San Joaquin Valley
The following cities are in the agricultural portion of the county in the San Joaquin Valley:
The following cities are in the portion of the county extending into the Sierra Nevada mountain range:
- 1 Kings Canyon National Park - This national park, which is north of and contiguous with Sequoia National Park, features a deep canyon and a rugged wilderness at the crest of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, both of which offer excellent hiking and backpacking opportunities. A second section of the park is home to groves of giant sequoia trees, including the famous General Grant Grove.
Fresno is Spanish for "ash tree", with the county named after the abundant shrubby trees that grow along the San Joaquin River. The county was formed in 1856, and developed quickly once irrigation canals were built, leading to its role today as one of the nation's premier agricultural regions - with $5.3 billion in production, Fresno county ranked #1 in the nation for agriculture in 2007. Like other parts of the southern Central Valley, Fresno County is also an oil producing region, with the Coalinga Oil Field having historically been one of the most productive oil fields in the state, and today ranking as the state's eighth largest.
The primary north-south route through the county is Interstate 5, which travels up the western side of the Central Valley between Los Angeles and Sacramento. California State Route 99 is the other major north-south route, traversing the eastern side of the Central Valley from just north of the Grapevine up to Sacramento before ending in the northern part of the state near Red Bluff.
- 1 Merced County - Fresno County's northwest neighbor is located entirely within the San Joaquin Valley. Most travelers will likely just take advantage of the county's hotels and other amenities, but there are a few attractions worth considering. The Castle Air Museum in Atwater is home to over 50 planes, while the Merced National Wildlife Refuge hosts thousands of waterfowl during winter months, including huge flocks of snow geese and sandhill cranes.
- 2 Madera County - North of Fresno County lies Madera County, whose agricultural western half offers plenty of hotels and amenities for travelers, while the mountainous eastern half features unspoiled Sierra Nevada wilderness that is home to portions of Yosemite National Park, the Ansel Adams Wilderness, and Devils Postpile National Monument with its impressive basalt columns and iconic Rainbow Falls. Be aware that there are no roads crossing the county from west to east, so it may be a very circuitous route for those who want to see everything Madera has to offer!
- 3 Mono County - Located northeast of Fresno County, remote and expansive Mono County is a destination for outdoor enthusiasts. It is the eastern gateway to Yosemite National Park, home to the Old West ghost town of Bodie, and Mammoth Lakes is a favorite winter skiing getaway. The gigantic Mono Lake is perhaps the county's premier attraction, a stopover for millions of migratory birds and thousands of tourists who explore its alkaline waters and bizarre tufa formations.
- 4 Inyo County - Fresno County's eastern neighbor is a land of extremes, covering a massive 10,000 square mile expanse of the Eastern Sierra and California Desert. Inyo County is home to Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower-48 states, as well as Death Valley National Park, the largest national park in the lower-48 states and host to earth's hottest temperatures and the continent's lowest elevation. In addition, ancient bristlecone pine trees can be found within the White Mountains, the oldest of which is estimated to be around 5,000 years old.
- 5 Tulare County - Neighboring Fresno County to the south, Tulare County has two distinct personalities. The western half of the county lies within the agricultural Central Valley, offering rural landscapes as well as plenty of hotels and other amenities for travelers. The eastern portion of the county features the wilderness and high elevation of the Sierra Nevada range, including the largest trees on earth in Sequoia National Park, and the western slopes of Mount Whitney.
- 6 Kings County - Located southwest of Fresno County, rural Kings County is responsible for billions of dollars of annual agricultural production, much of it from the dairy industry. Travelers passing through on Interstate 5 may find the area lacking in attractions, although there are a few hotels and other amenities in the county's small towns.
- 7 Monterey County - Located west of Fresno County, Monterey County is what many people think of when they think of the Central Coast - the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the beautiful 17-Mile Drive, Cannery Row, Pebble Beach golf course, and the rugged beauty of Big Sur. The northern part of the county contains every manner of amenity for travelers, ranging from chain motels to five star resorts, while the southern portion of the county is remote and accessible mainly by the Pacific Coast Highway or on foot by hikers.
- 8 San Benito County - West of Fresno County, San Benito County is an inland county dominated by the Coast Mountain Range. It is relatively sparsely populated, with only about 55,000 inhabitants. Pinnacles National Park and its dramatic rock formations lies in this county, as well as the town of San Juan Bautista and its historic mission.