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15 Best Lakes in California to Visit


The geography of California is not like wherever else within the nation, and it’s not unusual for residents to boast that they’ll sit on a seashore at lunch and watch a sundown from a mountaintop for dinner, all in someday.

Throughout the state, California items guests with lovely lakes that vary from recreation hubs like Lake Havasu within the south to well-known resort areas like Lake Tahoe within the north. The state can also be house to 9 nationwide parks and a whole bunch of state parks with lovely lakes for fishing, recreation, and leisure, like Castaic Lake, simply north of Los Angeles.

Let’s discover a few of the finest, most lovely lakes in California, what to do whilst you’re visiting, and the place to remain throughout your travels.

The Best Lakes in California to Visit

1. Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is an internationally well-known lake that boasts the bluest blues and deepest depths of any lake in California and is the biggest alpine lake within the state. Surrounded by the Sierra Nevada Mountain vary, Lake Tahoe straddles the California and Nevada border and is about 200 miles northeast of San Francisco.

Popular actions at Lake Tahoe embody water sports activities and sunbathing on the seashores, particularly in the summertime. Winter brings skiers, and the paths across the lake are fashionable with mountain bikers and hikers all yr. You don’t even should get out of your automotive to marvel at the great thing about Lake Tahoe. Driving across the lake affords loads of views and alternatives for picture-taking and scenic overlooks.

For your first go to to Lake Tahoe, strive a half-day coastal self-guided electric bike tour, which runs alongside the attractive japanese shore path. If you wish to problem your self, take your mountain bike to the Flume Trail, which is a reasonably difficult 14-mile path with excellent views of the lake and mountains stretching from South Lake Tahoe all the way in which to the north.

Lake Tahoe fits just about each sort of traveler, too, with stays in trip properties in South Lake Tahoe, in addition to resorts and comfy old school motels alongside the japanese shore that seem like they have been plucked proper out of a Nineteen Fifties summer season trip.

Choose a South Lake Tahoe Retreat in case you’re touring with household or the Sunnyside Resort and Lodge for a basic lakeside Lake Tahoe expertise.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to do in Santa Monica, California

2. Shasta Lake

Shasta Lake

Shasta Lake is a reservoir in Northern California and is only a few miles north of the town of Redding. Also referred to as Lake Shasta, the reservoir was created within the Nineteen Forties when the Shasta Dam was constructed and blocked the Sacramento River.

Shasta Lake is the biggest man-made reservoir within the state, and it’s a well-liked vacation spot for home boating, fishing journeys, and may be probably the greatest lakes to stay on in California. The views round Shasta Lake are unbelievable, and the reservoir sits inside the Cascade area. Mountains across the lake usually function a dusting of snow nicely into the spring, so it’s one of many prettiest lakes in California.

If you’re within the space for greater than a day and wish to see one thing distinctive and awe-inspiring, purchase a ticket for a tour of Lake Shasta Caverns, which is a privately-owned cave with extra-knowledgeable tour guides and a present store with cool rocks and gems.

If you’re in an adventurous temper, you may keep on a houseboat on Shasta Lake, however the Shasta space and Redding to the south additionally provide an infinite provide of comfy motels and trip properties.

Try the guest house with a private hot tub in your winter travels to Lake Shasta or the Fairfield Inn & Suites in case you’re traveling with the family and wish all of the comforts, plus a free breakfast. Redding Regional Airport is a small and handy choice in case you’re flying into the world for a go to.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Lancaster, California

3. Mammoth Lakes Basin

Mammoth Lakes Basin

Mammoth Lakes is a luxurious trip enclave on the japanese facet of the Sierra Nevada mountains that run up and down the japanese fringe of the state. One of the best road trips you may absorb California is one which travels alongside U.S. Route 395, and Mammoth Lakes is the right vacation spot after you drive north alongside the gorgeous Sierra Nevada mountains.

