bidwell Park. Tour the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company - and listen to live music in the brew pub (microbrewery).

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