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Northern California, sometimes referred to as NorCal, is the northern portion of the U.S. state of California. The region contains the San Francisco Bay Area, including the state’s third largest city San Jose, a major center of government, commerce, and culture; the state capital, Sacramento; as well as the substantial natural beauty of the redwood forests, the northern California coast, the Big Sur coastline area, the Sierra Nevada including Yosemite Valley and Lake Tahoe, and Mt. Shasta, the second-highest peak in the Cascade Range.
Native Americans arrived in Northern California perhaps as early as 5,000 to 8,000 BCE, and successive waves of arrivals led to one of the most densely populated areas of pre-Columbian North America. The arrival of European explorers from the early 1500s to the mid-1700s, did not lead to European settlements in Northern California. The Spanish mission at Monterey was the first European settlement in the area, followed by other missions along the coast—eventually extending as far north as Sonoma County.