Mammoth Lakes, or “Mammoth” to those that stay in California, is positioned close to some spectacular pure formations just like the Devils Postpile National Monument, in addition to Yosemite National Park. The space is kind of well-known for its ski resorts and winter recreation alternatives that embody snowmobiling, snowboarding, snowboarding, and ice skating.

However, Mammoth Lakes isn’t only a vacation spot for luxurious snowboarding holidays. The summer season is a fantastic season for mountain biking, mountaineering, and swimming, and it’s simpler to attain a deal on lodging in the summertime when native property house owners provide decrease charges on their cabins, condos, and resort rooms.

Whether you go to in the summertime or winter, you’ll discover acquainted lodging at locations just like the Quality Inn, in addition to attractive resort condos at locations just like the Juniper Springs Resort. If you’re not too choosy about the place you keep, strive the city of Bishop for inexpensive charges within the busy winter snowboarding season.

It takes lower than an hour to drive from Bishop to Mammoth and also you’ll get lovely views of the Sierra Nevada mountains alongside the way in which to one of the vital lovely lakes in California.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Ojai, California

4. Bass Lake

Bass Lake California

Bass Lake is the perfect vacation spot for anybody traveling to Yosemite National Park because it’s only a few miles away from the park. Bass Lake is surrounded by a whole bunch of trip properties, many with direct entry to the lake by private docks. Bass Lake is house to simply 600 folks year-round, however a whole bunch of tourists come to the world every year for watersports and snowboarding.

One of the cool options of the lake is that it possesses a number of inlets with shallow water and docks the place you may retailer your jet skis, boat leases, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards. Paddle across the inlet on a vivid sunny summer season day or go jet snowboarding out onto the principle thoroughfare for an thrilling and fast-paced circuit by probably the greatest lakes in California.

Bass Lake is among the finest California lakes for traveling with children who’re simply sufficiently old to take pleasure in fundamental water sports activities, mountaineering, and out of doors actions. The surroundings is relaxed, distant, and delightful, and it’s a perfect destination for a younger household who needs some out of doors enjoyable in the summertime.

You’ll discover a number of wonderful properties around Bass Lake that vary from small, cozy trip properties to massive household vacation properties. You’ll wish to spend not less than a number of days at Bass Lake earlier than transferring on to your adventures at Yosemite National Park; nonetheless, you can too take a day trip into Yosemite out of your lodgings at Bass Lake.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Graeagle, California

5. Lake Sonoma

Lake Sonoma

Lake Sonoma Recreation Area is a coastal gem in Sonoma County and is among the latest California lakes, created within the early Eighties with the completion of the Warm Springs Dam. After visiting the top wineries in Sonoma, take into account spending a day on the lake for fishing, swimming, or searching.

The lake can also be probably the greatest lakes in California for mountaineering, using, and stress-free by the water. The lake has a ship launch and can also be close to horseback using alternatives and firms that supply hot air balloon rides above the lake.

Although you may expertise Sonoma County from the air in a scorching air balloon, one of the best ways to get to Lake Sonoma is with a automotive. Most vacationers from outdoors the area will fly into one of many airports in San Francisco or San Jose, however the drive is about 100 miles from San Fran and somewhat farther from San Jose.

There’s additionally a small regional airport in Santa Rosa, somewhat nearer to Sonoma County, however you would possibly find yourself stopping in San Francisco on a layover anyway to get to Santa Rosa. If you’re making your means round Sonoma County on a leisurely street journey of the state’s wineries, take into account a day at Lake Sonoma to loosen up.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Fairfield, California

6. Donner Lake

Donner Lake

Donner Lake sits inside Donner Memorial State Park and is only a brief drive to the northwest from Lake Tahoe and only a few miles away from the superior small northern California city of Truckee. Donner Lake and the close by memorial are named for the well-known “Donner Party,” the ill-fated group of Nineteenth-century pioneers who traveled to California in a wagon practice and succumbed to the fierce winter of 1846 and 1847.

