Diverse landscapes and towns brimming with charm can be found throughout the West Coast states. From coastal gems to inland beauties, we’ve put together a list of some of the most beautiful smaller towns waiting to be photographed and explored.
Cambria is a picturesque charmer, complete with tall pine trees and jagged coastline, located on California’s Central Coast. While it only became known as Cambria in the late 19th century, the area is steeped in history from Native Americans calling it home, to having a part in the mining industry. Today, the town is a great artistic hub with many talented residents, plus there are galleries, music, and theatre opportunities. For the outdoor enthusiasts, recreational activities abound, which include water sports and hiking. For history seekers, interesting sites are waiting to be explored, including the Guthrie-Bianchini House. One of the oldest homes in the town, it now houses the Cambria Historical Museum. Many festivals take place throughout the year as well, including the Cambria Art and Wine Festival.
Named one of ‘America’s 100 best art towns,’ Cannon Beach is a beautiful coastal village located on the Northern Coast of Oregon. As one might guess, the area is brimming with fantastic art, from architectural gems to public art to eclectic galleries and much more. Some of the most gorgeous scenic views around from Haystack Rock to the beautiful old growth rainforest found in Ecola State Park to breathtaking sunsets can be found in Cannon Beach, plus the landscape provides adventure seekers with plenty of fun from hiking to water sports to wildlife watching. One must-visit summer event is the Sandcastle Contest, which is currently in its 51st year.
A lovely resort town in Central Washington, Lake Chelan is located at the southeast end of the stunning lake of the same name. A popular tourist destination, the area is surrounded by incredible landscape, including forest-covered mountains, which provides hours of fun for the outdoor lover during any season of the year. Many activities for art lovers, foodies, and shoppers can also be explored within Lake Chelan and other near-by towns making the area perfect for anyone no matter what their interest, plus wine lovers will be impressed as the area features a growing wine scene. If visiting in the winter, guests will enjoy the Winterfest Festival, which features ice sculptures, music, wine and beer tastings, and much more, held in the historic downtown.
A college town located on the eastern border of Los Angeles County, Claremont makes for a perfect weekend retreat. Also known as ‘The City of Trees,’ this beauty is brimming with stunning scenes around every turn whether they are historic buildings or groves of spectacular trees — approximately 23,000 trees — that include American Elms, Eucalyptus, plus numerous other species. Claremont also has the distinction of being the first Fair Trade Town in Southern California, meaning that many shops, eateries and other outfits carry and sell Fair Trade products. Exciting events take place as well, including Friday Nights Live, which finds live music being performed in Claremont Village — the charming downtown area — along with First Friday Artwalk.
First settled in the 1850s, Dayton is a small historic gem found in the southeastern portion of Washington. A must-visit for any history buff, this community is home to 117 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places all of which make up three separate National Historic Districts. Visitors are encouraged to pick up a map at the Chamber of Commerce and stroll along the streets to discover some of these architectural beauties. Dayton also has several interesting museums, including the Dayton Historic Depot, The Boldman House Museum and the Palus Artifact Museum, where visitors can discover a variety of artifacts from the Palus Indian Tribe.
Also known as ‘The Maritime City,’ Gig Harbor is a beautiful seaside town with a long maritime history, from boat building to commercial fishing. An ideal destination for those visitors who love water sports from sailing to kayaking, the lush landscape also has many trails perfect for those sport lovers who would rather stay on solid ground. For guests interested in learning about the past of this area, the Harbor History Museum with its displays, historical schoolhouse, and maritime vessels is a must-visit attraction. Gig Harbor is also a wonderful place for those people looking to relax, as the town features a waterfront perfect for taking a leisurely stroll while exploring galleries, boutiques, and tasty dining spots.
Joseph is a charming town in Northeast Oregon with a rich Native American history. Indeed, the town is named after Nez Perce Chief Joseph and is not only a paradise for history lovers, but also an outdoor adventurer’s haven. Between the beautiful Wallowa Mountains and the nearby Eagle Cap Wilderness, this ‘Little Switzerland of America’ offers miles and miles of hiking trails, which vary from easy to difficult, waiting to be explored. Perfect for wandering, Joseph’s streets are not only lined with incredible bronze sculptures by artists such as Shelley S. Curtiss and Steve Parks but also with unique shops, galleries, plus tasty eateries sure to peak people’s interests.
Found in Northern California, Mendocino is a lovely town attracting people, including many artists, with its breathtaking beauty. Surrounded by bluffs blanketed with colorful wildflowers, this coastal gem is dotted with beautifully restored Victorian homes many of which house bed and breakfasts, delectable dining establishments, and specialty shops. Popular with film crews as well, Mendocino has been featured in numerous films and television shows over the years, including the horror film Cujo and the television series Murder, She Wrote. For visitors who want to explore the great outdoors, the Mendocino Headlands State Park is a definite must-visit with its miles of trails, beaches, and water sources. No matter the time of year, visitors will also find enjoyable events, including the Mendocino Music Festival.
Brimming with charm, Nevada City is a historical gem and California gold rush town found in the idyllic setting of the Sierra Nevada Mountains’ foothills, which also makes it a great destination for outdoor lovers. Local residents are proud of their town and have taken every step to preserve the century-old Victorian buildings that dot the land. To explore this town’s narrow streets, it’s best to park the car and stroll along by foot to discover all the great finds, including beautiful art, handmade jewelry, clothes, books, other fantastic gifts, plus delicious restaurants. Must-see events take place throughout the year as well, including the Nevada City Bicycle Classic, First Friday Art Walks, and Victorian Christmas to name but a few.
Another picturesque Oregon town, Silverton, which is found in the heart of Willamette Valley, is also referred to as ‘Oregon’s Garden City.’ Indeed, this colorful, historic town is home to The Oregon Garden, a botanical garden showcasing many specialty landscapes along with a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and other attractions. Art lovers will enjoy the vibrant murals found throughout Silverton depicting its history while the charming downtown will appeal to those seeking fun gifts and tasty edibles. Something for everyone, the town hosts many events, including the Silverton Hills Strawberry Festival, plus the surrounding area provides many outside adventures.
By Marcelina Morfin