Most rural counties in California

Written by:
July 25, 2022
Canva

Most rural counties in California

A surprising number of U.S. counties have 100% rural land-702, in fact. Stacker compiled a list of the most rural counties in California using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Counties are ranked by the percent of land area that is rural, as of the 2010 Census, with ties broken by residents per square mile, according to 2020 5-year population estimates.

According to the Census Bureau, rural land encompasses any land that isn't an urban area. To be considered an urban area, a place has to have a densely settled core of census tracts or blocks and count at least 2,500 people, at least 1,500 of whom must be residents of non-institutional buildings. Areas with 50,000 people or more are considered urbanized areas, while areas with between 2,500 and 50,000 people are considered urban clusters.

You may also like: Best high schools in California

1 / 58
Canva

#58. San Francisco County

- Rural area: 0.4% (0 square miles)
- Urban area: 99.6% (47 square miles)
- Total land area: 47 square miles
--- #58 largest county in state, #3,105 nationwide

- Population density: 18,662.9 people / square mile (874,784 residents)
--- #58 lowest density county in state, #3,139 nationwide

2 / 58
Hollywood // Wikimedia Commons

#57. Orange County

- Rural area: 33.7% (267 square miles)
- Urban area: 66.3% (524 square miles)
- Total land area: 791 square miles
--- #47 largest county in state, #1,089 nationwide

- Population density: 4,010.2 people / square mile (3.2 million residents)
--- #57 lowest density county in state, #3,117 nationwide

3 / 58
MARELBU // Wikimedia Commons

#56. Contra Costa County

- Rural area: 57.3% (410 square miles)
- Urban area: 42.7% (306 square miles)
- Total land area: 716 square miles
--- #51 largest county in state, #1,265 nationwide

- Population density: 1,603.2 people / square mile (1.1 million residents)
--- #53 lowest density county in state, #3,053 nationwide

4 / 58
Jennifer Williams // Wikimedia Commons

#55. Alameda County

- Rural area: 63.3% (468 square miles)
- Urban area: 36.7% (271 square miles)
- Total land area: 739 square miles
--- #49 largest county in state, #1,195 nationwide

- Population density: 2,248.4 people / square mile (1.7 million residents)
--- #55 lowest density county in state, #3,086 nationwide

5 / 58
BDS2006 // Wikimedia

#54. Los Angeles County

- Rural area: 64.9% (2,635 square miles)
- Urban area: 35.1% (1,423 square miles)
- Total land area: 4,058 square miles
--- #11 largest county in state, #117 nationwide

- Population density: 2,474.4 people / square mile (10.0 million residents)
--- #56 lowest density county in state, #3,095 nationwide

You may also like: Highest rated IPAs in California

6 / 58
Canva

#53. Sacramento County

- Rural area: 65.9% (635 square miles)
- Urban area: 34.1% (329 square miles)
- Total land area: 965 square miles
--- #43 largest county in state, #727 nationwide

- Population density: 1,594.3 people / square mile (1.5 million residents)
--- #52 lowest density county in state, #3,050 nationwide

7 / 58
Craig Howell // Wikimedia Commons

#52. San Mateo County

- Rural area: 68.6% (308 square miles)
- Urban area: 31.4% (141 square miles)
- Total land area: 448 square miles
--- #56 largest county in state, #2,279 nationwide

- Population density: 1,707.4 people / square mile (765,623 residents)
--- #54 lowest density county in state, #3,061 nationwide

8 / 58
Uladzik Kryhin // Shutterstock

#51. Santa Clara County

- Rural area: 74.4% (959 square miles)
- Urban area: 25.6% (331 square miles)
- Total land area: 1,290 square miles
--- #37 largest county in state, #464 nationwide

- Population density: 1,491.7 people / square mile (1.9 million residents)
--- #51 lowest density county in state, #3,043 nationwide

9 / 58
SD Dirk // Flickr

#50. San Diego County

- Rural area: 81.9% (3,446 square miles)
- Urban area: 18.1% (760 square miles)
- Total land area: 4,207 square miles
--- #9 largest county in state, #110 nationwide

- Population density: 790.2 people / square mile (3.3 million residents)
--- #50 lowest density county in state, #2,963 nationwide

10 / 58
Aaronbrick // Wikicommons

#49. Santa Cruz County

- Rural area: 82.2% (366 square miles)
- Urban area: 17.8% (79 square miles)
- Total land area: 445 square miles
--- #57 largest county in state, #2,287 nationwide

