A Traveler’s Guide to the Northern San Joaquin Valley

Are you considering California for your next contract? The Northern San Joaquin Valley is a mountainous area home to some of California’s well known cities like Fresno, Bakersfield, and Modesto. If you are interested in California, but are looking for something less touristy with a closer to home feel, the Northern San Joaquin Valley might be the perfect fit for you! The San Joaquin Valley is the area of the Central Valley of the U.S. state of California that lies south of the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta and is drained by the San Joaquin River.

Fresno is a major city in the San Joaquin Valley of California. It is the county seat of Fresno County and the largest city in the greater Central Valley region. It covers about 112 square miles and had a population of 542,107 in 2020, making it the fifth-most populous city in California, the most populous inland city in California, and the 34th-most populous city in the nation. Named for the abundant ash trees lining the San Joaquin River, Fresno was founded in 1872 as a railway station of the Central Pacific Railroad before it was incorporated in 1885. It has since become an economic hub of Fresno County and the San Joaquin Valley, with much of the surrounding areas in the Metropolitan Fresno region predominantly tied to large-scale agricultural production. Fresno is near the geographical center of California, approximately 220 miles north of Los Angeles, 170 miles south of the state capital, Sacramento, and 185 miles southeast of San Francisco. Yosemite National Park is about 60 miles to the north, Kings Canyon National Park 60 miles to the east, and Sequoia National Park 75 miles to the southeast. Fresno is also the third-largest majority-Hispanic city in the United States; 50.5% of its population was Hispanic in 2020.

Bakersfield is a city in Kern County, California, United States. The city covers about 151 square miles near the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley and the Central Valley region. Bakersfield’s population as of the 2020 census was 403,455, making it the 9th-most populous city in California. Bakersfield is a significant hub for both agriculture and energy production. Kern County is the most productive oil-producing county in California and the fourth-most productive agricultural county (by value) in the United States The city is the birthplace of the country music genre known as the Bakersfield sound.

Modesto is located in the Central Valley, 68 miles south of Sacramento and 90 miles north of Fresno, 66 miles west of Yosemite National Park, and 24 miles south of Stockton. Modesto has been honored as a Tree City USA numerous times. The city is surrounded by rich farmland. Stanislaus County ranks sixth among California counties in farm production, and is home to Gallo Family Winery, the largest family-owned winery in the United States. Led by milk, almonds, chickens, walnuts, and corn silage, the county grossed nearly $3.1 billion in agricultural production in 2011. The farm-to-table movement plays a central role in Modesto living as in the Central Valley. The mountain ranges in the Northern San Joaquin Valley are the Klamath Mountains, Sierra Nevada, Tehachapi Mountains, and Pacific Coast Ranges.

The Culture

The Culture in the Northern San Joaquin Valley is heavily influenced by music. The San Joaquin Valley has been a major influence in American country, soul, nu metal, R&B, and hip hop music particularly through the Bakersfield Sound, the Doowop Era, and the Bakersfield Rap Scene, also referred to as Central California Hip Hop, Central Valley Hip Hop, or Central California Rap, which are all subgenres of Gangsta rap, Bass-Rap, West Coast G-funk, and West Coast Hip hop which are all different styles of West Coast Rap. The Valley has been the home to many country, nu metal, and doo-wop musicians and singers, such as Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Billy Mize, Korn, Red Simpson, Dennis Payne, The Maddox Brothers and Rose, The Paradons, The Colts, and the Sons of the San Joaquin. The San Joaquin Valley is also home to many Indie Hip Hop labels, R&B singers, Jazz & Funk musicians, and Hip Hop artists such as: Fashawn, Killa Tay, The Def Dames, Cali Agents, Planet Asia. The Valley also has a strong literary tradition, heavy in poetry, producing many famous poets such as Sherley Anne Williams, and Gary Soto, current U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, and David St. John. An MFA Creative Writing program started by former US Poet Laureate Philip Levine, resides at Fresno State, continuing to cultivate the region’s literary talent.

The Scenery 

The many mountain ranges in the Northern San Joaquin Valley create beautiful scenery for miles. There are numerous state parks scattered throughout the valley that offer not only beautiful sights, but also educational and recreational opportunities! Some of the most well known parks are Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Caswell Memorial State Park, Columbia State Historic Park, and Indian Grinding Rock State Historical Park. Each park offers a unique experience for guests of all ages and allows you to connect with the true beauty found in the nature of California. 

The Weather 

In San Joaquin, the summers are sweltering, arid, and clear and the winters are cold and partly cloudy. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 39°F to 98°F and is rarely below 29°F or above 105°F. California’s Steppe climate of the San Joaquin Valley Region is hot like a desert, but averages enough moisture to support grasslands and other vegetation not commonly found in the desert. The best time of year to visit San Joaquin for warm-weather activities is from early June to late September.



Forestiere Underground Gardens— Take a tour off Highway 99 and visit Fresno’s best kept secret. A  hand-built network of underground rooms, courtyards and passageways reminiscent of the ancient catacombs. 

Fresno Chaffee Zoo— The Fresno Chaffee Zoo is a zoo in Roeding Park in Fresno, California covering 39 acres and housing over 190 species. Its attractions include Stingray Bay, Dino Dig, Valley Farm, Sea Lion Cove, African Adventure, and Ross Laird’s Winged Wonders Bird Show. 

Woodward Regional Park— Woodward Park is the biggest park in Fresno County spanning 300-acres. The park includes five miles of trails, an authentic Japanese Garden, three playgrounds and a dog park.


California Living Museum— The California Living Museum, nicknamed CALM, is a zoo and home to at least 250 animals. It opened in 1983 and is one of the most popular attractions in Bakersfield.

Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace— Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace is a vibrant live music venue offering delicious food and entertainment. Buck’s is the perfect place to have a fun night out with your friends as you watch magnificent live shows of talented, world-class musicians.

The Fox Theater— The Fox Theater is officially known as the Historic Bakersfield Fox Theater. It is a renowned performing arts center with a capacity of around 1,500. Book your tickets today and watch live shows such as concerts, ballets, movie screenings, dance recitals, comedic acts, and countless other options.


Modesto Certified Farmers Market— The Modesto Certified Farmers Market has an illustrious 30 year history in the area and many visitors may not know that Modesto is known for being one of the pioneers of the Farm-To-Table philosophy in the United States. The market here has some of the most delicious and freshest produce from the Central Valley area, and as well as fruits and vegetables you can also find cheeses and homemade goods like jam, jelly, and artisan honey.

Gallo Center for the Arts— The Gallo Center for the Arts is also the home of the Mary Stuart Rogers Theater that has a capacity of over a thousand spectators. The Gallo Center for the Arts is the main cultural hub in Modesto and people flock here for the hundreds of performances that are showcased throughout the year.

Yosemite National Park— Located just outside of Modesto, the park needs almost no introduction, being one of the most famous of all the national parks not only in America but in the world. The park stretches for 1,200 square miles, and you will find an array of gorgeous geological features here, from deep gorges, to picturesque waterfalls, to flower meadows, and vast scrub plains. You will also find a huge selection of local flora and fauna, and the wildlife is the reason that many visitors choose to come here, and you can expect to find deer, bears, bobcats, and more.

The Northern San Joaquin Valley is begging to be explored by you! California is known for its touristy hubs, like Los Angeles, but why not take the chance to explore a different side of California? The charm of the Northern San Joaquin Valley is something you do not want to miss out on. If The Northern San Joaquin Valley is calling your name, Pamela’s List can get you set up with a top paying contract in no time! 

Come Join Pamela's list

Skip to content