However, you don’t want to fret that you simply’ll meet the identical destiny because the pioneers. Today, the world round Donner Lake in all fairness populated, and there are even some alternatives for staying close to the lake in trip properties. A preferred place to remain when visiting lakes in California like Donner Lake or Lake Tahoe is Truckee, which is a quaint western city that’s a well-liked cease earlier than or after a tour of Lake Tahoe.

Donner Lake is a really lovely lake, and the encompassing space can also be very picturesque and value a number of images. If the climate permits, spend a number of hours chilling on one of many small docks that line the shoreline. You also can loosen up on the seashore on a sunny day or take part in leisurely recreation actions like kayaking or paddle boarding.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Clearlake, California

7. Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu is a large reservoir that was created by a dam within the Colorado River and sits on the border between California and Arizona. As probably the greatest boating lakes in California, Havasu is a large playground for adults who love watersports, speedboats, and normal tomfoolery. It’s additionally a well-liked venue for home boating, boat leases, and lake tenting.

Visiting Lake Havasu from outdoors the world is most simply achieved by flying into the Lake Havasu City Airport and getting an airport transfer. You also can fly into Las Vegas or Phoenix and drive to the lake. You’ll discover all the pieces you want for an thrilling out of doors journey if you arrive, from procuring and eating to lodging and tons of watersport alternatives all through Lake Havasu State Park.

If you’re not staying in your boat throughout your go to, you’ll most likely keep in Lake Havasu City, which is simply throughout the border on the Arizona facet of the shore. Some choices to consider embody the Holiday Inn Express & Suites and or a Lake Havasu City vacation home.

The lake boasts 400 miles of shoreline and averages 300 days of sunshine every year, so it’s probably the greatest lakes in California to spend time water snowboarding, boating, suntanning, and chilling out with friends. If you’re searching for excessive water sports activities, Lake Havasu is among the finest locations in California. Or Arizona, for that matter.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Turlock, California

8. Big Bear Lake

A view of Big Bear Lake during winter

Big Bear Lake was the house of native Americans for 1000’s of years earlier than European settlers got here to the world to discover and construct an outpost. The space was fashionable with gold miners for many years till the world lured skiers, vacationers, and lake fans. Today, Big Bear Lake is an extremely fashionable vacation spot for Los Angelinos for the reason that drive from L.A. is a number of hours at most.

Big Bear Lake makes a perfect vacation, whether or not it’s a winter wonderland in December or a fantastically sunny day in July. If you’re from Southern California, Big Bear Lake is a “four-season” vacation spot, which suggests you may e book a Lakewood Cabin or trip house at any time of the yr for snowboarding, mountain biking, mountaineering trails, or just stress-free by the lake.

Travelers from outdoors Southern California can attain Big Bear Lake best from Ontario Airport to the south, however it doesn’t take for much longer to succeed in Big Bear in case you fly into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Burbank Airport, or John Wayne Airport in Orange County.

In the summer season, Big Bear Lake may be very outdoors-oriented, with Snow Summit ski park reworking right into a downhill mountain biking vacation spot. The space additionally has a great deal of cross-country biking trails, in addition to infinite miles of mountaineering in a number of seasons. Once November and December arrive, Big Bear is a wonderful SoCal vacation spot for snowboarding and comfy evenings by the hearth.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Barstow, California

9. Lake Arrowhead

Lake Arrowhead

Lake Arrowhead is simply to the west of Big Bear Lake within the San Bernardino National Forest, and you may simply drive from one lake to the opposite on a Southern California road trip. If you’re within the space for a number of days, they’re two of the perfect lakes in California for surroundings and leisure actions.

Like many different lovely lakes in California, Lake Arrowhead is the results of a dam that was constructed on the flip of the twentieth century within the San Bernardino Mountains. The lake was named for a pure rock formation within the space that resembles an arrowhead.

Today, the lake is named a small resort city and affords lots of the similar out of doors actions as Big Bear, like water snowboarding, fishing, backpacking, and something that has one thing to do with the outside.