- Population density: 613.6 people / square mile (273,170 residents)
--- #49 lowest density county in state, #2,926 nationwide

You may also like: Most popular boy names in the 70s in California

11 / 58
Kglavin // Wikimedia Commons

#48. Marin County

- Rural area: 84.5% (439 square miles)
- Urban area: 15.5% (81 square miles)
- Total land area: 520 square miles
--- #55 largest county in state, #2,003 nationwide

- Population density: 498.6 people / square mile (259,441 residents)
--- #46 lowest density county in state, #2,877 nationwide

12 / 58
Canva

#47. Solano County

- Rural area: 86.2% (708 square miles)
- Urban area: 13.9% (114 square miles)
- Total land area: 822 square miles
--- #46 largest county in state, #1,031 nationwide

- Population density: 541.0 people / square mile (444,538 residents)
--- #48 lowest density county in state, #2,900 nationwide

13 / 58
Canva

#46. Ventura County

- Rural area: 87.9% (1,621 square miles)
- Urban area: 12.1% (222 square miles)
- Total land area: 1,843 square miles
--- #26 largest county in state, #317 nationwide

- Population density: 458.8 people / square mile (845,599 residents)
--- #45 lowest density county in state, #2,862 nationwide

14 / 58
LPS.1 // Wikicommons

#45. San Joaquin County

- Rural area: 88.8% (1,235 square miles)
- Urban area: 11.2% (156 square miles)
- Total land area: 1,391 square miles
--- #33 largest county in state, #434 nationwide

- Population density: 540.2 people / square mile (751,615 residents)
--- #47 lowest density county in state, #2,899 nationwide

15 / 58
Doug Olson // Wikimedia Commons

#44. Placer County

- Rural area: 89.9% (1,265 square miles)
- Urban area: 10.1% (142 square miles)
- Total land area: 1,407 square miles
--- #32 largest county in state, #427 nationwide

- Population density: 278.5 people / square mile (391,799 residents)
--- #41 lowest density county in state, #2,710 nationwide

You may also like: Best private high schools in California

16 / 58
Daniel Orth // Flickr

#43. Riverside County

- Rural area: 90.2% (6,497 square miles)
- Urban area: 9.8% (709 square miles)
- Total land area: 7,206 square miles
--- #4 largest county in state, #43 nationwide

- Population density: 338.3 people / square mile (2.4 million residents)
--- #43 lowest density county in state, #2,770 nationwide

17 / 58
Fred Hsu // Wikicommons

#42. Sonoma County

- Rural area: 90.9% (1,432 square miles)
- Urban area: 9.1% (144 square miles)
- Total land area: 1,576 square miles
--- #29 largest county in state, #385 nationwide

- Population density: 315.3 people / square mile (496,801 residents)
--- #42 lowest density county in state, #2,751 nationwide

18 / 58
Public Domain

#41. Stanislaus County

- Rural area: 92.0% (1,375 square miles)
- Urban area: 8.0% (120 square miles)
- Total land area: 1,495 square miles
--- #30 largest county in state, #402 nationwide

- Population density: 365.4 people / square mile (546,235 residents)
--- #44 lowest density county in state, #2,787 nationwide

19 / 58
Stan Shebs // Wikicommons

#40. Napa County

- Rural area: 94.6% (708 square miles)
- Urban area: 5.5% (41 square miles)
- Total land area: 748 square miles
--- #48 largest county in state, #1,177 nationwide

- Population density: 185.2 people / square mile (138,572 residents)
--- #39 lowest density county in state, #2,566 nationwide

20 / 58
Canva

#39. Butte County

- Rural area: 94.8% (1,552 square miles)
- Urban area: 5.2% (84 square miles)
- Total land area: 1,636 square miles
--- #28 largest county in state, #370 nationwide

- Population density: 136.5 people / square mile (223,344 residents)
--- #34 lowest density county in state, #2,424 nationwide

You may also like: Counties with the most veterans in California

21 / 58
Frank Schulenburg // Wikimedia Commons

#38. Nevada County

- Rural area: 95.1% (911 square miles)
- Urban area: 4.9% (47 square miles)
- Total land area: 958 square miles
--- #44 largest county in state, #732 nationwide

- Population density: 103.8 people / square mile (99,417 residents)
--- #27 lowest density county in state, #2,280 nationwide

22 / 58
Epolk // Wikimedia Commons

#37. Yolo County

- Rural area: 95.4% (968 square miles)
- Urban area: 4.6% (47 square miles)
- Total land area: 1,015 square miles
--- #41 largest county in state, #660 nationwide

