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Prepare to Be Shocked by These 33 Weird California Town Names!

California is known for its beautiful beaches and bustling cities, but did you know it’s also home to some of the weirdest and most unusual place names? 

From quirky towns like Frogtown to mysterious spots like Spyrock, these names are sure to make you smile, laugh and maybe even scratch your head. 

Join us on a fun journey through the Golden State as we explore the stories behind these unique and unforgettable names. 

Ready to discover the wackiest places in California?

1. Zzyzx

Zzyzx is a quirky place located in San Bernardino County, close to the California-Nevada border. 

The name was invented in 1944 by a man named Curtis Howe Springer, who claimed it was the last word in the English language. 

He created it to name his health spa, hoping it would be unique and memorable and it certainly worked!

And in case you’re wondering, it’s pronounced ‘zai-ziks’.

2. Rough and Ready

Mark Gunn / Flickr

Rough and Ready is a small town in Nevada County, just west of Grass Valley.

It got its unusual name from a mining company founded by settlers who admired General Zachary “Old Rough and Ready” Taylor. 

They admired him so much that they named their mining company and the entire town after him!

3. Weed

Kellie Parker / Flickr

Weed is a small city located in Northern California, near Mount Shasta. 

Its name comes from Abner Weed, a man who founded the town in the late 1800s and discovered that the area’s strong winds were perfect for drying lumber. 

Despite the odd name, it has nothing to do with plants!

They like to have fun in Weed with their city motto being “Weed like to welcome you”.

4. You Bet

You Bet is a small town in Nevada County,  just east of Grass Valley and not too far from Lake Tahoe.

One day back in the Gold Rush era, the miners gathered in the town’s saloon to name the new town.

When asked what they should name the town, the saloon owner said ‘You Bet’ as it was his favorite phrase.

For some reason, the name stuck!

5. Cool

Cool is a small town located in El Dorado County, about 40 miles northeast from Sacramento.

The origin of its name is a bit of a mystery, with some stories suggesting it was named after Aaron Cool (a local reverend) or for its pleasant climate. 

Regardless of its true origins, the town’s name is undeniably cool and always a fun topic of conversation.

6. Bumblebee

Bumblebee is a tiny, unincorporated community in Tuolumne County, just north of Yosemite National Park.

The origin of its name isn’t entirely clear but a local legend suggests that prospectors found a rich deposit of gold flakes glittering in the sunlight. 

The sparkling gold reminded them of bumblebees so they named the area “Bumblebee.”

7. Bagdad

Nope, we’re not talking about the capital of Iraq…we’re talking about a small town in California.

Bagdad is a ghost town in the Mojave Desert, along the historic Route 66 in San Bernardino County. 

Its name was actually inspired by the ancient city of Baghdad in Iraq, giving this small desert outpost an exotic and adventurous feel. 

Though now abandoned, the town’s intriguing name still sparks curiosity!

8. Volcano

Volcano is a historic town located in Amador County, about 60 miles east of Sacramento.

It got its name from early miners who thought the bowl-shaped valley was formed by a volcano, even though there are no volcanoes in the area. 

9. Frogtown

Kansas Sebastian / Flickr

Frogtown is actually a nickname for the Elysian Valley neighborhood in Los Angeles. 

Although Frogtown isn’t the official name, it has been commonly used to refer to the neighborhood since the 1930s – 1960s.

The name comes from the large number of toads that used to cover the streets from the nearby Los Angeles River. 

10. Squabbletown

Squabbletown is a small community in Tuolumne County, near the city of Sonora. 

The origin of its name isn’t known but it may come from the frequent arguments among its early settlers over land and water rights. 

11. Bummerville

Bummerville is a small community located in Calaveras County, near the town of West Point. 

The origin of its name isn’t fully known but it’s thought to relate to the laidback gold miners who used to live there during the Gold Rush era.

The town was originally named ‘Bum Town’ and locals speculate that it got this name from the kind of people it attracted, often referred to as ‘bums’.

12. Helltown

Helltown is a small community located in Butte County, near the city of Chico. 

The name origin isn’t clear but could come from the frequent wildfires in the area.

Another theory is from the rough and rowdy behavior of its early gold miners, who were known for their wild and unruly ways. 

13. Hercules

ApproachAspect / Flickr

Hercules is a small city located in the San Francisco Bay Area, near Richmond in Contra Costa County. 

Unfortunately, the town wasn’t named after the Roman hero Hercules or the subsequent Disney movie character.

The name actually comes from the Hercules Powder Company, which manufactured explosives and dynamite there in the early 20th century. 

14. Timbuctoo

Jimmy Emerson, DVM / Flickr

Timbuctoo is a historic ghost town in Yuba County, near the city of Marysville. 

Its name origin isn’t entirely clear but, according to local legend, the name was chosen by an African American miner who was from Timbuktu in Mali.

Some versions of the legend say he was an escaped slave.

15. Forks of Salmon

Pacific Southwest Forest Service, USDA / Flickr

Forks of Salmon is a small community located in Siskiyou County, near the town of Etna and not too far from Mount Shasta. 

The name comes from its location at the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Salmon River. 