Lake Arrowhead additionally has a cute, upscale city heart that’s very best for shopping, strolling round, and taking a break out of your leisure actions. One of the perfect methods to expertise Lake Arrowhead is by renting a cabin. But a few of the lake cabins at Lake Arrowhead aren’t precisely tiny. The luxurious lake city excels in offering massive cabins with loads of room to loosen up.

Try Bracken Fern Manor in your winter escape to Lake Arrowhead, which comes with a ski tools rental service, ten bedrooms, and ten loos, or the marginally much less extravagant Mighty Pines trip house, a stunning cabin within the woods about 10 minutes to The Village. Lake Arrowhead is the perfect vacation spot if you’re searching for lakes with cabins in California.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Auburn, California

10. Castaic Lake

Castaic Lake

You can attain Castaic Lake from nearly wherever in Los Angeles County in only a few hours, and normally lower than that. Enjoy boating, fishing, mountaineering trails, tenting, and mountain biking at Castaic Lake State Recreation Area, which is simply off the 5 freeway north of L.A. The lake is kind of fashionable with Southern California locals and is among the finest lakes in California for trip outings with the household.

Castaic is a wonderful place to take youngsters as a result of the Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park is simply 10 miles south, subsequent to the freeway in Valencia. Enjoy your out of doors recreation actions on the lake, after which scare your self foolish on the curler coasters at Magic Mountain the following day together with your youngsters.

Not solely are you able to bring your R.V. in your lakeside trip at Castaic Lake, however you’ll additionally discover all kinds of handy lodging within the neighborhood. From the Rodeway Inn to the Days Inn, there’s at all times someplace acquainted to remain within the space.

Castaic can also be shut sufficient to the remainder of Southern California that you simply don’t essentially want to remain in a single day at or close to the lake to take pleasure in it. If you’re visiting Southern California and wish to add a day of outside recreation to your touristy actions on the Hollywood Sign and the Santa Monica Pier, it’s a simple 45-minute drive from Downtown or most of Westside LA.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Glendale, California

11. Lake Cachuma

Lake Cachuma

Lake Cachuma is a man-made lake within the northern reaches of Southern California with ample alternatives for camping, fishing, and quiet reflection with nature. The lake feels fairly distant, though it’s probably not that removed from Santa Barbara, which is only a fast 30-minute drive from the coast.

Lake Cachuma is close to the actually distinctive city of Solvang, which seems prefer it was plucked proper out of Denmark and transported to lovely sunshine-infused Santa Barbara County. If you’re driving by the world in your option to Lake Cachuma, you positively must cease for lunch and procuring in Solvang.

The Swedish Candy Factory is a must-see and options unbelievable sweets from native sweet makers. Not solely are you able to gear up in your tenting journey in Solvang, however the city is a one-of-a-kind vacation spot within the state. Lake Cachuma is a vacation spot to contemplate if you’re exploring Santa Barbara County, which is north of L.A. County.

Activities to place in your itinerary embody a Santa Barbara cupcake and wine tour, some quiet leisure at Lake Cachuma, and a few mountaineering trails round Santa Maria in case you’re recreation for a drive about an hour north of Lake Cachuma.

If you’d reasonably benefit from the lake for the day and keep in a resort reasonably than camp in a single day, strive the Historic Santa Maria Inn, a stunning resort with probably the greatest lobbies you’ll ever see.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Mendocino, California

12. Mono Lake

Mono Lake

If you’re searching for one of many distinctive lakes in Northern California, you would possibly strive Mono Lake, which is a fast drive north from Mammoth Lakes and to the east of Route 395. Mono Lake is house to the strangest rocks which may make you assume you’re on one other planet: the Mono Lake tufa formations.

The lake is fashionable with chicken watchers and is a saline lake reasonably than a freshwater lake. You’ll should take a gravel street to succeed in Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve, however the street doesn’t require a well-equipped all-wheel-drive car.

Mono Lake affords guests boating alternatives, however you don’t want a watercraft to benefit from the view. You’ll discover picnic areas and a seashore space with swimming, in addition to a great deal of signage across the park with attention-grabbing particulars in regards to the space’s historical past.