- Population density: 215.6 people / square mile (218,774 residents)
--- #40 lowest density county in state, #2,619 nationwide

23 / 58
DimiTalen // Wikimedia Commons

#36. El Dorado County

- Rural area: 95.6% (1,633 square miles)
- Urban area: 4.4% (75 square miles)
- Total land area: 1,708 square miles
--- #27 largest county in state, #351 nationwide

- Population density: 111.5 people / square mile (190,345 residents)
--- #31 lowest density county in state, #2,328 nationwide

24 / 58
Ray Bouknight // Wikicommons

#35. Sutter County

- Rural area: 95.9% (578 square miles)
- Urban area: 4.1% (24 square miles)
- Total land area: 602 square miles
--- #53 largest county in state, #1,622 nationwide

- Population density: 159.9 people / square mile (96,315 residents)
--- #36 lowest density county in state, #2,501 nationwide

25 / 58
Pixabay

#34. Santa Barbara County

- Rural area: 96.1% (2,629 square miles)
- Urban area: 3.9% (106 square miles)
- Total land area: 2,735 square miles
--- #21 largest county in state, #190 nationwide

- Population density: 162.7 people / square mile (444,895 residents)
--- #37 lowest density county in state, #2,517 nationwide

You may also like: Best places to retire in California

26 / 58
Mark Miller // Wikimedia Commons

#33. Merced County

- Rural area: 96.4% (1,865 square miles)
- Urban area: 3.6% (70 square miles)
- Total land area: 1,935 square miles
--- #25 largest county in state, #293 nationwide

- Population density: 141.4 people / square mile (273,661 residents)
--- #35 lowest density county in state, #2,445 nationwide

27 / 58
David Jordan // Wikicommons

#32. Fresno County

- Rural area: 96.4% (5,744 square miles)
- Urban area: 3.6% (214 square miles)
- Total land area: 5,958 square miles
--- #6 largest county in state, #61 nationwide

- Population density: 166.2 people / square mile (990,204 residents)
--- #38 lowest density county in state, #2,528 nationwide

28 / 58
Calilover // Wikimedia Commons

#31. Monterey County

- Rural area: 96.8% (3,174 square miles)
- Urban area: 3.3% (107 square miles)
- Total land area: 3,281 square miles
--- #17 largest county in state, #157 nationwide

- Population density: 132.0 people / square mile (432,977 residents)
--- #33 lowest density county in state, #2,404 nationwide

29 / 58
Canva

#30. San Bernardino County

- Rural area: 96.9% (19,431 square miles)
- Urban area: 3.1% (626 square miles)
- Total land area: 20,057 square miles
--- #1 largest county in state, #10 nationwide

- Population density: 107.8 people / square mile (2.2 million residents)
--- #28 lowest density county in state, #2,308 nationwide

30 / 58
Basar // Wikicommons

#29. San Luis Obispo County

- Rural area: 97.0% (3,201 square miles)
- Urban area: 3.0% (98 square miles)
- Total land area: 3,299 square miles
--- #16 largest county in state, #153 nationwide

- Population density: 85.6 people / square mile (282,517 residents)
--- #25 lowest density county in state, #2,140 nationwide

You may also like: Best places to live in California

31 / 58
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District // Wikimedia Commons

#28. Yuba County

- Rural area: 97.1% (613 square miles)
- Urban area: 2.9% (19 square miles)
- Total land area: 632 square miles
--- #52 largest county in state, #1,517 nationwide

- Population density: 122.7 people / square mile (77,524 residents)
--- #32 lowest density county in state, #2,373 nationwide

32 / 58
Armona // Wikicommons

#27. Kings County

- Rural area: 97.2% (1,350 square miles)
- Urban area: 2.8% (39 square miles)
- Total land area: 1,389 square miles
--- #34 largest county in state, #436 nationwide

- Population density: 108.7 people / square mile (151,090 residents)
--- #29 lowest density county in state, #2,315 nationwide

33 / 58
nickchapman // Wikicommons

#26. Kern County

- Rural area: 97.3% (7,912 square miles)
- Urban area: 2.7% (220 square miles)
- Total land area: 8,132 square miles
--- #3 largest county in state, #34 nationwide

- Population density: 109.7 people / square mile (892,458 residents)
--- #30 lowest density county in state, #2,321 nationwide