16. Weedpatch

Wayne Hsieh / Flickr

Weedpatch is a small community located in Kern County, near the city of Bakersfield. 

The name originated from the area’s early days when it was overgrown with weeds before being settled by Dust Bowl migrants in the 1930s. 

This unique name reflects the town’s humble beginnings!

17. Likely

Wes Dickinson / Flickr

Likely is a small town located in Modoc County, near the city of Alturas, and close to both the Oregon and Nevada borders.

The town was originally called South Fork but in 1886 the residents voted to change it to Likely.

They couldn’t agree on a name and so a local rancher observed that they would most likely never agree so someone nominated ‘Likely’ and it was chosen.

18. Devils Elbow

Devils Elbow is located in Colusa County, near the Mendocino National Forest in Northern California. 

The name comes from a particularly sharp and dangerous bend in the road which early loggers and settlers found treacherous. 

19. Happy Camp

Tom Hilton / Flickr

Happy Camp is a small town located in Siskiyou County, near the Oregon border. 

The town’s cheerful name dates back to the mid-1800s when gold miners, delighted by their successful findings, dubbed it “Happy Camp.” 

20. Skidoo

Strange Ones / Flickr

Skidoo is a ghost town located in Inyo County, within Death Valley National Park. 

The town’s unusual name is said to come from the phrase “23 skidoo,” a popular slang expression from the early 1900s meaning to leave quickly or make a quick exit. 

21. Dog Town

Jimmy Emerson, DVM / Flickr

Dog Town is a historic ghost town located in Mono County, near the town of Bridgeport. 

The origin of its name comes from the early miners who used the term “Dogtown” to describe camps with bad living conditions.

Another fun story says a woman came to the town with three dogs that bred so much she filled the town with dogs.

22. Whiskeytown

Whiskeytown is located in Shasta County, near the city of Redding. 

There are actually 2 different local legends for how the town got its name.

The first is that, during the Gold Rush era, a barrel of whiskey fell off a mule wagon and into the nearby creek.

The second story indicates that the name came from the local miners who would drink a barrel of whiskey each day.

23. Tranquillity

Tranquillity is a small town located in Fresno County, just 30 miles west of the city of Fresno.

The origin of the town’s serene name isn’t entirely clear but it’s thought that it was chosen to reflect the peaceful and calm atmosphere of the area. 

This tranquil name perfectly captures the essence of this quiet, rural community in the heart of California’s Central Valley.

24. Yolo

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

Yolo is a small community located in Yolo County, near the city of Woodland. 

Although the name is identical to a popular abbreviation meaning ‘you only live once’, that phrase has nothing to do with its name.

The name “Yolo” actually comes from the Native American word “Yo-loy,” which means “a place abounding in rushes.” 

25. Standard

Standard is a small community located in Tuolumne County, near the town of Sonora. 

The name comes from the fact that it was originally a company town for the Standard Lumber Company.

This company established the town in the early 1900s to support its logging operations. 

26. Slab City

Slab City is an off-the-grid community located in the Sonoran Desert in Imperial County, near the town of Niland. 

The name comes from the concrete slabs that remain from a former World War II military base. 

This unique settlement attracts artists, drifters and free spirits, making it a fascinating and unconventional place to visit.

27. Nimbus

Nimbus is a small community located in Sacramento County, near the city of Folsom.

Although this place sounds like something from Harry Potter, it’s not. 

The name “Nimbus” actually comes from the Nimbus Dam and Fish Hatchery, which was itself named after the Latin word for “cloud”. 

This fitting name reflects the area’s connection to water and the natural environment.

28. Tarzana

Tarzana is a neighborhood located in the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles. 

It was named after the fictional jungle hero Tarzan, created by author Edgar Rice Burroughs, who lived in the area.

29. Chilcoot

Jim Maurer / Flickr

Chilcoot is a small community located in Plumas County, near the Nevada border and close to the town of Loyalton. 

The name “Chilcoot” is believed to be derived from a Native American word, though its exact meaning is unclear. 

This intriguing name adds a touch of mystery and cultural heritage to this quaint area in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

30. Mystic

Loco Steve / Flickr

Mystic is a small community located right by the border with Nevada, just 26 miles north of Lake Tahoe.

The origin of its enchanting name is unknown which adds to the town’s mysterious reputation. 

It may have come from the alluring nature and beautiful scenery of the area.

Nobody knows where the name came from, it is indeed a mystery.

31. Honeydew 

Honeydew is a small, unincorporated community located in Humboldt County, near the Lost Coast and the King Range. 

The origin of its sweet name is not known but this delightful name adds a touch of whimsy to this picturesque and remote area.

One theory could be that early settlers used to grow green melons here.

32. Spyrock

Spyrock is a small community located in Mendocino County, near the town of Laytonville. 

The name comes from a prominent rock formation in the area that supposedly looks like a spyglass.

33. Smartsville

Wayne Hsieh / Flickr

Smartsville is a small community located in Yuba County, near the town of Marysville. 

It was named after James Smart, a local hotel owner who played a significant role in the town’s development during the Gold Rush era.

Sophie Davis

Born and raised in the Bay area of California, Sophie is a California native. She joined our team in 2023 to create travel guides on California.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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