Mono Lake is among the finest lakes in California for swimming as a result of the expertise is so distinctive. The lake is saltier than the ocean, and also you’ll float fairly simply within the dense water. The lake doesn’t have any tenting or in a single day amenities within the instant neighborhood, so the lake is finest seen throughout a day journey from one of many cities alongside the 395 or as a cease on a street journey all through California.

The Lake View Lodge might be one of many closest locations to remain close to the park and Mono Lake.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in La Jolla, California

13. Manzanita Lake

Manzanita Lake

Manzanita Lake is positioned inside Lassen Volcanic National Park and is among the northernmost lakes in northern California and to the east of Shasta Lake and the town of Redding. The park has a number of volcanoes, greater than 100 miles of trails, and geothermal areas to discover.

Manzanita Lake is a popular destination for trout fishing and affords some unbelievable views of the encompassing volcanic mountains. The lake doesn’t permit motorized boats, so your fishing journey will really feel fairly peaceable.

If you’re not curious about fishing, you would possibly take a stroll on the path that circles the lake. It’s principally flat and straightforward to stroll for most individuals with average expertise on mountaineering trails. If you’re spending your entire day within the park, you’ll wish to hike to Bumpass Hell, which is reachable by a path that passes mud pots and swimming pools of boiling water. Horseshoe Lake is one other lovely lake within the park that’s value a go to.

Note that the roads that lead into and across the park are closed each time snow or inclement climate blocks the roads, so the perfect time to go to the park is within the late spring, summer season, or early fall.

The park is pretty distant, too, and the largest city with ample locations to remain is Redding, which is about 70 miles away. The park additionally has tenting alternatives, however it’s necessary to make a reservation to safe a spot.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Ventura, California

14. Lake Perris

Rocky beach on Lake Perris

Lake Perris sits inside the Lake Perris State Recreation Area and is southeast of the town of Riverside in Southern California. The lake may be very fashionable with locals who stay in Riverside County and San Bernardino County and who personal boats that they launch on the lake. The space additionally has a number of corporations specializing in boat leases and watercraft leases.

The lake affords some distinctive actions, like waterfowl searching days, the place a part of the lake closes to everybody however hunters who’ve reservations. Other actions embody fishing, mountaineering trails, swimming, and bicycling. The lake affords tenting alternatives for tent campers and vacationers with R.V.s.

If you wish to keep in a resort, motel, or trip house throughout your go to to Lake Perris, wherever in Riverside is an appropriate location. You also can keep nearly wherever in Southern California and simply attain the lake. It’s a fast day journey from L.A. County, Orange County, and even San Diego County.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Big Sur, California

15. Lake Berryessa

Lake Berryessa

If you’re visiting San Fran and wish to take a day journey from the town or wherever within the Bay Area, Lake Berryessa is a wonderful selection. Like different lakes created by reservoirs, Lake Berryessa affords a great deal of leisure alternatives in and round its 150 miles of shoreline.

The lake affords houseboat leases for in a single day stays, and it’s a great destination for birdwatching and wildlife watching. Water sports activities out there on the lake embody water snowboarding, wakeboarding, and tubing, in addition to anything that’s quick and requires some type of motorized craft.

It’s additionally probably the greatest lakes in California for swimming for the reason that water can attain a cushty and delightful 75 levels Fahrenheit in the summertime. If you’re touring to the Bay Area and wish to broaden your tour of San Francisco with a enjoyable, out of doors vacation spot, Lake Berryessa is a superb selection.

California is a large state, and its unbelievable lakes provide actions for each type of traveler. You’ll discover the “better of” one thing at each lake you go to. Consider a street journey throughout the state to go to a number of areas or take into account a day journey or tenting journey to discover the lake and the encompassing space.

Whether you select the long-lasting Lake Tahoe or the raucously enjoyable Lake Havasu, your California lake journey will present great recollections for you and your loved ones.

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