34 / 58
Canva

#25. Tulare County

- Rural area: 97.7% (4,712 square miles)
- Urban area: 2.3% (112 square miles)
- Total land area: 4,824 square miles
--- #7 largest county in state, #85 nationwide

- Population density: 96.2 people / square mile (463,955 residents)
--- #26 lowest density county in state, #2,231 nationwide

35 / 58
CFang // Wikimedia Commons

#24. Lake County

- Rural area: 97.9% (1,230 square miles)
- Urban area: 2.1% (27 square miles)
- Total land area: 1,256 square miles
--- #38 largest county in state, #483 nationwide

- Population density: 51.2 people / square mile (64,276 residents)
--- #22 lowest density county in state, #1,712 nationwide

You may also like: 13.9 percent of households in California receive food stamps

36 / 58
Doug Kerr // Wikicommons

#23. Shasta County

- Rural area: 98.0% (3,699 square miles)
- Urban area: 2.0% (76 square miles)
- Total land area: 3,775 square miles
--- #13 largest county in state, #133 nationwide

- Population density: 47.5 people / square mile (179,267 residents)
--- #21 lowest density county in state, #1,638 nationwide

37 / 58
Public Domain

#22. Madera County

- Rural area: 98.2% (2,097 square miles)
- Urban area: 1.9% (40 square miles)
- Total land area: 2,137 square miles
--- #24 largest county in state, #260 nationwide

- Population density: 73.0 people / square mile (155,925 residents)
--- #24 lowest density county in state, #2,012 nationwide

38 / 58
Bobak Ha'Eri // Wikimedia Commons

#21. Tuolumne County

- Rural area: 98.6% (2,190 square miles)
- Urban area: 1.4% (31 square miles)
- Total land area: 2,221 square miles
--- #23 largest county in state, #254 nationwide

- Population density: 24.4 people / square mile (54,147 residents)
--- #14 lowest density county in state, #1,048 nationwide

39 / 58
Bobak Ha'Eri // Wikimedia Commons

#20. Amador County

- Rural area: 98.7% (587 square miles)
- Urban area: 1.3% (8 square miles)
- Total land area: 595 square miles
--- #54 largest county in state, #1,644 nationwide

- Population density: 65.6 people / square mile (39,023 residents)
--- #23 lowest density county in state, #1,921 nationwide

40 / 58
Cory Maylett // Wikimedia Commons

#19. Humboldt County

- Rural area: 98.7% (3,522 square miles)
- Urban area: 1.3% (45 square miles)
- Total land area: 3,568 square miles
--- #14 largest county in state, #142 nationwide

- Population density: 38.1 people / square mile (136,101 residents)
--- #17 lowest density county in state, #1,428 nationwide

You may also like: Counties with the highest rate of food insecurity in California

41 / 58
Canva

#18. Del Norte County

- Rural area: 98.8% (994 square miles)
- Urban area: 1.2% (12 square miles)
- Total land area: 1,006 square miles
--- #42 largest county in state, #673 nationwide

- Population density: 27.5 people / square mile (27,692 residents)
--- #16 lowest density county in state, #1,136 nationwide

42 / 58
Canva

#17. Calaveras County

- Rural area: 99.0% (1,010 square miles)
- Urban area: 1.0% (10 square miles)
- Total land area: 1,020 square miles
--- #40 largest county in state, #650 nationwide

- Population density: 44.9 people / square mile (45,828 residents)
--- #20 lowest density county in state, #1,576 nationwide

43 / 58
Rman 348 // Wikimedia Commons

#16. Imperial County

- Rural area: 99.0% (4,134 square miles)
- Urban area: 1.0% (42 square miles)
- Total land area: 4,177 square miles
--- #10 largest county in state, #112 nationwide

- Population density: 43.2 people / square mile (180,580 residents)
--- #18 lowest density county in state, #1,543 nationwide

44 / 58
Binksternet // Wikimedia Commons

#15. Mendocino County

- Rural area: 99.2% (3,477 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.8% (29 square miles)
- Total land area: 3,506 square miles
--- #15 largest county in state, #143 nationwide

- Population density: 24.8 people / square mile (87,110 residents)
--- #15 lowest density county in state, #1,061 nationwide

45 / 58
Michael Patrick // Wikimedia Commons

#14. San Benito County

- Rural area: 99.2% (1,377 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.8% (11 square miles)
- Total land area: 1,389 square miles
--- #35 largest county in state, #437 nationwide

- Population density: 44.3 people / square mile (61,547 residents)
--- #19 lowest density county in state, #1,559 nationwide

