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Discover a world as only the locals know it!

By Lynn Campbell, Sierra Nevada Conservancy
National Geographic’s interactive Geotourism web-based MapGuide Projects for the Sierra Nevada, Coast Redwoods and Central Cascades seek to promote tourism for the 21st century -- the kind of tourism that can conserve a region’s historic towns and heritage sites, restore and protect landscapes, and sustain local businesses and communities.

The Project’s online maps achieve this objective because they are created by tapping into the knowledge of local people who live and prosper in these Northern California, Sierra and Southern Oregon communities. Because their well-being and quality of life depends greatly on tourism, this tool empowers communities to share information about a place that residents and visitors can discover and explore.

By visiting the website the user will realize the full benefits of these MapGuide projects. Once there, you or anyone wishing to visit an area, be they a weekender, vacationer or traveler from home or abroad, can zero in on what a specific region really has to offer. By hovering the mouse over the various icons on the guides, you can begin to see what is available in the area, including historic or pre-historic places, local points of interest, festivals, museums, natural attractions and outdoor adventures as well as accommodations, food and drink. 
Sierra Nevada Geotourism MapGuide, Northern Sierras,
If you visit the site you will find many maps like this. The actual online MapGuide gives one a real sense of what it is like to visit these regions. 

The MapGuide provides a new tool for those who wish to plan their trips carefully so as to see and do what interests them. The level of exploration is essentially unlimited. The visitor to a MapGuide project can dwell at length on a particular area, drilling down to the extent necessary to make a travel decision, or with another click, that same user can be planning a journey into any of the other western Geotourism sites.

Geotourism MapGuides can be used to make both determinations and nominations. These are works in progress; living guides not meant to be finished. As visitors use the MapGuides to plan trips, they will discover new places such as restaurants, farms, wineries, hiking or biking trails, swimming holes, events, fishing spots and other attractions, which they can nominate for inclusion. If a visitor makes such discoveries, they can be shared for the rest of the world to see and enjoy.

Each Geotourism website targets a variety of growing travel niches such as adventure and nature tourism, cultural heritage travel and agricultural tourism.

Geotourism websites also allow visitors to select the one-of-a-kind places integral to the distinctive character of a place or region.   

By using nominations from local residents and travelers alike, National Geographic is giving communities the means to promote treasures that celebrate and sustain what is most distinctive about the American west. Amazing natural resources, scenic landscapes and vibrant local main streets await the visitor. Those who seek  outdoor adventures and experiences, rich biological and cultural diversity, and captivating history will not be disappointed. There are three North-Western Geotourism Web Sites.

Sierra Nevada    
The Sierra Nevada project covers 25 thousand square miles of public lands, outdoor recreation opportunities, small towns and historic communities. The online MapGuides covers places to visit in the Sierra Cascades, Central Sierra, Eastern Sierra, Yosemite Gateway regions, and the Southern Sierra. 

Mueseum, Mill, Snag, Geotourism,
Northern Sierra visitors can marvel at the unique geology of the region or make stops at historic places and grand vistas. 

Lassen Volcanic National Park, one of the least visited National Parks in the nation, is home to unexplored hiking trails, lakes, waterfalls, and hydrothermal features that will delight everyone. Visitors to the website can also order a beautiful printed map of the Sierra, or upload information and maps to a mobile phone application for Droid or IPhone. 

The Redwood Coast

Redwood Coast, Susan Van Der Wal, Geotourism,

The Redwood Coast:  Photo by Susan Van Der Wal

Long famous as the home of the world's tallest trees, this scenic region is so rugged that explorers continue to look for new "champion" redwoods. Geotourism MapGuides invite everyone to celebrate California's Redwood Coast: a region that offers sparkling beaches, cascading rivers, quiet countryside, historic communities and a forest as old as the dinosaurs. For more on The Redwood Coast, go to

The Central Cascades

Mt Hood Summit:  Photo by Peter Marbach, Geotourism,
Mt Hood Summit:  Photo by Peter Marbach

The sheer beauty and grandeur of the Central Cascades of Northern California, Oregon and Washington will make any visitor give pause. The many stories resting in the region’s foothills, high desert and mountain communities will inspire you to linger and explore. To do that, go to

Small towns, abundant wildlife and beautiful trails dot these regions. Each scene offers the visitor a different perspective on how life goes on in a West that's still wild.

Want to know more about Geotourism? Click here for frequently asked questions.

Other photo credits: Jean Bilodeaux, Lea Huetteman, Lorissa Soriano, Bob Kingman.

Editor's Note: fully supports National Geographic's Geotourism MapGuide Projects. Encouraging people to visit this area is critically important for several reasons. The outdoor recreational opportunities available in Northern California and Southern Oregon are unsurpassed. This diverse, natural resource-rich region offers much to any traveler be they local, from nearby states or the world. Getting more people into the outdoors, especially the next generation, is essential to the well-being of this area and our nation's outdoor heritage. Is is also part of our mission and shall remain so. -- FG


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