California is the most populous state in the United States, home to a variety of cultures, peoples, plants, animals and land formations. Also known as "the Golden State," Located on the U.S. West Coast, California is known for its mountains, deserts, beaches and bodies of water, and valleys.
California boasts mountains that are visible from just about anywhere in the state. Two main mountain ranges dominate: the Sierra Nevada and the Coast Range. The Coast Range runs from the northwest all the way down to the Mexican border, across 800 miles of terrain. The Sierra Nevada is the longest and largest range in California, running 500 miles long and occupying approximately one-fifth of the state's land mass. Mount Whitney is in the Sierra Range, and at 14,491 feet, it is California's tallest peak.
California is home to more than 25,000 square miles of desert that comprise two distinct zones: the Mojave -- also known as the "high desert" -- and the Colorado -- also known as the "low desert." Death Valley National Park and Joshua Tree National Park are both located in California deserts. A segment of the San Andreas Fault -- the so-called "southern segment" -- is located in the Mojave dessert.
Beaches and Bodies of Water
California is a coastal state marked by a number of beaches and 7,734 square miles of water. The California coastline is 840 miles long, much of it rising from the ocean from steep cliffs. California also features several major rivers and lakes such as the Sacramento River and the Colorado River as well as Lake Tahoe and Searles Lake. Southern California is marked by numerous sandy beaches, although there are beaches throughout the state.
California has a number of valleys, including the Central Valley and Death Valley. Among other things, Death Valley is known for being the lowest point in the United States at 282 feet below sea level. The 450-mile long Central Valley, also known as "the Great Valley" is a highly-fertile agricultural valley located between the Coastal and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges. Both the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers are located in the Central Valley.
- Stephen Schauer/Photodisc/Getty Images