You may also like: Fastest growing cities in California

46 / 58
Trance addict // Wikimedia Commons

#13. Glenn County

- Rural area: 99.4% (1,305 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.6% (8 square miles)
- Total land area: 1,314 square miles
--- #36 largest county in state, #454 nationwide

- Population density: 21.4 people / square mile (28,060 residents)
--- #12 lowest density county in state, #936 nationwide

47 / 58
Frank Schulenburg // Wikimedia Commons

#12. Tehama County

- Rural area: 99.5% (2,933 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.6% (16 square miles)
- Total land area: 2,950 square miles
--- #20 largest county in state, #176 nationwide

- Population density: 21.8 people / square mile (64,176 residents)
--- #13 lowest density county in state, #952 nationwide

48 / 58
CleanWater17 // Wikimedia Commons

#11. Colusa County

- Rural area: 99.6% (1,146 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.4% (5 square miles)
- Total land area: 1,151 square miles
--- #39 largest county in state, #536 nationwide

- Population density: 18.7 people / square mile (21,491 residents)
--- #11 lowest density county in state, #842 nationwide

49 / 58
Chmee2 // Wikimedia Commons

#10. Siskiyou County

- Rural area: 99.8% (6,266 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.2% (12 square miles)
- Total land area: 6,278 square miles
--- #5 largest county in state, #54 nationwide

- Population density: 6.9 people / square mile (43,516 residents)
--- #8 lowest density county in state, #453 nationwide

50 / 58
Kenneth Green // Wikimedia Commons

#9. Plumas County

- Rural area: 99.9% (2,549 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.1% (4 square miles)
- Total land area: 2,553 square miles
--- #22 largest county in state, #214 nationwide

- Population density: 7.4 people / square mile (18,844 residents)
--- #9 lowest density county in state, #467 nationwide

You may also like: Most popular girl names in the 70s in California

51 / 58
Finetooth // Wikimedia Commons

#8. Lassen County

- Rural area: 99.9% (4,536 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.1% (5 square miles)
- Total land area: 4,541 square miles
--- #8 largest county in state, #97 nationwide

- Population density: 6.7 people / square mile (30,600 residents)
--- #7 lowest density county in state, #441 nationwide

52 / 58
clr_flickr from Rocklin, USA // Wikimedia Commons

#7. Mono County

- Rural area: 99.9% (3,046 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.1% (3 square miles)
- Total land area: 3,049 square miles
--- #19 largest county in state, #170 nationwide

- Population density: 4.7 people / square mile (14,395 residents)
--- #6 lowest density county in state, #359 nationwide

53 / 58
Scott Burley // Wikimedia Commons

#6. Modoc County

- Rural area: 100.0% (3,916 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.1% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 3,918 square miles
--- #12 largest county in state, #127 nationwide

- Population density: 2.3 people / square mile (8,853 residents)
--- #3 lowest density county in state, #178 nationwide

54 / 58
Chuck Abbe // Wikimedia Commons

#5. Inyo County

- Rural area: 100.0% (10,177 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (4 square miles)
- Total land area: 10,181 square miles
--- #2 largest county in state, #22 nationwide

- Population density: 1.8 people / square mile (17,930 residents)
--- #2 lowest density county in state, #134 nationwide

55 / 58
EPoelzl // Wikimedia Commons

#4. Mariposa County

- Rural area: 100.0% (1,449 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 1,449 square miles
--- #31 largest county in state, #414 nationwide

- Population density: 12.0 people / square mile (17,319 residents)
--- #10 lowest density county in state, #636 nationwide

56 / 58
Almonroth // Wikimedia Commons

#3. Trinity County

- Rural area: 100.0% (3,179 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 3,179 square miles
--- #18 largest county in state, #162 nationwide

- Population density: 3.9 people / square mile (12,541 residents)
--- #5 lowest density county in state, #306 nationwide

57 / 58
Canva

#2. Sierra County

- Rural area: 100.0% (953 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 953 square miles
--- #45 largest county in state, #735 nationwide

- Population density: 3.0 people / square mile (2,898 residents)
--- #4 lowest density county in state, #239 nationwide

58 / 58
Susan Popielaski // Wikimedia Commons

#1. Alpine County

- Rural area: 100.0% (738 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 738 square miles
--- #50 largest county in state, #1,197 nationwide

- Population density: 1.6 people / square mile (1,159 residents)
--- #1 lowest density county in state, #115 nationwide

Trending Now